The front yard gets a lot of attention from passersby with its manicured green lawn and decorative garden. But what if I told you it is possible to eat from your garden and still have it look pretty?
Food gardens in the front yard help utilize the space and grow vibrant varieties of edible plants. This will attract beneficial bugs to pollinate and protect your garden from pests and prevent plant diseases. It is also a great community builder to chat and share homegrown food with the neighbors.
Read below for the what, the why, and the how-to steps on starting your own front yard food garden with a helpful list of plants to choose from.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Table of contents
- What is Foodscaping?
- Why Should I Grow Edible Plants in the Front Yard?
- How do I Start a Food Garden in the Front Yard?
- Check Local Laws & Community Regulations on Front Yard Gardens
- Always Start with a Small Food Garden in the Front Yard
- Choose The Right Spot in the Front Yard for your Food Garden
- Decide on In-Bed, Raised Box, or Container Food Garden
- Prepare the Soil and Add Amendments
- Plant Your Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Edible Flowers
- Water Your Food Garden Every 3 Days
- Do Regular Maintenance on Your Food Garden
- What Edible Plants Should I Grow in my Front Yard?
- What are some Helpful Gardening Tips when Foodscaping?
- Final Words
What is Foodscaping?
Foodscaping is a landscaping practice where edible plants are included in the existing ornamental garden beds. The art of mixing vegetables, fruits, and herbs in the decorative patches of flowers and foliage is not a new thing but has been growing in popularity over the years. This is particularly true in the case of growing food gardens in the front yard. You may have heard of them as potager gardens as well.
The traditional front yard in residential homes is a typical expanse of manicured, green lawn. However, some have transformed their front yards into a food garden paradise where they can harvest fresh food to put on their table. However, it is essential to note that some areas may have restrictions on growing an edible garden in the front yard due to aesthetic reasons.
So you might ask yourself, can I grow food in my front yard? As a general rule, always check with local laws, community regulations, and homeowner association rules in the area regarding growing food in the front yard. There is no clear answer because each region has varying laws and guidelines in the matter. Some are allowed to have an edible garden in their front yard, some are not allowed, and some are allowed but with certain restrictions. Either way, it always benefits the gardener to research these front yard restrictions before tearing out their whole lawn to make way for a food garden.
This is where foodscaping comes in. Choosing colorful varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs to plant, whether there are existing ornamentals or not, is a safe compromise to start an edible garden in your front yard.
Why Should I Grow Edible Plants in the Front Yard?
- Utilize the Spacious Lawn. Front yards have ample space and typically get more sunlight exposure daily than your back yard, which is perfect for sun-loving crops. This is helpful for those who don’t have a backyard or an extremely shaded backyard that lacks natural light for certain plants’ needs.
- Express Your Creativity – Design a Gorgeous Edible Garden. Some vegetables and herbs are vibrant in color and texture, making for great aesthetics in the front yard. You can even include edible flowers in the mix! Ornamentals already benefit from looking good, but edible plants have the advantage of being nutritious and consumable.
- Attracts Beneficial Insects. Everybody likes butterflies and bumblebees; to see some basking in your garden is always a treat because they are excellent pollinators. But the unsung heroes like ladybugs, praying mantises, and ground beetles deserve some love because these are your garden soldiers that keep pests off your plants by devouring them before they get the chance. I know, pretty hardcore for a ladybug. You can read all about beneficial bugs here!
- Ensure Food Security. Fresh produce readily available outside your home all year round is a safety net for your family. Even as prices hike up and food production declines due to climate change, it keeps food on the table. According to the CDC, crops, livestock, and fish production will inevitably be affected by unpredictable weather changes. But knowing that you have a garden that continuously produces vegetables, fruits, and herbs for your household needs is advantageous in uncertain times.
- Builds Community Relations. Hey, if your garden looks great, it’s bound to get some remarks and questions from your neighbors when you’re gardening. Hopefully, only good comments, but let’s be realistic here; there is bound to be a Ms. Trunchbull somewhere. But also gives a nice opportunity for you to share your produce and encourage them to do the same, thereby normalizing the practice, so you get some free food too! Who doesn’t like a good neighbor who gives free food and advice?
How do I Start a Food Garden in the Front Yard?
Check Local Laws & Community Regulations on Front Yard Gardens
As previously mentioned, it is better to always look up whether there are any rules regarding planting edible plants in your front yard. Usually, it’s not that big of a deal if you have them hidden here and there in your front yard. However, it is different when you transform the whole lawn into a food garden. There may be specific guidelines you need to follow to keep your front yard food garden organized, and of course, you’ll want to know if it is allowed in the first place. The critical thing to remember is to do your research and clarify any vague guidelines before scraping your whole lawn off.
Also, make sure to call up your utility providers and ask where the utility lines around your yard are. It’s imperative that you do this step next because you don’t want to accidentally destroy an underground pipeline and cause damage. Chances are, the utility companies will send someone over and mark these lines down for you, so you know which areas to avoid.
Always Start with a Small Food Garden in the Front Yard
Realistically, you need to think about what you can manage before you start digging away the green grass completely. If you’re a busy person, obviously maintaining a large food garden is an unwise decision. Taking account of the time and effort you can expend to tend to your garden daily is important.
Starting out with a small garden is the best way to ease into the whole foodscaping practice and build up your food garden from there. Here are some steps you can try implementing over time (Note: This applies to in-bed gardening only):
- Plant herbs and edible flowers among your decorative flowers and shrubs.
- Plant fast-growing crops like leafy greens in a row, bordering your food garden. The Butterhead lettuce varieties are a great choice because they are gorgeous (and tasty!).
- Plant root crops like carrots and radishes behind your herbs and edible flowers. Their tops are not much to gawk over so tucking these in the back row is better.
- Plant compact tomatoes, eggplants, or pole beans with a decorative cage or trellis over it. This supports the plants’ upward growth and keeps your garden tidy of their sprawling vines.
- Plant young fruit trees in pots and set them alongside the garden.
Choose The Right Spot in the Front Yard for your Food Garden
There are 3 things to consider when choosing your food garden area:
a. Daily sunlight of 6-8 hours. Generally, front yards have better sun exposure which makes sense why an edible garden would thrive there. In instances where a neighboring tree is shading a particular spot, it’s a good idea to place shade-tolerant plants there like salad greens.
b. A nearby watering source. This makes your watering sessions easy with a nearby faucet and watering can. Although, if you dread lugging around a heavy watering can to water your plants one at a time, install a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system instead. You can even set an automatic timer to water your plants daily without worrying about it. This Irrigation Timer System on Amazon is pretty good, just don’t get it wet though!
c. Well-draining soil. This is important if you plan to do in-bed gardening. Raised box or container gardens usually use fresh potting soil, which is an unnecessary step for those. Here’s how to check if you have soil with good drainage:
- Dig a hole about a foot deep and 7 inches wide.
- Fill the hole completely with water.
- Let the water drain.
- Fill the hole completely with water and set a timer.
- Record how long it takes for the water to drain. If it takes longer than 4 hours, your soil has poor drainage.
In addition to checking your soil’s drainage, doing a soil lab test is highly recommended although not necessary… for a soil test, you will have to take samples of your garden soil and send them to a lab to analyze. You can ask your local cooperative extension if they can do this for you. If they don’t have this service, then they will likely have a list of private soil testing labs you can choose from on their website. Once you have your soil lab results, they will come with recommendations on how to improve your soil.
Now, if this seems a little too extraneous for you, there are simple ways you can check if your garden soil is good enough (Disclaimer: These methods are estimates at best and don’t wholly determine how viable your garden soil is for planting a food garden):
a. Squeeze your soil. Grab a handful of damp soil and squeeze it in your hands. One of 3 things will happen when you open your hands,
- It holds its shape and crumbles when you poke it. This means you have loamy soil, which is good because it retains nutrients and moisture well.
- It holds its shape and doesn’t crumble when you poke it. This means you have clay soil, which has poor drainage.
- It falls apart immediately. This means you have sandy soil, which is fast-draining but doesn’t hold nutrients well.
For clay and sandy soil, simply add compost and mix well into the ground. This will add aeration and nutrients to replenish the soil.
b. Check for healthy, wriggling worms. A sign of worms in the garden is a good indication of healthy soil. Based on this MSU Extension article on earthworms, here’s a way to check it:
- Prepare a piece of cardboard.
- Dig a hole the size of a cubic foot (1x1x1), placing the discarded soil on the cardboard.
- Pick worms out of the discarded soil and count them.
If you have found more than 10 worms, your garden soil has a healthy system appropriate for planting. However, if you have found less than that, that means your soil is too acidic or alkaline; or lacking certain nutrients. But it could also mean that the soil is too dry or sandy, and the worms are burrowed further deep down in the soil.
Personally, I’m on the fence with this method because of how fiddly it is. It’ll give you an idea of how ‘alive’ your soil is, but again, it is an estimate at best. Luckily, you don’t need to dump worms into your garden soil to make it better. Instead, adding compost and organic mulch will attract worms as long as you keep nourishing your soil with rich nutrients.
c. Use a pH home kit to test the acidity or alkalinity of your garden soil.
It’s important to mention that these home kits are a hit or miss because they will not give detailed results as a soil lab test would. But it is adequate enough to let you know whether your garden soil is too acidic or alkaline to add soil amendments. I recommend getting this Soil pH Meter on Amazon to check your soil’s pH.
Decide on In-Bed, Raised Box, or Container Food Garden
- Container Food Garden. This form of gardening makes use of pots and containers to grow individual plants neatly. Not only is it easy to rearrange or lug around the front yard, but it also makes it easy to accommodate each plants’ different needs. Most small gardens start this way, and pots and containers are added over time. And if someone finds your eggplants to be an offensive sight out front, you can simply take the pot away from prying eyes rather than uprooting your beautiful vegetable garden.
- Raised Box Food Garden. Also commonly known as raised bed gardening, uses a large wooden or metal container to fit in several plants. This is more of a permanent structure once constructed and placed in your front yard. But if designed nicely, it adds another dimension to your landscape. It also organizes your garden in one area rather than letting it grow carelessly all over your yard. There’s also a variation where legs are added to make an elevated raised garden table. You can read about how to start a raised garden table in another article here. Either way, this does take up space but has been known to yield much more produce than regular in-bed gardening. The idea is that you are making full use of the given area by fitting agreeable plants together and effectively suppressing weed growth.
- In-Bed Food Gardening. There are two general situations you could start with:
- There is already a thriving garden out front – Even without checking the soil, this already means plants can successfully grow in your front yard! You can slowly incorporate planting one or two vegetables and herbs a month to see if it is manageable and contributes to the landscape’s aesthetic. However, a caveat to this is whether you have treated your existing garden and lawn with any chemicals, i.e., pesticides or fertilizers. Remember that if you’re growing a food garden, it is best to use organic substances because you don’t want to end up accidentally ingesting chemicals you’ve added to the garden. If you’re unsure whether the chemicals you have used are long-lasting or dissipates after a certain length of time, it’s best to move on to the other alternatives to be safe.
- If there is no garden out front/your garden is not doing well, do the soil check from earlier in the article then, get rid of the turf on your chosen garden area and add soil amendments to get it ready for planting. Note: you’ll have to do this a few months before the growing season in spring and summer. This is to give the soil time to break down all the good stuff you gave it.
Prepare the Soil and Add Amendments
Do note that this step is only necessary if you’re doing in-bed gardening from scratch:
- Get rid of the Turf. If there are no restrictions on removing parts of your lawn, particularly from your HOA’s set of guidelines, then the first thing you’ll be doing is getting rid of the grass. I’m not going to lie; this will be quite laborious as you’ll be removing stretches of about 2-3 inches of grass with soil attached. This is why it’s vital to mark where you want your garden area to be and only remove the lawn there. Make sure the lawn is dry as a bone before you attempt to remove it. Note: This only applies if you don’t have an existing garden already.
2. Add your soil amendments. There are several methods to go about this:
a. Depending on your soil results, you will add limestone if your soil is acidic or rock sulfur if your soil is basic/alkaline. You can spread this over your garden soil and then dig or till it into the ground to be well incorporated. Leave it for a few months, then it’ll be ready for gardening.
b. Simply add compost and mix it into the soil. Compost is effective enough to create nourishing soil to plant your vegetables and herbs most of the time. Wait for a few months and keep turning your soil every week before it’s ready for planting.
c. Lasagna gardening. This is similar to creating compost, except it’s more elaborate and starts from scratch. This involves placing 3 alternating layers of woody materials (branches and twigs), ‘brown’ materials (dry leaves, wood chips, shredded newspapers, and cardboard), and ‘green’ materials (grass clippings, plant cuttings, scraps, and manure). These layers will decompose into rich soil that you can use to do your vegetable gardening after a few months.
Again, I recommend only doing this if removing your lawn won’t pose a problem to any regulations in your area. I may sound like a broken record, but I simply cannot stress this point enough. In which case, you are more than welcome to start out easy with a container food garden first. And then gradually get into raised box food gardening.
Plant Your Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Edible Flowers
Some seeds can be planted in the ground, while others have to start off in a germinating container. This all depends on the type of plant seeds you purchase; instructions are usually included on the label to inform and guide you. If you want an early harvest, it’s best to start with seedlings. The fastest-growing plants are usually herbs and leafy greens.
It’s the same case with fruit trees as well. Fruit trees generally take years to develop before you can start harvesting their fruits; starting with young trees and planting them in your front yard will cut down on some of the waiting years.
Water Your Food Garden Every 3 Days
Generally, seeds and seedlings require daily watering early in the morning. However, mature plants can benefit from every other day watering sessions. But it is always good to do a soil check by dipping your fingers 1-2 inches deep into the soil. If the soil feels damp to the touch, you should water it in the next 2-3 day days. If the soil feels dry, then water your plants thoroughly.
But realistically, if you’re too busy to be watering your plants, opting for a drip irrigation system with an automatic timer is a lifesaver. Click here to read more about drip irrigation systems!
Do Regular Maintenance on Your Food Garden
Maintaining your garden is always a good practice, but it is taken up a notch when you have it on constant display in the front yard. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Whenever you harvest a vegetable or herb from your front yard, immediately replace it with another set of seedlings, so you don’t have a bare patch of ground. Ideally, you want some seedlings ready to be transplanted by the time you harvest some vegetables, but otherwise, you can always replace them with purchased seedlings. Also, it’ll keep your front yard garden looking luscious even after the harvest! This method is called succession planting.
- If you notice any plant that is wilting, damaged, or dying, immediately prune or remove the plant entirely. You need to ensure your front yard garden is always in tip-top shape because it’s always on constant display. Remember that you are doing it for the functionality and keeping up with your landscape’s aesthetics. Based on how extensive it is, checking your garden daily for about 10 minutes is enough to maintain the upkeep.
- Mulch is your best friend to keep weeds from growing in your garden. Although daily maintenance should include uprooting any weeds you come across in your observation, mulch will do the rest of the job. I recommend opting for organic mulch such as straw or hay to maintain your garden beds, so it looks nice. You can also use a weed fabric instead, although I recommend using inorganic mulch to top it off. Weeds will still grow between the weed fabric and organic mulch, so opting for an inorganic mulch like gravel is much better. You can start off with this Weed Barrier on Amazon and then top it off immediately with gravel.
- Consider placing a fence or a hedge border around your garden. This helps keep critters and your pets from nibbling and pooping on your plants. I recommend using hardware cloth since the holes are small enough to prevent even the smallest animals from wiggling through.
What Edible Plants Should I Grow in my Front Yard?
Note: This list of plants is purposely limited for in-bed gardening in the front yard. This choice is to ensure your garden is in line with any existing regulations regarding gardens out front. You want to make sure to have aesthetically pleasing plants that contribute to the landscape and are edible for you. However, if you choose to do container or raised box gardening, then your options are limitless! Click here for a list of plants suitable for raised box gardening!
What are some Helpful Gardening Tips when Foodscaping?
- Grow the food you are currently eating only: There is no reason to start growing plants you have no use for, or none of your family likes to eat. Always start planting vegetables, fruits, and herbs your family diet already includes to replace what you usually buy in the grocery store. This is the best way to start off in your food garden journey and enjoy the fruits of your labor rather than hate that you grew 12 brussel sprout plants that only mom and dad eat, but the children refuse to, thus causing them to go uneaten and rot and be utilized only by your children looking upon that hellish garden landscape of sulfurous, brimstone smelling fumes in awe and horror while struggling to effectively plug their nose. Soon your kid will be known by neighboring children as the one who hails from the house of farts. True story. Yes, I hail from the house of farts.
- Plant perennials rather than annuals which need to be replanted every year. Perennial plants continue to grow for years once they are planted. There will be dormancy periods in their growth stages, but they don’t usually require replanting unless they suffer from pest infestation or plant diseases.
- Be consistent in maintaining your garden. Remember that this is in your front yard. Upkeeping your food garden is vital to prevent complaints since it’s on constant display. Maintenance like regular weeding, pruning damaged leaves, and fruits, getting rid of diseased or rotten plants has to be implemented in your daily routine. This is why starting with a small garden will be much easier to manage in terms of time and energy.
The front yard doesn’t just have to be solitary green grass with a few flowers to perk you and your neighbors up. Also, who doesn’t want something to nibble on at the end of the day after tending to their beautiful garden so attentively? Get your flowers and eat them too, fellow gardeners! Get creative, be resourceful, and challenge yourself to grow something more useful.