Have you ever thought about using your front yard for a fantastic vegetable garden? Artist and gardener Fritz Haeg believes front lawns can be turned into "edible estates" filled with delicious homegrown vegetables - an innovative idea that's sure to impress everyone on your block.
Fritz began by planting four edible estate gardens in Kansas, California, New Jersey, and London in an effort to take a space that was previously polluted, wasteful, time-consuming, isolating, and unoccupied, and transform it into a beautiful, productive space that reconnects people to their food and neighbors.
The front lawn is one of the few spaces that many of us have in common across this country. It cuts across all geographic, religious, ethnic, and economic boundaries, so it really is quite a powerful place in our culture. For many of us, the front lawn comes with the home that we buy, and we continue to take care of it as a reflexive habit without thinking. By introducing the possibility of an edible garden here instead of a typical lawn, Fritz is reminding people that they have a choice about what happens on land they own.
Because the gardens are out in front, facing the street, they become demonstration gardens. Instead of hiding it in the back, everyone on the street gets to watch the garden grow, and even those who don't grow their own food learn something by watching their neighbors garden. At first, the garden may be a shock to some neighborhoods used to conformity. But as the garden fills in through the first season, most people will grow to love it. In a place that was previously vacant, with no life, the garden also attracts birds, bees, and butterflies, almost like a little wildlife sanctuary in an otherwise unwelcoming landscape. In some cases, these gardens give neighboring families license to follow suit, though maybe not to this extreme - perhaps they'll begin to sneak a few tomato plants into their front landscaping behind the lawn.
When deciding to turn your front yard into a vegetable garden, there are a few things to consider. Introducing edibles in front can take many different forms: For some it might be just a grove of small fruit trees, or a bed of edible flowers, or a formal herb garden. In most ways, the things to consider when putting a garden in front are the same issues you would face in laying out any garden, except that everyone is watching! It's always good to have a soil test done, and to consider the history of the lawn, and whether pesticides have been used. Raised beds are a good option for avoiding the existing soil, and they create a good structure for a front lawn garden.