Sweeping beds lining the driveway with flowers nodding to you as you return home…vegetables nestled next to your ornamental plants, flanking both sides of the entrance path… a fence as backdrop to a wildlife buffet—wherever your desires may take you, front yard gardens are gaining long overdue attention.
Somewhere along the way, we absorbed the idea that gardens in the front were designed to be constant. Little risk was taken with perennials or deciduous trees and shrubs. Today the gardens in the front of the house are being viewed with new eyes. Gardeners can explore new potential with diverse plantings for seasonal change and for the wildlife. It is no longer forbidden to think of adding vegetables in beds or mixing them in with perennials. With times changing, as styles are more relaxed and practical, why not garden out front?
A front garden can be a place to engage, open for conversation with our neighbors. Others prefer a private retreat, creating an oasis only for those who enter the garden to enjoy what can’t be seen from the street. It takes just a little confidence to understand the potential and overcome old beliefs that gardens out front should be static.
Look past the front garden as being the place with only evergreens, appearing the same in February as in August. Add diversity with deciduous trees and shrubs, flowering vines, annuals, perennials, and vegetables to allow the full range of interest to peak as the seasons turn. You will appreciate each season as often as you come and go.
Take your cue from your home’s style—is it a cottage, ranch, contemporary, or formal home? Matching the style of the front garden to the front of your house is simply a matter of observing carefully and thinking about what you have and what you’d like. Evaluate your home’s style with a critical eye. Note material (brick, clapboard, stone), color (door, trim, windows, embellishments), and distinctive style elements (roof lines, linear lines, porch railings and other designs). For example, cottage style homes give rise to welcoming, informal garden designs. Daylilies lining the driveway can welcome you during the height of the summer season. A long, low ranch will beg for knee-hugging heights, such as herbacious peonies, which bloom for only a couple of weeks a year but are incomparable to any other bush. A rustic-style home will relax with a similarly styled garden featuring old-fashioned native plants like black-eyed Suans. A red door will need red flowers echoing its hello. Likewise, introduce other colors in your garden to complement your home’s colors.
Embellish the front garden with seating, fencing, arbors and even a gazebo. Front space can be public or private or a combination of both. Add fencing to provide a backdrop for a garden and, at the same time, offer a sense of security. Show your style to others and express yourself by creating a lovely and welcoming garden out front.
I asked Shawna Coronado about her front yard re-do. It has been featured in many books, presentations, and other stories. Shawna has set a great example of how beautiful a vegetable garden out front can be. Click to Tweet!
You have converted your suburban front yard into a garden, primarily vegetables. Who or what inspired you?
Initially, the front lawn seemed like the smart place to put vegetables because it was the only area on my property that really had full sun. I had a dream of being able to donate my extra vegetables to the local food pantry and perhaps inspiring a few of my readers to start vegetable gardens of their own in order to do the same; helping others within your community can make a true difference.
What have you learned most about making the conversion from lawn to a productive resource?
More than any other garden, this vegetable plot forced me to learn about the importance of soil. To grow an organic, chemical free garden, you need to invest in the soil in a personal way in order to encourage a strong root system. I learned to create my own compost, use rotted composted manures, worm castings, and soil amendments with bacteria and other natural ingredients as key components of the garden soil. This concentration on the plants root growth helped me to be successful in growing many different types of vegetables successfully.
What you advise anyone who is wanting to do the same?
I would caution new front lawn vegetable gardeners to do research on the local laws and policy around vegetable installation in the front of the home. Many cities do not allow it even if you own the property. When I first began this journey I never dreamed there were policies on this type of thing – I thought all homeowners could do what they want with their own property, but not all cities allow it. If your city is sensitive to the idea of installing a traditional vegetable garden in your front lawn, perhaps you could consider installing an ornamental edible border. Often the ornamental edible garden borders do not look as if they have vegetables in them; kale, swiss chard, and cabbage can be magnificently colored and add a lot of interest closer to your home’s walkways and foundation. Find a creative way to work around the rules where everyone is happy.
AS A SIDE NOTE
Not eveyone has the freedom to do anything he or she wants in the yard out front. Many homeowner associations prohibit certain plantings, such as vegetable gardens. Fortunately for me, there is no restriction in my community barring front yard vegetable gardens. There is a marked trend towards gardeners to put into production static land.
When we were looking for a place to put in a vegetable garden, the best sun was located at the top of our driveway in the front yard. It’s not very big, measuring 20 feet by 20 feet, with a black wrought iron fence segregating it from the rest of the front yard. Even though it’s out front, it happens to be in a discreet location, hidden behind the cars, but that is a mere coincidence.
Allowing the vegetable garden to be out front allows us to see the garden with every passing to and from the cars. We can clearly see when weeding is needed, when vegetables ripen, and if watering or other maintenance is needed. When we need a tomato for dinner, it’s an easy reach to pick as we walk inside to start supper. Would you put a vegetable garden in your own front yard?