I’m fortunate to know lots of gardeners. They are a quiet bunch for the most part and sometimes rather eccentric. But they are on the forefront of an environmental movement that is making a big difference in our community: turning front yards into vegetable gardens! It begins as the gardener runs out of room in the backyard to make more garden beds, and starts looking wistfully out the front window at the expanse of green lawn. Going from backyard to front yard is like going to a different country. The vegetables out back are grown organically with manures and compost. There are honey bees and birds and butterflies attracted to the flowers growing among the vegetables. The front lawn is a pristine deep green thanks to synthetic fertilizers and weed killers but lacks the vitality and delight of the backyard.
For most people turning the front yard into a vegetable garden takes some negotiating with a significant other who likes the lawn, but the idea of not having to mow week after week often tilts the balance.
So what happens when you turn your front yard into a vegetable garden? In the beginning, neighbors eye you suspiciously, worried you’re going to lower property values. By mid-June, as you’re starting to get some good produce and butterflies are flitting about, people are a bit curious and start to walk by on your side of the street. A neighbor kid on a bike asks “Whatcha doin’?” when you’re out shoveling compost onto the new beds. By mid-summer, tomatoes are coming in strong, and the guy next door is hanging out watching you build a vertical wood structure to handle the squash that wants to grow out into the street. Finally, come Fall and pumpkin season (hey look, Halloween decorations are already growing right in the yard) you realize you know the names of some of your neighbors. And you’re going to have to plant a bigger garden next year to plan for sharing the bounty with your new friends.
It is a lot of work converting a front yard into a vegetable garden. There can be serious digging involved. You have to change your practices from lawn management to building safe and healthy soil. You have to keep things tidy and attractive. The rewards of front yard vegetable gardens are many. More food, more space to garden, more people who understand the relationship between food and the environment, and best of all, sharing late summer produce with friends and kindred spirits right in your own front yard!