Friday, January 25, 2013

Grow a Salad in the Front Yard

Front yard gardens have gotten a lot of attention lately.  Today’s world of HOA’s and city ordinances makes the creation of a front yard garden an intimidating one.  It does not have to be, that is if you are willing to grow your edibles in a covert manner.  Just about any regular landscape plant that you would place in your front yard for ornamental purposes has an edible counterpart.  Let us explore this idea further.

I believe you should be able to grow whatever you want in your front yard as long as it is well maintained and attractive.  This does not mean that we will always agree with everyone about the attractiveness of our yards but that we should recognize that others can see what you are doing.  The first important element is structure.  A well planned yard is almost always more attractive than a helter skelter approach.

 The largest elements in your yard are most likely a lawn area and your large trees.  The trees can easily be replaced with fruiting varieties, in fact this may be the perfect place to plant a nut tree.  Many smaller yards would do well to consider dwarf varieties of fruit.  These will flower early in the year and loose their leaves in the fall.

Today you can purchase just about any type of fruit tree grafted onto dwarf rood stock.  These dwarf trees may only reach a height of 6 feet. Semi Dwarf trees tend to top out at about 15 ft.  Either type makes typical sized fruit and can be easily harvested by hand.  By growing these varieties you will find you have room for more trees than if you went with standards. Replacing the lawn can be a bit trickier.

Consider a blanket planting of strawberries, oregano  thyme, and clover to replace that lawn.  It will not require mowing and you will be able to utilize what it does replace. This will not be a lawn to play ball with your kids on, but it does provide the eye a resting place and give the yard a more “normal” appearance.  Clover is great for giving you a lawn you can walk on and it will improve the soil.  You can pick a variety that does well in your area and it is unlikely that you will ever have a problem with it.  For smaller areas a planting of strawberries keeps a low profile while providing great tasting fruit.  Low growing herbs like oregano and thyme provide a low mounding effect and attractive if small flowers.

Now the real fun begins as you decide what to plant in your garden beds.  There are many fruit bushes that are attractive.  Some even offer vibrant fall foliage!  When planted in mass many vegetables are quite attractive.  Kale, cabbage, lettuce, and even root vegetables can be laid out in attractive patterns or bands much like annuals are planted.  Add structure by growing beans or peas up an obelisk or over an arbor.  If you use cages on your tomatoes pick out the most attractive and durable ones you can afford.  The goal is to create a bed with a variety of texture and color just as you would in a more tradition planting.

The first garden seen here has a whimsical structure while the second one is slightly more traditional with its bed along a fence with a lawn area behind.  The use of texture and color keeps the eye moving.  You do not have the orderly rows of veggies surrounded by clean dirt in either case.  This keeps it from looking like a farm and very pleasing to the eye.

As you plan your garden make sure to include edible flowers.  They will provide extra color and attract pollinators.  The Scarlet Runner bean is very attractive to hummingbirds and provides excellent green or dried beans.  Every part of the nasturtium is edible from seeds to blooms to leaves.  Sunflowers along a side yard fence will provide food for the birds and even structure to grow beans up!  Edible flowers are wonderful for adding variety to a salad and may make your garden appear even more ornamental to your neighbors.

Your front yard garden will quickly become a topic of conversation among your neighbors. Be sure to provide yourself a nice place to sit in the shade and chat.  As you are drawn outdoors and into the front yard you will quickly meet neighbors and have a chance to share your harvest.  This might just be the ticket to becoming more active and leaving that television for rainy days!