Gardening for Health

Turn Your Front Lawn into an Edible Landscape 

Photo and text by Maria Price 

After the year we’ve had, I hope I have encouraged more people to grow their own food. Record numbers of people are growing food and returning to a more thoughtful land and resource use. Most people build their food garden in the backyard, growing their veggies in perfect rows but I’m here to ask you to look at your front yard as a food resource, and not just in rows.  

By minimizing the front lawn, you are taking a stand against turf grass as the biggest irrigated crop in America. You are saying no to something that takes precious resources without giving back anything just as precious. 

The front lawn was once the great symbol of the American Dream. The front yard was originally conceived as a common green. But I feel that now, this time-consuming monoculture occupying that critical space between the front door and street is actually an antisocial area, occasionally inhabited by someone pushing a loud and polluting two-stroke motor back in forth. 

Your front yard is a greeting to the world and beauty matters a great deal. Growing food can be integrated into our daily lives and into our front yards for everyone to enjoy and admire. You need to think about what veggies, herbs and fruit you can use that have ornamental value. 

Here are some things to consider before planting front yard edibles. The entire plant must have a pleasing form, not just a pretty flower or vegetable. It should give you at least two reasons to plant it, such as color and form or texture and seed pods. Its leaves must hold up for the entire growing season. Some edibles have leaves that are susceptible to mildews or their foliage is worn out by the end of the season. Lastly pay extra attention to your hard scape—a few discolored leaves might not be noticed on a beautiful trellis. 

What are some ornamental edibles to know? Lettuce comes in a myriad of colors and can be grown in the front of your beds as a nice border. Amaranthus tricolor, primarily known as a grain, is cultivated around the world for its leaves; different varieties come in a glorious rainbow of colors—shades of red, purple, gold and green, and beautiful flowers. The leaves are like summer spinach, they can be sautéed or added to salads.  

Fruit trees such as apples, cherries and peaches all come in dwarf and semi dwarf sizes. Try to choose disease resistant varieties for your front yard and don’t forget their beautiful flowers.  

Herbs such as various thymes, miniature bush Greek basil, dill and sweet woodruff are all neat, well-behaved plants for the front yard. 

There are lots of choices for a beautiful and nourishing edible landscape. What will you grow?