The surge in backyard gardening in recent years is having an interesting ripple effect on front lawns as well. Sure, some people are going all-out with clearly-visible vegetable gardens right where their high-maintenance, expensive (or weedy, overgrown) lawns used to be, but many people have discovered the joys--and bounty--of a less-obvious option called edible landscaping. Edible landscaping means incorporating edible plants, trees, and bushes that are also aesthetically-pleasing and ornamental into your landscape design. Done right, it tends to be a bit more forgiving if you get a little lazy with the maintenance; it flies under the radar of any HOA, city or county "front yard garden" ordinances; and it can include many perennial choices that reduce your annual landscaping costs while also saving you money at the supermarket. Plus, you can add edibles just a little bit at a time, so it's a strategy that fits nicely into busy schedules and limited budgets.
Here are some tips to start converting your front yard to an edible landscape:
1. Go one for one. Remove an azalea bush and put in a rosemary or sage plant, both of which can grow quite large and provide you (and all your neighbors, and the food pantry) with fresh herbs throughout most of the year. Pull out the Carolina jasmine and plant a muscadine vine near an arbor. Instead of planting your annual fall chrysanthemums, plant rainbow chard or red and speckled heirloom lettuces (such as those pictured) instead for rich fall color. Pull out the hedges and replace with a hedgerow of blueberry bushes. Put herbs around your mailbox instead of pansies and invite the neighbors to pick as needed.
2. Reduce the lawn. Little by little, year after year, choose a small part of your lawn and replace it with edibles. These can be easy-care perennial herbs that you add to expand your border beds a bit more each year, or a few fruit and nut trees that turn a little-used corner of your property into your own private orchard.
3. Let it spread. Mint and lemon balm are highly-invasive herbs that will take over if you let them. Well, why not let them? These herbs smell terrific when you brush past them or crush them under your feet while walking, and there is really no limit to what you can make with them, from healthy homemade tea to mint chocolate chip ice cream. Yum.
4. Hide it. If you want the benefits of raised bed gardening (reduced erosion, better drainage, warmer soil earlier in springtime and later in fall, loose soil, potential for higher production) but don't want it to be so obvious on your front lawn, you can easily surround one or two with herbs or other edibles so that the raised bed is not even visible from the road.
No matter which method or methods you try, most edibles need sufficient sun, water, and nutrients so choose your location and supplies carefully. Get Farmer D Organics planting mix, compost, and fertilizer, plus check out our fall plants at our store on Briarcliff Road and you can start making your front yard landscape look good enough to eat this weekend.