How I'm Creating an Edible Front Yard (and You Can Too)

Nesting on 04.26.12
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It won't be long until we can pick apples on our way out the door. Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

Tiny fuzzy globes are plumping up on the Reliance peach tree we planted in our front yard a few weeks ago. And the Honeycrisp apple tree and its cross-pollinating friend, a Golden Grimes apple, are starting to lose their shell-pink flowers and grow little balls of future goodness. According to the man in the local nursery who advised us on our 8-foot tall fruit trees (for $55 each, on sale), we will be harvesting fruit this summer. 

Fruits and vegetables can be as beautiful as the ornamental bushes and flowering plants that you normally see in front yards. In fact, some people create abundant landscapes with food like climbing tomatoes, artichokes, and purple basil. You may have read, like I did, about the edible yards of gardening experts like Rosalind Creasy (author of Edible Landscaping) or "food not lawns" advocates like Ivette Soler (who wrote The Edible Front Yard).

When we were trying figure out how to relandscape our new house's outdoor area to be more kid- and mom-friendly, I thought about growing food. Our back yard was not an option due to the deep shade provided by our neighbors' trees. Our small front yard space was brighter, but we needed to cut down a dying mulberry tree to provide enough sun to grow fruit and vegetables (six to eight hours is recommended). Creating an activity that would draw me and my children out of doors was the objective, and so far our edible front yard is doing just that. 

Our kale growing near the sidewalk. Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

Last week, we planted rucola and Tuscan kale (because my kids actually love kale chips), Sungold cherry tomatoes, and lettuce-leaf basil, brought all the way from Italy by my husband's father. Since it's our first time growing, we mainly started with small plants -- including sage, rosemary, flat-leaf parsley, and -- to sprinkle on our favorite pizza -- oregano. Since we love eating fried pumpkin flowers (and Halloween), we planted some jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds too.

The important thing with front yard gardens is to keep them pretty, since the front is the face we present to the world and our neighbors (who have property values to keep up). We edged our veggie beds with miniature boxwood bushes and antique bricks (which we found at a salvage yard), and we'll be careful to keep them tidy, even during winter. We also tried to choose plants that are both edible and ornamental, like the eight blueberry bushes that we planted behind the fruit trees. Instead of looking scraggly and brown by fall, blueberry bush leaves turn a beautiful red color.

We covered our blueberries with bird netting so we could reap the rewards. Photo: Amy Suardi/Frugal Mama

Just like I'd love to slowly replace most of my IKEA stand-in furniture with vintage beauties, my goal is to slowly replace most of our landscaping with edible plants. Why not get both taste and beauty out of the care we put into our yards?

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