Front Yard Farming

September 3rd, 2010

I’ve seen articles recently about global food shortages and feeding our populations and whatnot, bunch of scare tactics mostly, but when you sit down and think about it, there is a lot of land that could be used to grow food, but isn’t.

Highway medians, roadsides, parks, but mostly, front yards.

Some backwards and oppressive cities have ordinances requiring you to have x percentage of front yard as perfectly green lawn, and if you try to put in garden beds, xeriscaping, or just don’t remember to water, they fine you.

Garden beds require less fertilizer, less water, and less labor than lawn, and can make you money when used right. Sure, kids can’t play in gardens like they can on lawns, but unless you live on a very low traffic street, you want them playing in the back yard anyways. On my street, which is 4 lanes, I put in a new super secure gate as soon as my son learned to walk just to make sure he can never go into the front yard.

So, assuming you don’t live in a third reich city and can plant your front yard as you wish, why not get rid of the grass and put in planter beds? On a side note, I think it is funny the same sort of people who put in the stupid lawn ordinances are the types who act like chicken littles about food shortages.

My front yard is full of planting beds and I add a new one or two every year (it is almost an addiction for me).

I grow a mix of ornamentals and edibles in my front yard, I’m too much of a landscape artist to fully commit to just utilitarian gardening like I showed in this blog post on growing your own food. Plus, I want to sell this house one day (probably in about 5 years) so I have to be cognizant of resale value.

Right now, in addition to the sweet potatoes, apple trees, pawpaw tree, and herbs I am growing in my front yard, I’ve got a ginormous 15′x15′ mound of butternut squash. My wife calls it “The Blob” and we always see people walking by scoping it out. A few years ago squirrels told me where to plant my squash and so I did so this year. Butternut squash are versatile in the kitchen, and fairly easy to grow. A little supplemental watering if there is a drought, and that is it. They can be affected by powdering mildew, so a fungicide can be helpful, but they are one of few squash varieties resistant to squash vine borer.

I’m letting the blob grow all it wants, I’ll just mow around it (not that I’ve had to mow, we’ve had a drought lately, hence the wilty leaves). I’ll probably get 60 pounds of squash off of these plants, all for the price of a pack of seeds. It might not be the most attractive thing in the world, but a squash vine is not a permanent landscape feature, it can be removed at any time. So to grow it or another vine (such as watermellon) in your front yard all you need is a small planting hole/mound (with improved soil please), and then let it spill over onto the grass, and mow around it. Unlike a crop like say corn, you don’t have to commit a large portion of your yard to permanent garden if you don’t want to. You could also grow pumpkins this way as a project for the kids.

For most squash you don’t even need to start them until June (or even later if you have a longer growing season than we do in Michigan), and they take a little while to get going, so it isn’t as if it’ll cover your yard for the entire summer either.

13 Responses to “Front Yard Farming”

  1. Scott Weber  Says:

    I would never commit my whole front garden to veggies (not enough sun anyway), but I think a few here and there is nice, and many of them are quite ornamental! I love having a pumpkin vine in the front or side yard…there is something so wonderfully romantic about that huge, lush patch of leaves and ripening fruits!

  2. Jessy  Says:

    I must be living in the dark ages because I have never heard of having to have a certain part of my lawn to be grass. I live in Texas, out of town where you can do anything in your own yard. I like what you have to say about the front yard. I will have to do this with some of mine.

  3. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead  Says:

    There are a lot of really beautiful veggie and fruit plants that you can easily incorporate into your yard that don’t look like a veggie patch. Although I do admire those who go the distance and just plant raised beds or something like that because they have no other place to plant. Hopefully more people will mix things up in the future — I’ve started to feel that if it’s not producing something I can eat, I don’t want to put the effort into it :)

  4. katshe  Says:

    yes! you’re right i think that front yard farming is one of the best way to somehow lessen the shortage of food in the world and you’re tips will be a great help for those who wants to start gardening and also thank you for the additional information that you give me….

  5. Kathy Foley  Says:

    I worked for the Zoo here in Columbia,SC for years,
    We always used vegies and herb plants in our flower
    gardens. Why have two seperate garden spaces when
    you can grow them in one? It’s less up keep also,
    you don’t have to water 2 spots. Peppers,Squash, beans, and corn, (yes, even corn!), millet for the birds. all kinds of herbs. Get creative with you
    beds, the are not just for flowers any more.

  6. Texas Gardener  Says:

    Normally any front lawn would make good section for herbs which don’t require to much sunlight. Just my thoughts. As for squash I prefer to have them in my back yard and in large containers. This way I can move them if needed. In Texas we get a light winter unlike northern states.

  7. Tracy  Says:

    Front yard Farming? I think its just farming. Whether its in the front yard, back yard, or just in the middle of the yard its all still farming. Great work though

  8. Clint Sidney  Says:

    Doesn’t really matter if its in the front, back or side of your house. I really do love gardening whether ornamental or edible plants. My father has grown tomatoes and bell pepper in front of our yard and when it bears fruit, really nice to see.

  9. Brian  Says:

    I’ve been front gardening for the past few months with onions. I planted them around the edges of the flowers beds. They really blend in well. From the street, no one would know I’m growing food in the front yard. Next I’m going to do some lettuce. I might even try collard greens sometime!

  10. Becky  Says:

    I agree with you-everyone should be allowed to grow edible food in front yard gardens. I plan to put a few raised garden beds in my front yard this year and fill them with veggies. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Jeanie  Says:

    We have about a 4 ft strip along the side of our front yard where we plant our squash, cucumbers, & tomatoes along with our flowers. They all do well there. It looks good too.

  12. Karina  Says:

    What a lovely picture, great job that you are doing. Did you also create fences around your whole garden to fend off people from accessing to it?

  13. L R Allen  Says:

    Just wanted to share this.

    Experienced back yard gardener.

    When weeds are a problem, always.

    I use a small Hula Hoe. Been using it for years.

    On my 3th one.

    Just a thought.

    L R

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