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Creating Front Yard Gardens

I’ve always wanted a front yard garden. My shaded backyard is ideal for raising animals (and exuberant young boys), but not much food can grow there. Instead of food, I planted a trampoline, hammock, treehouse, slide, swing, fish pond, and sandbox.

My front yard is an altogether different story. It’s a lawn — a wide expanse of grass that gets plenty of sun. Ever since we bought this house a year and a half ago, I’ve wanted to dig up my lawn and put in edible landscaping.

Here in Central Texas, the time to plant is NOW. If we’re going to put in a garden, we need to do it yesterday.

Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like I’ve got the time or energy right now to put one in. Part of me really wants to, and anytime I talk to a friend I feel motivated to just do it.

But I also can’t imagine it happening without some serious help and planning.

That’s when I find myself wishing that someone in my area would offer to do for me what these fine ladies are doing in the Portland area:

They’re putting in gardens. They farm full-time — in other people’s yards. How cool is that?

Want to know what’s going on in other people’s gardens this spring? Check out today’s Real Food Wednesday carnival over at Cheeseslave.

(photo by w.wabbit)
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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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22 Responses to Creating Front Yard Gardens
  1. Houstonmom
    March 25, 2009 | 9:25 am

    I LOVE the front yard! We have so many dogs being walked, our veggies would have to be washed and washed and washed…


  2. cheeseslave
    March 25, 2009 | 9:26 am

    Kristen, I don’t know if I already told you about this before but you should check out the book Lasagna Gardening.

    Following the method in this book you could literally put a whole garden in THIS WEEKEND. It would take you, if you did it all by yourself, maybe an afternoon — one full day AT MOST (depending on the size of your yard). If you had help, you could wrap in a few hours.

    I’ve done this numerous times and it’s SO EASY. There is NO DIGGING. None! You lay down wet newspaper or cardboard, layer it with manure and compost and other organic material — and then plant right into it.

    You lay the wet newspaper RIGHT ON TOP OF THE LAWN.

    Ever since I learned to do lasagna gardening, I have done numerous gardens this way — it’s almost effortless. And the soil and plants that develop are amazing.

    You can also add some worms to help speed matters — get them at the nursery.

    You might want to try it!


  3. KristenM
    March 25, 2009 | 9:35 am

    HoustonMom — That’s actually something I’ve wondered about: how will my community accept this? I want to create something really beautiful, something that looks like landscaping and not just rows of vegetables. That said, even if I succeed, will people plunder my veggies? Will dogs pee on it? How do I keep out rodents without a real fence (no front yard fences allowed)? I figure it’s worth the adventure, but I don’t want it to be a waste!

    Ann Marie — You did mention it before, thanks! If/when we put in a garden, I’d like to do a cross between lasagna gardening (to build the beds) and square foot gardening (to space/plant the veggies). I’ve enjoyed reading John Jeavon’s book How To Grow More Vegetables and think it’s fantastic for putting in self-sustaining gardens, but it’s a lot of work! It’s what I’ll do when I either a)have land or b)don’t have the resources to get extra compost or manure from outside sources. My big problem right now is SEEDS! I should have ordered them back in January.

  4. Son of Grok
    March 25, 2009 | 9:46 am

    I really want a garden but I am not sure I have the time and energy. I am going to compromise by barrel planting some peppers on my back patio this year.

    The SoG

    Son of Grok

  5. Motherhen68
    March 25, 2009 | 10:38 am

    I didn’t realize you were in E. Tx. :)

    You could always buy plant starts at a nursery you trust. I do that for tomatoes as they need to be started in January and I ALWAYS forget, then it’s too late.


  6. Local Nourishment
    March 25, 2009 | 11:14 am

    Ah, for true land ownership without the restrictions of a Home Owner’s Association. Can’t imagine why we pay them $400 a year to tell us what we may plant in our front yards. (Edibles are not permitted, so shhhh – don’t tell them about my nasturtiums and “ornamental” kale!)

    Local Nourishment

  7. Michelle @ Find Your Balance
    March 25, 2009 | 1:23 pm

    Oh, neat! I can’t wait until I have a lawn someday…

  8. sassy stephanie
    March 25, 2009 | 2:32 pm

    Man, we SO want to get one planted, but one thing after another has stopped us from getting started. Plus, it is so overwhelming to tackle a big, unfamiliar project like a garden. I could use their help as well!

  9. lo
    March 25, 2009 | 3:49 pm

    We don’t have a front garden dedicated to veggies, but we do intermingle herbs (and sometimes veg) in between our flowers! It’s awesome to have roses growing next to chives… and echinacea growing among the creeping thyme. An added bonus is that there’s always something to snack on or smell while you’re wandering through the front yard!


  10. Nourished Kitchen
    March 25, 2009 | 3:56 pm

    We’re still under several feet of snow and it’s snowed for the last two days straight. It won’t be until May when things begin to thaw and I can start planting. I’m always so jealous of you who get to celebrate spring in … well SPRINGtime!

    Nourished Kitchen

  11. Arielle
    March 25, 2009 | 4:36 pm

    What a fabulous idea! It makes me want to start a business like theirs!

    I get so agitated when I see large, sunny, unused lawns. I want to dig them all up! We are in a fourth floor apartment with no balcony, and it’s making me crazy after leaving my parents’ home with our 2,000 square foot garden.


  12. Mezo
    March 25, 2009 | 6:58 pm

    That’s very beautiful..i dunno alot about gardening but regarding the community accepting this or not, no one hates to see natural beauty everywhere!

    good luck :)


  13. KristenM
    March 25, 2009 | 7:58 pm

    Arielle — You could always fly out to Texas and dig up my yard! ;)

    Motherhen68 — I know, but it’s significantly more expensive that way!

    LocalNourishment — I can keep a secret if you can.

  14. duane marcus
    March 26, 2009 | 6:09 am

    Dug up my front yard in 2007 and grew enough vegetables for us and a lot of our neighbors. Neighbors were skeptical at first but totally embraced what we are doing once they saw the 7′ tall tomato plants and okra.

    duane marcus

  15. Kelsey Byron
    March 26, 2009 | 10:10 am

    Awesome video. And I wouldn’t mind working in that climate, either. We have a small backyard (great sun) garden and I got everything in the ground last weekend. It seems to have survived the hailstorm last night. It’s my 3rd year for a garden in this little plot. I’m hoping for: onions, lettuce, basil, Celebrity tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, banana peppers, cantaloupe, chives, mint, oregano, cherry tomatoes, thyme, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Pretty ambitious, considering the small space. I should really expand the garden for next year, or maybe this fall. Just have to convince my husband that we should use up more of our postage-stamp yard for food.

  16. Dana
    March 26, 2009 | 11:14 am

    Green City Growers is a relatively new company here in Boston. They come out and inspect your available land/space and will build a 4 x 4 bed, plant it, weed it, and harvest it for you! So, once a week, you have a basket of vegetables, etc., waiting on your porch.

    When I first heard about this, I was kind of struck by the idea that you would want someone ELSE to do all of the work. At it’s rather pricey. But, they will also just build the bed and let you take over from there. This seemed like a better option.

    We dug up our backyard when the Realtor told us a parking lot would attract more buyers for the condos in our building, but I still fantasize about putting beds in one of my designated parking spots!!!

    Here’s a link to Green City Growers.

  17. Stacey
    March 26, 2009 | 12:06 pm

    Great post! I really love your blog and am so glad I stumbled across it.

    We converted our grassy front yard to an edible oasis 2 years ago and we LOVE it – 8 blueberry bushes, 8 strawberry plants and a huge raised bed garden for veggies using the square-foot method (our soil in W. NC is mostly red clay). I’ve included a pic of it from last summer, but I realize I need to get more pics up.

    It really is a special garden and we always get lots of appreciative comments from our neighbors! It took some effort to get it planned and completed (and I got help and paid folks), but now it is practically effortless.


  18. Lee
    March 26, 2009 | 12:54 pm

    This is a great post. It’s garden/farm time in Minnesota too, and this year I’m getting help from a few women who call themselves I can’t wait to see how it goes, I mean, GROWS.


  19. Charles
    March 26, 2009 | 3:03 pm

    I just wanted to post a related video about others like yourself who are trying to promote urban farming. Here it is:

  20. KristenM
    March 26, 2009 | 6:40 pm

    Duane — That’s good news. I hope my neighbors are equally as accepting.

    Stacey — What a fabulous picture! Thanks for sharing. Your boy is precious.

    Dana & Lee — It’s good to hear that this idea is catching on.

    Charles — Thanks for the video link. I’ll go check it out.

  21. Liz M owner hyperlocavore
    March 26, 2009 | 9:51 pm

    For all you folks not sure you want to do all the work yourself..and who might consider setting up a yardsharing arrangement – where you and your family/friends/neighbors grow your own as a group! Many hands make light work! The site is free!

    Speaking of power, I think a real power is community resilience! Get to know the people you live near, grow food, have potlucks and deepne ties to the people around you!

    Happy Digging!

    twitter: @hyperlocavore

    Liz M owner hyperlocavore

  22. Sustainable Eats
    April 3, 2009 | 12:27 am

    I found a great tool: that helped me plan my front yard. We aren’t done yet with the fence or garden boxes but should be by this weekend and then we can plant all the starts that are taking over my kitchen counter. This is our first year seriously gardening after a ten year hiatus so I’m apprehensive but excited.

    Here are my plans:

    The lumber was pricey because I went with untreated cedar and am glad that I did after reading some posts. Sorry for all you who can’t put fences up! Ours will be short but hopefully sufficient to keep the dog poop out.

    Sustainable Eats

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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