How We’re Creating an Edible Front Yard (and You Can Too)

A front yard mini-orchard is born

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 fruit tree expert in the local nursery who advised us on our 8-foot-tall trees, we could get fruit this summer.

Fruit and vegetable plants can be as beautiful as the bushes and flowers that you normally see in front yards. In fact, some people create abundant landscapes with climbing tomatoes, artichokes, and purple basil. You may have read 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 food.

My kids and I have longed to grow food in all the various places we have lived and rented. But when we finally settled down into a house in Washington, D.C, we didn’t have the ideal set-up.

Fruit and vegetables need six to eight hours of sun to grow, but our tiny back yard was deeply shaded. Our small front yard space was brighter, but we had to cut down an ailing mulberry tree to really have enough light.

Kale growing in a front yard garden near the sidewalk in our front yard

Kale growing near the sidewalk in our front yard

Last week, we planted arugula and kale seeds because my kids actually love kale chips, Sungold cherry tomatoes, and basil. 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 (with 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.

Blueberries growing in a front yard garden

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.

Everyone loves to eat, so it makes sense that growing food makes gardening and its chores more palatable for both me and the kids.  We already put a lot of work in our yards, so why not reap both beauty and taste?

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