Adding edibles to the front landscape is a wonderful way to get more out of an urban or suburban lot. But not all neighbors are totally understanding of these less-than-common planting schemes. If you want to add fresh vegetables and fruit to your front yard while staying in your neighbors’ good graces, these 10 tips should help.
1. Grow Gorgeous Veggies
Deep purple eggplants and peppers, giant globe artichokes, frilly kale and rainbow chard are just as beautiful as purely ornamental plants, but they also provide delicious organic food for your dinner table.
2. Wrangle Sprawling Plants in a Container
Depending on the size of your front yard and the tolerance of your neighbors for the out-of-the-ordinary, you may want to avoid some of the more sprawling vegetable specimens. Zucchini, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes can easily get out of hand, and later in the season, their leaves tend to look a bit worse for the wear. But if you want to try some of the more space-intensive veggies, consider containing them in a raised planter to give the sprawling vines some structure (and stop them from invading the rest of your garden). Ask at your local nursery for varieties that do well in containers.
3. Let Some Edibles Flower Without Harvesting
Artichokes and chives, with their purple blooms, immediately come to mind as having beautiful blossoms when left to flower. Plant enough so you can let some flower without harvesting, and enjoy blooms not often seen in flower shops.
4. Attract Birds and Butterflies
Pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies will help your garden be more productive. And who doesn’t love to spot hummingbirds and butterflies? Mix pollinator-attracting plants and a beautiful birdbath (bees, birds and butterflies all need water!) with your edibles for a colorful garden everyone will love. Good choices include bee balm, lavender, purple coneflower, salvia and verbena. Plant in clusters of three or more to attract more pollinator attention.
5. Swap Out Ornamental Foliage For Edibles
When you’re beginning to transition a traditional front garden to an edible landscape, you can replace purely ornamental foliage plants with lettuces, kale, Swiss chard or even rhubarb. These greens look just as lush as their ornamental counterparts, but they work even harder, providing fresh produce for your dinner table.
Food safety note: Unless you have a tall fence around your front garden, there’s a good chance that some of the plants nearest to the sidewalk will get a “visit” from neighborhood dogs, making any edible plants inedible. To be on the safe side, keep edible plantings closer to your house or up high in containers. Cats can also be a problem — bare dirt is most likely to be used by cats as a litter box, so it helps to minimize space between plants or fill with ground cover.
6. Add a Dwarf Fruit Tree
You don’t need room for an orchard to harvest fresh fruit from your own tree. Dwarf fruit trees will stay small when planted in the ground, but they can also be planted in large pots or espaliered against a fence if you are very short on space. Seek out knowledgeable staffers at a local nursery to get advice on the best varieties for your climate.
7. Plant an Edible Shrub
Why have a plain old shrub when you can have a lovely blueberry bush that provides not only privacy and greenery, but berries for your morning smoothies and muffins as well? Be sure to plant your berry bushes where you can easily access them — perhaps along the fence line if you want your neighbors to be able to share the harvest.
8. Ensure Year-round Interest
One major difference between an edible garden in the front yard and one out back is that people will notice if the whole thing falls apart at the end of the summer (when most food crops are harvested). To keep your edible front yard looking good, it’s important to incorporate attractive perennials, evergreens, and structures like obelisks, tuteurs, paths and attractive fencing.
9. Contain Your Tools
Bags of soil, stray garden gloves and unused pots left lying about may be fine for the backyard when you’re too rushed to tidy up, but in the front yard, it’s important to keep things neat. An attractive tool shed or cabinet makes it easier to quickly put tools and supplies away.
10. Share the Bounty
The single best way to make your neighbors love your edible front yard? Sharing the harvest! Whenever your fruit tree or veggie patch starts going crazy, gather a basketful of goodies to take to your neighbor. Cut flowers or bundles of herbs also make lovely neighborly gifts.