Apparently I’m on a “gif kick.”
I’ve been really excited to share the progress of my new front yard garden for quite some time, and since I figured out how to embed a gif last week, I thought it only fitting to make one showing you the work we did in the front yard! We transformed it from a water-wasting lawn into a beautiful edible landscape!
This was a big endeavor for such a tiny yard, but I’m going to give you a very short run-down of one way you might begin tackling a project like this at home.
How to Transform Your Front Yard into an Edible Landscape
Plan Plan Plan
This is a big and very important first step. In fact, the conversations my husband and I had over planning our yard probably spanned 2 to 3 times the amount of time it took us to actually build what we wanted. We made sketches to scale, cruised various neighborhoods for ideas taking pictures of what other people had done, considered the available sunlight for the space, and came up with quite a few designs before we finally landed on our decision. We also changed it at the last minute after purchasing the materials!
Planning out our schedules was also essential for making this project happen. One weekend involved renting a till to dig up the lawn. Then we covered it with thick plastic to suffocate the remaining sod. We left the plastic on for a few weeks, mostly because of the limits in our schedule. The actual garden construction took a total of about 6 full days.
Like I said before, this is only one way to do it. A simple google search will tell you that we did it all wrong, and that a “lasagna layering” approach would have been better than tilling – and that tilling is the worst possible thing you could ever do, EVER – but this has yielded a great result for us, which you can see for yourself. You could also lose your mind sifting through everything on the internet about how to get rid of grass in your lawn without Roundup.
Our strategy was to build the beds first, then lay down the weed paper only on the part of the lawn that would be covered with pebbles and rocks. We thoroughly broke up the existing soil inside the beds and added in new dirt and compost before planting. So far, that strategy has resulted in a few weeds, but nothing unmanageable, and it’s worked out well for us.
We did have to have some dirt hauled away, which was not cheap, so keep that in mind if you don’t have a plan for the dirt you may need to remove. One option could have been to keep the sod intact and try to remove it and offer it for free on Craigslist. We might do that when we remove the remaining lawn from the back yard.
Planning your crop is another biggie. It’s worth your time to ask questions of your local nursery and do some research as to how much space, sun, and water your various crops need so you can plant your garden in a way that makes sense for the best yield.
And then Plan Some More: Layout
Make sure you know the type of sunlight that your space will be getting, and that will help you determine how you want to set up your garden. Our front yard gets filtered light during various times of day, and since our main objective was to have a successful pumpkin and winter squash crop (delicata), we wanted those plants to be in the spot with the absolute highest sun exposure. Keep this type of logic at the forefront of your mind when laying out the space and planning your crop.
We chose to do very few rows in our front yard, in the “edible landscape” style of Rosalind Creasy, and we intermixed some small, colorful flowers to break up all the green. Think about your color palette when choosing any ornamental accents you might want to add. Our house is full of earthy tones, and since we knew that golden squash blossoms would be coming in, we added even more golds, oranges, and purples.
Estimate the Cost Supplies (Prepare a Budget)
You’ll need to know the look you’re going for and what your ultimate goals are in order to properly select your materials and understand the cost. DON’T FORGET TO FACTOR IN THE COST OF THE DIRT. It can add up very quickly if you’re planning for big beds.
As a California dweller, I am very water conscious (as an Earth dweller, you should be too), so I wanted dryscaping where food wouldn’t be planted – rocks, stone, and/or mulch as opposed to grass or something else that needs to be watered.
I chose to cut a nice Mexican pebble with a much less expensive pea gravel (half of each to equal 1 cubic yard for my tiny lawn) to cut costs but stay true to the look I had in mind. Mulch is a less expensive option if you buy it by the cubic yard. I also added larger polished river rock around the edges of the stacked flagstone-walled beds. What you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your lawn and the aesthetic you want to achieve.
The flagstone was by far the most expensive part of this project, so choose wisely to stay within your means. We were barely able to complete the walls of these four beds with a pallet of flagstone about 2.5 feet tall. Other options are wooden beds, not to raise the beds at all for a flatter look, or small boulders to delineate the space instead of stacked stones. I’ve also seen beautiful dryscaped lawns full of various potted plants and wine barrels.
To the right I have some great examples from around my neighborhood.
Experiment with Seed vs Seedling
This year was my first real venture in starting from seed, and I have to say that it was only partially worth it to start my seeds indoors, especially the pumpkin and delicata squash. The mistakes I made were many (and resulted in a lot of wasted seeds), but the main lesson I learned was that a big seed like a pumpkin or squash is perfectly happy to be direct sowed. I direct sowed 6 yellow zucchini seeds (3 in the front, 3 in the back), and 5 out of 6 have turned into very nice sized plants (which I’ve shared with friends, because who needs 5 zucchini plants?). I also direct sowed carrot seeds which are thriving in the front yard. That being said, some seeds do need to start inside. I successfully transplanted leeks from seed, and they are also thriving in the front yard. The majority of what you see in the pictures started as seedlings. That’s a slightly more expensive way to go, but if you’re new to gardening, I’d recommend starting your first year with seedlings to increase your chances for success. All told, we probably spent less than $100 on all the plants. It was the construction, supplies, and dirt that racked up the cost.
Crops in our Edible Landscape:
And remember, this is a very tiny front yard. We were able to pack all this in, no problem, so don’t be shy!
- Sugar pie pumpkins (2 large vines)
- Delicata squash (1 large vine)
- Sugar snap peas (in three places)
- Lemon thyme
- Basil (in 6 places)
- Yellow bell peppers
- Pineapple sage
- Japanese eggplant
- Sweet heirloom peppers
- Yellow Zucchini
- Grey Zucchini
- Black Fig Tree
- Multiple ornamental flowers
Do you have plans to start growing food at your home? Have you considered repurposing your front lawn? There are so many beautiful ways to do it, and they’re all so much better for the environment than wasting water on grass! Please share your questions below, and I’ll be happy to help guide you toward your new edible landscape!