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Wish you could grow veggies, but your backyard is in complete shade? Or perhaps it’s taken up by a deck or laid out with a play for kids? Why not plan a front yard vegetable garden? With attitudes changing towards what a front yard should look like, more and more green thumbs are taking advantage of that valuable space and planting food. Oftentimes, the front yard presents the better option for growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs, because it offers perfect growing conditions.
That doesn’t mean the garden has to take up the whole lawn. You could tuck a small raised bed in an established perennial garden, for example. Or simply dig in vegetables in the spaces usually reserved for annuals. In this article, I share a few ideas to add a front yard vegetable garden to your yard.
A front yard veggie garden can mean working within the constraints of the design you have, or reimagining the entire space in a way that meets your growing goals, but also looks attractive from the street.
Before drawing up a garden plan, you should consider a few key points:
Bylaws: Are there bylaws or HOA laws that will influence your plans?
Light: For heat-loving veggies, like tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, and peppers, your space needs to get at least eight to 10 hours of sun a day. You can get away with less for shade veggies.
Soil: This may need to be heavily amended with organic matter. It can be done over time, but a solution is to garden in pots or raised beds, so you can control the soil in your garden. If you’re adding raised beds, you may also need a sizeable soil delivery to fill them.
Upkeep: Do you have time for weeding? You may feel extra compelled to keep a neat and tidy garden because of it being more visible than if it were in the backyard.
Water source: Will it be easy to navigate your hose to the front garden? If not, are you okay lugging watering cans around every morning in the summer?
Call before you dig: Unless you’re adding plants to an established garden, it’s important that you know what’s underground (such as gas lines) before you start digging everything up. Most utility companies will come and mark the lines for free.
Food plants can also be ornamental, especially when you place a fancy tomato cage or obelisk overtop! Photo by Donna Griffith for Gardening Your Front Yard
Planning your front yard vegetable garden
Before ripping everything out with abandon, consider how many veggies you’d like to grow. Perhaps you can carve out a garden and still keep a bit of lawn, or start up a small garden surrounded by flowers. There are so many options. But getting organized with a clear garden plan will allow you to figure the steps. You may want to start small and expand over time.
One main issue that you might not think about in your backyard is how your front yard veggie layout looks from the street. I’m happy that traditional ideas around curb appeal are changing, but it’s still a good idea to work with a plan to create an eye-catching, tidy garden.
BUFCO, a company based in Toronto, Ontario, provides online garden planning and coaching (as well as raised bed kits). In this example, a veggie garden filled with food and flowers, and ornamental plant supports, is part of the landscaping. Unless you look closely, it’s hard to differentiate from a “traditional” garden. Photo courtesy of BUFCO.
Sneaking front yard veggies into a perennial garden
If you don’t have the space to devote to a vegetable garden, work with what you have! Instead of adding your usual border of annuals, plant some herbs or greens. My neighbour plants beans in half barrels each year in his front garden, a lovely terraced landscape full of colourful perennials. Between the plant supports and the bean flowers, they are very ornamental.
Barrels of bean plants add interest to an established perennial garden. Photo by Donna Griffith for Raised Bed Revolution
If you have a collection of ornamental pots that you plant up each year, choose herbs for the foliage plants and maybe sneak in a patio variety tomato or pepper. Maybe devote a few pots just to food, like a self-pollinating berry plant.
Choose food plants for their ornamental value and plant them among ornamental plants. Here, lemon thyme is used as edging in my front yard perennial garden. Photo by Donna Griffith for Gardening Your Front Yard
Adding raised beds to your front yard
I have seen more and more front yards with a collection of raised beds in place of the lawn. While chatting with Niki about front yard gardens, she recommended creating a space that’s both beautiful and productive, such as a couple of raised beds joined by a garden arch or a four-square kitchen garden with veggies and herb.
This property has taken advantage of a large front lawn to grow food in a collection of raised beds.
In contrast to the photo above, Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening managed to fit multiple galvanized raised beds and other containers into this small front yard space, which produced a lot of food for such a small footprint.
Assess the area where you’d like to add a raised bed (or two, or three). It may be as easy as laying down some cardboard and mulch over the grass and installing your finished DIY gardens. But it could also require dealing with issues pertaining to a slope or drainage. Consult a professional if you plan to do doing anything that will change the grade of your property or affect runoff from heavy storms.
I’ve tucked a live edge raised bed in my front yard perennial garden. It’s a tidy way to add some extra veggie plants to my planting plans each year.
Envision your driveway as valuable real estate for growing vegetables
If you don’t have the space to devote to a front yard vegetable garden, consider your driveway—if you can assign some space to garden, while still having room for a car. One thing to be mindful of is the heat coming off your driveway on a hot summer’s day, depending on the asphalt or concrete materials. It might mean your plants require more water because the soil dries out sooner.
The top of my driveway is the perfect place for my vertical raised bed that was built for Raised Bed Revolution. I’ve also displayed an upcycled washbasin in my driveway (though it has since been moved to the backyard).
My vertical raised bed is perfect for growing plants that don’t mind a shallower place to grow, like herbs and lettuces. It’s tucked into the corner of my driveway and provides lots of fresh greens for salads and stir fries, and seasoning for a varieties of dishes.
Fabric raised beds or even a collection of containers are also great options because they don’t take up as much space and they’re easier to move. Consider putting smaller raised beds or containers on wheels, so you can roll them in and out of storage—or out of the way, if required.
If space allows and you’re not able to plant on your front lawn, use your driveway to grow veggies in a few containers. Photo by Jennifer Wright
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