Front yard vegetable gardens aren't very popular, mainly because of antiquated rules of aesthetics. Most homeowners prefer the neat and tidy look of lawn space, rather than the so-called “chaos” of a garden. Things are changing, however, and old paradigms are being challenged by DIY gardeners. What if you only have a front yard, or that’s where the best light is? Why grow an outdated monoculture like grass, when all that watering and care can be put into edible plants? Still not swayed? Read on for some tips on how to grow an attractive front yard vegetable garden.
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The worst looking gardens are unhealthy ones. You can’t plant tomatoes in a shady area and expect to have beautiful, red fruit; nor can you neglect a plant’s water needs, or you’re sure to have a sorry looking plot. Research what vegetables will do well in the conditions you have. Most veggies need at least eight hours of full sun, but there are some tasty ones like lettuce and kale that are okay with shade, and even some cooler temps. Giving your plants the right soil, light, and watering needs is paramount for growing a beautiful, lush garden.
Draw it Out
The second step to planning your veggie garden, is to sketch out your design on paper so you can get an idea where to place things. While gardens can have a natural sprawl to them, vegetables are picky about their space requirements. If you aren’t good with a pencil, find someone who can help you – but, don’t worry if you can’t draw the actual plants, just getting the layout right is what’s important. Allow enough room for full maturity, and make sure things aren’t crowded together. Choose companion plants that will compliment each other in both look, and function.
Visions of grandeur can get the best of scout or expert gardeners alike. Be realistic about the space you have to work with, and how much time you can put into tending to your plants. It would be better to have a smaller, compact, and healthy garden, rather than a huge, sprawling, but neglected one. You’ll need to weed, water, prune, and inspect regularly to keep things looking their best. Calculate how many hours you will be able to spend daily, weekly, etcetera and stick to that plan. If you had grass, think about how many hours your spent on maintaining that. It’s a good place to start.
Edging and Boxes
Good quality edging and nice-looking, well-built raised beds will be worth the investment when constructing the borders of your vegetable garden. Garden centers will have a ton of variety to choose from: edging stones can be an attractive barrier around gardens that are ground level, whereas cedar or pressure-treated boxes will give uniformity and shape to raised gardens. Be sure to keep everything level and straight, and don't be afraid to use some decorative rocks and mulch to help it stand out.
Decorative planter boxes with an added trellis will support tall, upright growers like tomatoes, beans, and peppers while keeping things looking neat and tidy. Trellises can be used for ground-level plots, as well. Consider adding a found item, but something in good shape and that’s tasteful: a old cart, or wagon can be spruced up and act as an interesting focal point, as well as a place to display pots and planters. Bamboo sticks, and colorful tomato cages can be easier on the eye when supporting plants. A bench or nice seating area located in, or around the garden may also bring a restful, relaxed feel to those walking by.
Who says your vegetable garden can only be veggies? Adding certain flowers will add beauty and texture, while bringing beneficial pollinators, and deterring certain pests. Marigolds are notoriously good at pest prevention, and will also add some golden color to your garden. Cosmos have beautiful flowers, but also attract green lacewings which eat up unwanted pests like aphids and thrips. Lavender smells beautiful, and that thick scent deters deer and ticks. Zinnias attract ladybugs and other pollinators. Edible flowers are a win-win: consider nasturtiums, sunflowers, calendula, and borage for beauty in the garden, and on your plate.
Herbs are wonderful additions to vegetable gardens, giving them an airy, luxurious feel, and adding some scent you can enjoy while you garden. They are also pest-deterrents, and can help vegetables thrive when coupled properly. Basil and tomato enhance each other’s flavors, and go great in dishes! Rosemary and broccoli help each other flourish; however, rosemary doesn't get along well with other herbs, or certain veggies, so be careful planting it. Chives are a wonder plant: they fend off aphids and cucumber beetles, and increase tomato and carrot production. Dill attracts beneficial insects and deters pests: plant next to anything in the brassica family. Cilantro gets along well with others, but will bolt in hot heat. Plant thyme and lavender with beans and peppers, as they all thrive in dry, hot areas.
There are many ways to have a vegetable garden in front of your house without it looking messy. Make sure to check local bi-laws and homeowners associations for any rules against them, as sadly, this is still considered illegal in some neighborhoods. Once you have the go-ahead, start planning! Front yard vegetable gardens can be beautiful additions to your property, and make better use of the space that grass normally takes up.
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