One of the challenges of gardening in the city is the proximity of neighbors, their houses, and stately street trees. All of these factors combine to make a lot of shady spots and relatively few places that are suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. Often the best place to plant edibles is in the front yard, but there seems to be an unspoken taboo about growing food out front. If you drive through rural areas, most vegetable gardens are square or rectangular spaces carved out of the lawn, situated on the side or back of the house. The fronts are often preserved for ornamental landscaping and a walkway to the house. But rural lots tend to be much larger than urban lots, so homeowners have plenty of choice as to where to site the kitchen garden. When you live on a small lot but want to grow your own food, you have to work with what you’ve got.
It is true that vegetable gardens can look scraggly or bare at certain times of the year, but there are ways of planning food gardens so they are presentable enough for the front yard all year round. One simple way to do that is to intermix annual and perennial plants, both ornamental and edible, so there is always something of interest in the garden. Front yard trees and shrubs can just as easily be blueberries, currants, peaches and apples as the more common ornamental woodies. Perennial edibles such as sage, thyme, oregano, horseradish, rhubarb and chives have gorgeous foliage, shape and flowers that can serve an ornamental role in the garden. Annual vegetables, herbs and edible flowers can be strategically and artfully placed so their harvest doesn’t leave big holes in the garden.
To get detailed ideas for turning your front yard into an edible landscape, come to the Edible Front Yards class at the Civic Garden Center, Monday, August 20, 6-8 pm. It is being taught by Sue Trusty, horticulturist and garden educator extraordinaire, and so is bound to be packed with useful information, beautiful images and groundbreaking ideas. Register online or by calling 513.221.0981, or just show up Monday night. Cost is $10/person, free for CGC volunteers and community gardeners.
– Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Green Learning Station Program Manager