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The Front Yard Garden

When we first moved in to this rental house, the yard was a freaking mess.  Weeds were two to five feet tall, and there were decorative grasses and high maintenance plants everywhere.  Oh and stupid day lilies as far as the eye can see.  Day lilies have a short window of when they actually bloom, and they take a TON of room.

The sun exposure in our front yard is amazing, and there was already a big raised bed incorporated in to the design.  I don’t give a tinkers damn about decorative plants, so my mantra that first summer was “if I can’t eat you, or you don’t attract bees, you’re out”.  By the end of the summer, the weed pile was about 10 feet across, and four feet deep.  That first year was an incredible amount of work, and there was little yield.  That’s ok…you can’t decorate a house before you pour the foundation.

A few people have asked me if having my vegetable garden as opposed to flowers is weird, or annoys my neighbors.  My first thought is always “I don’t care”, but then I pause and I realize I do care.

I care that when my neighbor tells her three year old “we’re going to Sarah’s house”, before he even puts on his shoes, he grabs a bowl.  Even at three, he knows a visit over here, means berries, green beans, eggs, and his favorite; tomatoes!

I care that our elderly neighbor loves to hang over the fence (our yards are terraced up a hill and she is above me.  So, the fence on her side is three feet tall, but looms about 8 feet tall over my yard.  Got it?  No?  Don’t worry about it) and tells me about how she had 15 chickens during the Depression and kept her family fed with protein even when they didn’t have a penny to their names.

I care that the previous neighbor (house above us is a rental) would grab his folding chair, a glass of wine, and sit and talk with me while I weeded until it was too dark for me to see.  He’d tell me about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, and his time playing pro golf.

I care that there is a group of older folks who walk every night up our hill.  I love being outside when they stop and smell my roses, admire the raspberries, and ask me questions about the garden.  I love that they say my yard reminds them of their victory gardens during the war.  I loved the look in one of their eyes when she gasped “oh you have chickens” and sighed a dreamy sigh.

I care that people who stop and ask me about the chickens always walk away with a little bit of education about a closed food system.  I can’t tell you the number of people who have said “that is so cool” when I explain that I feed the chickens the garden leftovers in fall, which turns in to energy and calories to let them lay eggs, I eat the eggs, and then dry and crush the egg shells to return to them for protein, which in turn gives me more eggs.  And then they laugh when I explain that almost as good as the eggs, is the sheer amount of poop I get as fertilizer for the garden.

I care that Jack and I were sitting on the front porch one day eating berries, and he said “Momma, don’t you wish we could live on a farm”?  I dreamed a deep sigh and said “so very much buddy”.  To which he swept his hand around the front yard and said “stop wishing Momma, cause we do”.

Living on less than one-fifth (1/5) of an acre means I’ll never be able to grow as much as I want of anything.  I could either pick one crop to grow and be done with it after a few weeks, or I could diversify and grow some of everything.  You could say I dabble in diversity.

Front yard gardens aren’t amazing because of what they produce, but rather what they create; connections, friendships, and a little bit of self-sufficiency.

Grab a bowl.  Come on over.


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22 comments on “The Front Yard Garden”

  1. Sara,
    Love, love, love your blog! Great post. You care about the right things. Brought this back into perspective.

    The first year we moved to our new house, unbeknownst (sp?) to me, my father in law “buried” our rotting jack o’lantern in our front yard. The next summer, I wondered why the hell the previous owners would have planted squash in the front yard. Anyway, it totally brought out the neighbors and got us all talking. It produced a ton of pumpkins– most of them were stolen in my urban neighborhood. That’s ok–my husband is allergic to pumpkin anyway!

  2. I’d love to be your neighbor! We’re limited with what we can do in this rental (yay container gardening!), but my husband already knows we won’t have a lawn in our own place. He doesn’t mind the idea of no mowing considering we own a pushmower 😉

  3. Oh my goodness, I want this. We just bought a house that we can’t live in for a few years and I’m already planning the yard. The back yard has three beds that failed and two stunted fruit trees…I can’t wait until we can fix it up! I’ll be picking your brain about this. Since we’ll tear everything out and re-plant as well as turn a shed into a greenhouse, your garden gives me hope and inspiration for a .18 acre yard.

  4. we have been on our new “its not a real farm, we’re just dirty hippies” place for just over 2 years and i just realized that everything in my chest freezer came out of my yard. including 6 meat chickens, fruit and veg to last the winter, and pork on the way. doesn’t it feel great?

  5. Sigh … I love your garden posts, Sarah! They make me wish I was a better gardener myself.

    When I’m out the front of my place weeding, my elderly Chinese neighbour (I call her my Chinese grandma!) brings me Chinese candies and encourages me to not work too hard (in Chinese, of course, but who needs to share a language in order to understand each other!)

    Thanks for sharing some precious moments with us all.

  6. We just had our second baby so no garden for us this year… But we really didnt have to. Our amazing neighbors have so much extra bounty they invite us over to help harvest. My daughter loves picking cherry tomatoes off and eating right away. She blew our neighbor away when he handed her a green pepper and just went ahead and bit in. Love it!

  7. Certainly is great what you are doing and there is nothing wrong with it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone who wants flowers and not food gardens. Sort of like the argument about which is the best mother. They stay at home mom or the working mom. To each their own.

  8. You rock girl!!! I love your post!!!! What more can I say?

  9. Love it! We don’t have a front garden (bald-faced terrace house) but we are members of our local community garden and we love it for similar reasons. You grow more than food in a garden. I’ve gotten to know so many more locals which can be hard when so many live in apartments etc and have completely different lives. We’re in a very multicultural area and it’s been eye-opening seeing the different gardening styles, not to mention foreign fruits and veggies!

  10. I’m not as good a neighbor as I’d like to be, but your post made me want to be better. Our elderly neighbors to the East have a FANTASTIC garden, but it’s hidden behind a really high fence. We have been over to visit a few times, but I always feel awkward and don’t know what to say or do (or how get back home tactfully when the kid get’s restless).

    But yes, I love seeing gardens growing in the front yard. My sister (who lives in NH and is very much about appearances) actually let her youngest son put a garden in where it’s visible to anyone coming up their drive. He has LOVED going out to his garden for fresh veggies all summer long. They are even trying to figure out how to give him more space for next year (and make it look better).

    Thanks for the inspiration to be a better neighbor!

  11. Must be Friday, and I’m tired…brought tears to my eyes with memories of growing up on a farm, with chickens and a huge garden. My little raised garden boxes sure don’t compare.
    Thanks for the stroll.

  12. I only have small gardens but grow back and front. and enjoy hanging over the gate chatting. your garden sounds good and Jack is a very wise young man.

  13. Mama had two gardens….a 100′ x 150′ vegetable garden and a small horseshoe flower garden inside the driveway. As a child, I hated tilling and weeding but sure loved the fresh food. To this day I prefer my produce room temp like it is fresh out of the garden.

    Jack is right.

  14. Absolutely the most beautiful post yet! It made my heart hurt wishing I could do the same. You see, my husband is having a love affair with a lush, green lawn. Maybe some day I can convince him otherwise.

  15. A lovely piece of writing. reminded me or our old neigbours in another house. They were above us and their front yard faced north west, so was the best aspect for the vegetable garden. And it left their back yard free for a pool. Which they let us use! Are people who grow vegetables in their front garden the best or what?!?