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Front-Yard Food Gardening: Advice from Tara Nolan

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Traditionally, vegetable gardens have been located in back or side yards, hidden away from view. They were designed and planted for practicality and not intended to add ornamental beauty to the yard. However, much has changed and food gardeners are now siting their vegetable beds and containers wherever they find enough sun. And that means we’re seeing more and more food gardens in front yards. 

A pretty herb like parsley offers an easy entry into front-yard food gardening; try it as edging!

A pretty herb like parsley offers an easy entry into front-yard food gardening; try it as edging!

Before you break ground on a front-yard food garden, Tara Nolan, the author of Gardening Your Front Yard, suggests a bit of research.

“There are some areas that still have dusty bylaws, so you should check to make sure nothing will prohibit you from putting all of your ideas in place,” she says, adding that you should also know where all your utility lines are before you dig. 

Once you’ve got a green light, she says that edibles can be included in ornamental plantings or given their own space. 

“Raised beds definitely keep your rows tidy and contained, and you can build smaller ones than you would have in a back yard,” says Nolan. “If you're not ready to turn your entire front yard into a vegetable garden, I encourage gardeners to sneak edibles into perennial gardens or in containers with ornamental plants.” Small-space food gardeners can also use pots and planters strategically placed in a sunny front yard. 

“You could dedicate a small area of your driveway to containers, fabric pots or small raised beds,” says Nolan. “A few green thumbs I know even place hay bales and pots on their driveway to grow vegetables.”

Nolan provides many fun and easy ideas for a front-yard food garden in the book, like adding an edible edge at the front of a shrub or perennial border. She suggests planting lemon thyme or curly parsley there, which are also attractive to beneficial insects and butterflies. If you’re new to food gardening, it’s best to start small like this, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. 

“Have a plan in place and consider tackling the project in stages rather trying to do the whole project in one season,” says Nolan. “Pick the option that's right for your budget and available time.”

Image credit: Alfred Low/CC BY 2.0