Front yard farming!

Front yard veggie garden

Often heard about, never before seen first-hand, this is front-yard tiny farming in action—late fall edition. I’m at the home of Andrew and Sue and Margo, in a town of 70,000, leaning on the front porch rail on a residential street lined with single homes on small lots. Typical front lawns all along. Except here, where the grass is gone, replaced by an eclectic collection of veggies and herbs. Beets, carrots, tomatoes, corn and several other crops are already gone for the season. Still up and struggling along in the cold, there’s colorful Swiss chard in a couple of spots, parsley and sage, and a few other things that need a closer look to ID. Andrew also mentioned native edibles, like ostrich fern (fiddleheads), wild ginger and wild leek. And more. The keyhole path set-up comes from permaculture methods: minimum path for maximum access to the growing area. It’s a front-yard revolution! After a season or two of sidewalk-side veggie abundance for all to see, I wonder if this alternate land use will start to spread up and down the street! Urban agriculture. Pretty cool!


28 thoughts on “Front yard farming!”

  1. I’ll bet some of their neighbours are clucking their heads off at the “unsightly” front yard.  Don’t worry, give ’em a few years and they will be asking for tips on how to convert their front yards to something edible.

  2. We have the same thing planned for our front yard, though I figure it may take a few years to get the entire thing tilled and planted. I’m aiming mostly for herbs (both culinary and medicinal) there, with some fruits and vegetables. Like you, I’m hoping it spreads to the rest of the neighborhood. For the time being, folks just whiz past, craning their necks to see what in the world we’re up to now.

  3. Very cool! Reminds me of a video I saw where a guy was leasing people’s yard space for market gardening. The neatest part is that he paid them with shares of the crops from their yards.

  4. You would really enjoy living in Portland, Oregon.  The front yard garden thing is pretty common here on the Eastside. People are turning unused lots into CSAs.  Folks are finally getting it.  They really can take a big bite out of their food bill and have fun doing it.

  5. We’ve used our front yard for veggie gardening for three years now, each year adding more a bit more (including a chicken coop this year). It’s not the most beautiful garden in the traditional sense, but I think it’s way prettier than the flowers and lawns around us. We have a very small, shady back yard, but the front is big, open, and South-facing so very sunny. No complaints yet–even in our Cape Cod neighborhood.

  6. My wife and I put together a project this past summer where we installed a “commuter garden” on unused land on the way to the subway.  We grew a vertical vegetable garden that was free for everyone.  It was really a great community builder, and we’ll be doing it again next year.  It was a great way to get growing, even when we don’t own any land ourselves.
    (BTW–love your blog.  We dream longingly of owning a micro farm someday.)

  7. I am expanding my crops this year by leasing people’s yard space for gardening and paying them via crop shares.  I ‘m very interested in the video mentioned by Nathan (2AF).  Does anyone know where I might view this video or obtain a copy?

    Also, we have a similar type “commuter garden” mentioned by Patrick.  The city has large concrete planters near the train station which are barren and filled with trash.  This past season somone grew mini eggplants in two of these.  I hope to help their efforts by growing in one or two more of these planters next season.

    Thank you so much for the fantastic website.

  8. If you thought that was impressive, you should check out Edible Estates by artist Fritz Haeg. I got to attend a lecture he did on the subject. The idea was to legitimize front yard gardens by calling them “estates” and putting together research teams, and designing legitimate looking logos. Pretty intense, and also, some pretty “beautiful” edible yards. I think this is the link to his website…

  9. Matt: Yes, Edible Estates looks intense! I love the idea of urban agriculture, purposefully growing food in towns and cities of all sizes. I’m living in (a) town for this winter, and although the timing isn’t great (mainly Dec through Feb), hopefully the chance will come up to help with some sort of urban tiny farming here…

  10. I would start a garden in my front yard if there weren’t so many neighborhood kids wandering about. I’ll have enough trouble with bugs come this spring, let alone some kid stomping over my cabbages. Speaking of bugs, what do you use for an organic insecticide? I started using some end all insect killer last summer and it worked great. I’m not sure if any local stores carry it yet so I bought it online here if your interested:

  11. I think it is absolutely great they’re utilizing their front yard for a garden. Nowadays, with today’s economy, you have to do anything you can to save a buck.

  12. Using your front yard to grow food pails in comparison:
    You’ll never believe this but I found an article about a HUGE solution with HUGE implications about having a sustainable future. Urban farming is going through a leap in evolution as we speak with vertical farmscrapers – like skyscrapers but organic food to save space, water, food-miles (oil), energy, etc..
    Kennedy family is undertaking this project and we may see some awesome things coming in the future (I hope!)
    Watch this hot video:


  13. We are thinking about making a front yard garden, but someone told us not to because we live on a busy road and the pollution from the cars will contaminate our food.  Any thoughts or suggestions?

  14. Jodi i really dont think that busy road and pollution from cars will contiminate your food. As cars smoke out CO or CO2 which plants absorbe …. but the plants must be in proper sunlight and watered properly. If all this will be available ,,it hardly matters where you are planting….i guess…

  15. Way to go! Your front yard garden looks great. We’ve been growing onions in our front yard flower beds for several months. I also have a backyard garden that is growing bigger. Thanks for reminding everyone that gardens can be in the front yard too.

  16. Good for you guys for branching out to the front yard. We’re not brazen enough to do that yet but eventually our garden will work it’s way to the front. Thanks for all the great ideas about edible gardening too.

  17. This is such a cute idea! There’s also some great ideas for a small area on CoffeyBuzz for home gardening. It’s such a great idea and so much more healthy since you know exactly what’s going in it!

  18. great use of your property. Honestly to hell with anyone who thinks that it might be an eye sore. Let them try your vegetables and then see what they say!

  19. I like the idea of front yard gardens. It may peak the interest of a passerby and start garden fever around the community. If you don’t have soil, you can use containers. The bucket garden is one idea for that.

  20. Hey there everyone! Down here in Texas this past summer the temps were over 100 degrees most of the time and only rained a few days the whole summer. Well it burned up my green lawn and now its brown. So I thought I would try gardening in the front yard where the sun is constant, both south and west direct sunlight. No trees to block the sun. Maybe this will give a plentiful yield of veggies…

  21. This is wonderful yet an unfortunate impossibility for my family and me, given that we live in a front-yard-less apartment building in Berlin, Germany. Fortunately, we’ve got some cool community garden projects around the city, which I’ve become increasingly active in (such as the Prinzessinnengärten: Having grown up in Vermont with a plentitude of green and garden spaces, it’s heartening to see city dwellers doing the same, under different circumstances.

  22. Great post. We really need more of this, not only because growing more of your own food a great, but also because the fact is that lawns are not very sustainable. The grass we have come to cherish in the U.S. is actually not even native. They’re foreign blends of seed that bring us the lush, green, carpet-like experience that we crave. It only takes us 90 million pounds of fertilizer, 78 million pounds of pesticides, 25 million acres of land, hundreds of millions of gallons of water, 38 million lawnmowers, 3 billion man-hours and $40 billion to keep them in shape every year.

    I think the veggie garden proposes a much better use of space that actually has the benefit of producing something valuable when it’s all done.

  23. A front yard farm is a great idea for those of us who don’t have a lot of land to grow our veggies on and personally, I think it makes a great landscape. Thanks!

  24. I live in a mobile home park,Our front yard is a parking area. However, I used much of my yard as a garden. I’ve got a little more land to make up next year,but i have to be careful. sometimes people drive between the ends of the tralors. I don’t want them to drive over my garden beds nor to get stuck in them. either .I do want to be a good neighbor.
    Since I started a garden some of my neighbors have planted a few tomatoes and peppers. I hoped it would spread to other yards but it didn’t. Instead those neighbors moved, and the new ones never started any..Yet
    . Right now, in January and in Alabama, I have Kale, cabbage, and broccoli. Last year I also tried to grow spinach and lettuce, but they didn’t make it . I’d had a plastic greenhouse over them,but it made like a balloon and blew away.Then the weather got quite cold that night. I also grew carrots in a kids wading pool,.try it and for other root crops and other stuff as well.. .

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