You might have heard about it in the news: rebellious citizens defying local laws by … (wait for it…) growing vegetables in their front yard! You read that correctly. One Florida man was cited with violating city code by growing vegetables instead of grass in his front yard. He petitioned to change the law, telling reporters, “You’ll take my house before you take my front yard vegetable garden.”
A Quebec couple put a veggie garden in their front yard and city officials told them to dig it up. But the couple fought back (and won), with a petition signed by 30,000 fellow citizens asking that the laws be changed. Similar citations happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ferguson, Missouri, Des Moines, Iowa, and Oak Park, Michigan: average, law-abiding citizens inadvertently committing a crime against the laws of the lawn. For some reason, seeing vegetables growing where there should be grass was too much for the neighbors.
Change is Good!
Interestingly, grassy lawns weren’t always the norm in America. It’s actually a 19th century British import that only people with means could afford to maintain. In fact, America didn’t even have the proper native grasses to grow lush green lawns like the English; we had to do the research, call in experts, and over time (along with the creation of fertilizers and lawn mowers), grass lawns started cropping up. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that grass lawns really “sprouted.” New, pre-fab housing came with grass lawns and instructions on how to care for them. From there, lawns grew from being a trend to being the norm.
Today in many parts of the United States, there just isn’t water to waste to maintain a perfect green lawn. So homeowners are re-planting their yards with things like ground cover, moss, clover, or thyme. And now: edible gardens. Whether it’s a full-blown, landscaped vegetable garden, or the addition of some potted veggies, growing your own food in the front yard is an interesting trend that we’re sure to hear more about.
Is a front yard vegetable garden for everyone? That depends on more than a few factors. So before you start tilling your front lawn, check your local ordinances. If being an “outlaw” of your lawn isn’t for you, speak to lawmakers and bring this article with you!
Start by asking these questions:
Does your front yard face south? Is there enough light to grow vegetables? What kind of space and soil do you have? Will you till the ground or build raised beds (pictured)? Do you have the time and resources to build and maintain this kind of garden year-round?
Creating Your Front Yard Vegetable Garden: Start Small
- A small garden is easy to water by hand and maintain.
- Start with potted herbs, edible flowers, or tomatoes.
- Think about the mature size of the vegetables you plant in a small garden. Choose the more compact, climbing and/or ornamental plants.
Draw Up A Plan
Drawing a plan will help you map out what you’re going to grow over all four seasons, based on your garden size, soil type and climate.
- Put small, low-growing plants up front and taller plants or vine trellises in the back.
- Plan for stone pathways for easy access for you or your curious neighbors.
- Plant useful non-edibles with your edibles, such as berry trees for birds.
- Whether you’re planting a fruit tree or berry bush, putting up a trellis or raised bed, plants should never obstruct views for drivers pulling in and out of the driveway.
- Your front yard garden should be functional and inviting.
- Plant colorful edibles and ornamentals up front by the sidewalk or curb, to please passersby and attract much-needed insects like bees and butterflies.
- Plant ornamental versions of your favorite veggies (Purple Ruffles Basil, Russian Red Kale, Bright Lights Swiss Chard).
- Think of your garden as a landscape, using colorful pots, up-cycled antique gates as trellises for height, and fences or sculptures for interest.
- Keep the less attractive plants in the center or back where they are less visible.
Keep Things Tidy
- Place essential but unsightly compost piles out of sight from the street.
- Put away your gardening tools at the end of the day.
- If a plant is on its last legs, go ahead and dig it up.
Keep It Social
- Front yard vegetable gardens are a great way to meet your neighbors; they will be watching every step of its progress.
- Offer vegetables to neighbors or local food pantry.
- Start seed swaps with fellow neighbor gardeners.
- Use your garden as a teaching tool for kids.
A front yard vegetable garden can transform an average, grass lawn into a beautiful, productive space that reconnects people to their food and neighbors.
Christina Carr is a freelance writer and television producer who has worked for NASA, PBS and John Edward, the psychic medium. She is a proponent of sustainable and healthy living, and lives in NYC with her 4-year-old daughter and musician husband.