Are lawns going the way of the Noughties? First Lady Michelle Obama replaced part of the White House lawn with an organic vegetable garden, and it seems the rest of the country is poised to follow suit – edible front yards have been called the biggest gardening trend of 2010. It’s no wonder – fresh, homegrown vegetables are a far better use of energy and resources than a useless swath of grass.
And though ugly patches of dirt, ratty row covers and wire tomato cages can sometimes make front yard vegetable gardens the horticultural equivalent of a busted car on cinder blocks, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can please a picky neighbor, satisfy your own aesthetic standards and feed your family all at once with these beautiful edible landscaping methods.
Murder the Grass and Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
If you’ve got visions of backbreaking labor, rented heavy equipment and weed-killing chemicals dancing in your head, relax. For once, the easiest way is in fact the best way. All you have to do is break down brown cardboard boxes, lay them on your lawn with the edges overlapping, soak them with water and cover them with two inches of weed-free compost and an inch or two of mulch. Sustainable Gardening Australia has all the details on this simple, sustainable process.
While it does take a while for the cardboard to break down and the grass to die, you can begin planting right away. Just cut holes in the cardboard where you want to insert plants, or dig up small areas where you’ll be putting in garden beds.
Landscape with Attractive Edibles
There’s no rule that says you have to plant vegetables in neat little rows like a farmer. Why not plant edibles in patterns that are not just biologically appropriate, but visually stimulating?
If you’re already a gardener, but have focused on ornamental plants rather than edibles, you probably already have flowerbeds in your yard. An easy way to test the waters with gardening for food is to simply replace some of those pretty but inedible plants with fruits, vegetables and herbs. Plant lavender and strawberries instead of flowers, kale and cabbage in place of hostas, carrots and chives rather than ornamental grasses. Tuck nasturtiums and marigolds in with your tomatoes and cucumbers to provide a touch of color and some ground cover to boot.
This method doesn’t just preserve the aesthetics of your yard – and allow you to keep a portion of your lawn, if you wanted to – it can also be beneficial to the plants you grow. Check out this companion planting chart to see which crops work together and Treehugger’s gallery of gorgeous edibles, and go from there.
Make Raised Beds for Visual Interest
So what if you don’t have the greatest soil for gardening? Clay, sand and rocky soil can pose a problem for gardeners who want to get started growing food as soon as possible, because amending soil takes time. But there’s a quick, simple solution that’s also easy on the eyes: raised beds.
Raised garden beds can go right on top of existing soil and lawn, and they’ve got a lot of advantages over planting right in the ground. They warm up quickly in the spring, drain easily, keep weeds out, raise the planting area for gardening ease and give you a lot of control over the type of soil used for particular plants.
Raised beds can be made from all sorts of materials from corrugated tin to cinder blocks, but many people simply use 2″x6″ cedar or pressure-treated wood boards to create custom boxes filled with layered cardboard, mulch, compost and soil. Surrounded by stone or mulch paths, these compact little gardens can add a lot of visual interest to your yard.
(Top) Edible Estates Regional Prototype Garden #6: Baltimore Maryland,” 2008
Commissioned by The Contemporary Museum Baltimore – Photo by Leslie Furlong
(Third down) Edible Estates Regional Prototype Garden #4: London, England,” 2007
Commissioned by Tate Modern – Photo by Fritz Haeg