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.