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Liberating Even More Front Lawn

June 2nd, 2011

In a 2003 study of the lawn-chemical industry, Paul Robbins and Julie Sharp, then of Ohio State University, drew a “fundamental lesson of the lawn” that “such self-evident and noncontroversial landscapes are the ones most configured by socioeconomic force relations.” Serving as familiar, marketable packaging for “homes,” front yards are best kept in a noncontroversial state because standardized commodities are the easiest to mass-market. Robbins and Sharp noted that “property values are clearly associated with high-input green lawn maintenance and use,” and “moreover, lawn-chemical uses typically associated moral character and social responsibility with the condition of the lawn.” To toss all that aside and grow food in the front yard is an announcement that one has bought a house in order to live in it, not to turn around and sell it at a profit in two years. In the housing economy, such an attitude qualifies as moral laxity.

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, 2nd Revised Edition

I started liberating portions of my front lawn a few years ago in order to grow vegetables. Our home is surrounded by woods and thus the back garden does not get enough sun. I can grow a few vegetables back there, but peppers, tomatoes and other sun loving crops languish. In order to fulfill my need for lots of tomatoes, I started slowly reducing the size of our front lawn and making the garden beds larger. These beds have been the home for a wide variety of vegetables like: peppers, onions, tomatoes, squash, leeks and many more. As I started growing food in my front yard my neighbors started coming over and asking questions. Soon they started adding vegetable gardens in their yards most of them in their front yards.

I’ve had this vision of how I wanted the edible borders to be since I started expanding them. With my limited time and budget, I only added a few extra feet each year. This year I’m finally going get the ones around the front yard to the size I’ve been dreaming of. Last week I laid out the new garden edge using a hose to figure out where the big sweeping curves would look best. Tuesday I spent the morning sweating it out digging out the sod in the new area. It’s probably 3-4 foot wide by about 60 feet long. I plan on installing a box hedge along the front edge and behind the box there will be a large asparagus bed, in which I’ll be growing four different kinds of asparagus. Behind the asparagus along the edge of the property there will be a mixed border of various fruit bearing shrubs, evergreens, and ornamental grasses.

When I liberate portions of lawn I usually dig up the sod, flip in over and then cover with shredded leaves. I’m fresh out of shredded leaves so I’ll probably buy some straw from a local farmer. I’ll amend the soil a bit by adding some greensand, gypsum and a few other things to help improve the soil. I think I’m to the point where I have reduced the lawn portion of our front yard by about 40%. With the areas that will be liberated next year for a walkway and a few more beds I’ll be up to about 50%. I’d much rather be harvesting heirloom tomatoes than mowing grass!

Do you grow any vegetables in your front yard? Have you noticed any in your area?

22 Comments to “Liberating Even More Front Lawn”
  1. Sonya C on June 2, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Last year we tried tomatoes in the front yard. Full morning & afternoon sun, shade from late day sun. They were still producing after the backyard ones quit.

    This year we planted them again. We also grew the Kentucky Poles, & McClasin bean up the picket fence, blueberries, zuc’s (which did not do well), and eggplant and hot peppers. We are happy with the arrangement and may expand some more in the fall.

    Thanks for your blog. I really look forward to it each morning, the pics and info (sometimes I follow the links).

    Reply to Sonya C's comment

  2. roxy on June 2, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I never had a lawn to proud of, if I didn’t have the weeds it would not have looked green when it was mowed.Many years ago I made the front yard one big veggie/ berry garden.The neighbors thought I was nuts then,but now think it’s great.People’s perceptions change in time ,of what is normal. I’ve noticed more and more people doing this on the East coast. Best Wishes Roxy

    Reply to roxy's comment

  3. Gabe on June 2, 2011 at 8:27 am

    We’ve devoted a large area of the front yard to mostly fruit production, though there is also an asparagus bed. I have most of the vegetable gardens in the back, where they get decent sun, but as we continue to expand, I can definitely see us using even more of the front yard. We’re fairly wooded too, so sunny spots are at a premium, and I have no qualms about using whatever we can to grow something useful. I’ll still have to trim around the fruit trees and bushes, but at least I know we’re getting something from that land besides grass clippings!

    Reply to Gabe's comment

  4. Nebraska Dave on June 2, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Susy, I haven’t been brave enough to venture out into the front yard with vegetables. My front yard is covered with shade most of the day so it probably wouldn’t work. My front patio, however, is loaded with shade loving plants such as Begonia and Impatiens. My backyard is well suited for gardening with full sun all day long. That’s where I’ve set up my ever expanding garden beds. It’s where all my experimental ideas of gardening are hatched.

    Have a great day in the garden.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  5. Stacy M on June 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Hi Susy!

    Long time reader, first time commenter ;)

    I have a really small front yard, but about 1/4 of it is garden at this point. Just ornamentals for the most part, but this year I added some edible flowers and a couple tomatoes. I have a raised bed garden in my back yard that I put in this year to grow veggies. It’s a nice change from the community plot that I had the past 3 years. Just walk out and there it is!

    Love the blog, keep up the good work!

    Reply to Stacy M's comment

  6. Diane on June 2, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I don’t know how you keep the grass from creeping back into that overturned earth. Here, it even skips over marble borders. But, I’m totally in agreement with the effort.

    Reply to Diane's comment

  7. melissa on June 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I’ve been working hard to liberate our front yard since we moved in. We had a large expanse of grass on a fairly steep hill= hard to mow! And my husband and I hate mowing grass! So we turned about 30% into a natural area – it’s a shaded area with a few trees and I’m slowly adding woodland bulbs and plants to it. Another 20% got paved to be a turnaround so we didn’t have to back straight out onto a busy street.

    Then this year, I’ve taken another 30% and made a huge herb garden that borders the driveway. The sloping hill provide the good drainage the herbs need- best spot I’ve ever had to grow herbs. It also gives the yard a nice look- most people think it’s just ordinary shrubs until I show them it’s all edible and beneficial!

    I’m beginning to see raised beds and more edible landscaping pop up in our neighborhood! I get giddy each time I notice a new garden around where I live.

    It currently takes my husband about 10 minutes to mow the little patch of grass that we have left. Next year I’ll probably remove the rest of the grass!

    Reply to melissa's comment

  8. Trish on June 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Our front yard is more deeply shaded than our backyard, so most of our edibles are in back.

    One of our neighbors grows vegetables in the space between the sidewalk and the street. This would potentially be an option for us, since our easement gets more sun than the yard itself, but I worry about what may be kicked up by traffic along the road that would wind up on/in our food.

    Reply to Trish's comment

  9. Donna B. on June 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

    You know, I don’t think we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing your front yard in swathes such as in this post! ♥
    I love, LOVE those curving lines… there are major plans like that for my yard against my neighbor’s fence so I can grow some taller plants to hide the chain link… [ingenious method too, covering the turned sod with leaves/straw! I might have to do that and plant a winter cover crop to give some nutrients and hide the are from advantageous seeds!]
    I suffer from the same instance as yourself, the front yard being the only area to get full sun [from 10AM till about 7PM…] there are pockets in my back yard, which is almost double the size, but it’s mostly part [and dog-ridden!] sun but I’ve ventured into planting some of my sprawlers on-and-up the fence! Here’s to hoping it works!

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

    • Susy on June 2, 2011 at 11:27 am

      Yes, I was telling Mr Chiots while writing this post that it’s rare for me to show such large portions of the yard.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  10. MAYBELLINE on June 2, 2011 at 10:40 am

    No and no.
    My lawn is the pits and I would love to set it free for something more functional yet eye appealing. My search continues.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  11. risa b on June 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Every INCH between our house and the street is in food production. Back and sides, too. Except for a little patch (organic, we use the clippings to rest our weary bones in lawn chairs.

    Reply to risa b's comment

  12. kristin @ going country on June 2, 2011 at 11:14 am

    We have so many “yards,” if we grew food in all of them, we would be a farm.

    More than we already are, I mean.

    The front lawn is still grass, and one of the few areas the sheep don’t go. Mostly because we can’t figure out a good way to keep them there and out of the road. The garden is on the side of the house on the other side of the driveway. And it is there because it has always been there, forever and ever, amen.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  13. Teresa on June 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Half our front yard is flower beds. The other half, and the side yard, is vegetables. The back deck is dominated by planters full of edibles, and Himself is talking about more beds out back.

    Our moral character must be lax, though, because what lawn we have left looks rather scruffy and has never seen a lawn chemical. :-) Go loose morals! (Then again, I write racy paranormal romances, which just proves the point.)

    Reply to Teresa's comment

    • KimH on June 3, 2011 at 5:20 am

      lol love it! :D

      Reply to KimH's comment

  14. Lisa on June 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Another devoted reader… first-time commenter here! I absolutely loved this post! Your front yard beds are gorgeous and so full of potential. Isn’t that one aspect of gardening that you just love?

    I liberated a few portions of my backyard this spring exactly the way you did, flipping chunks of sod and covering w/leaves and/or composted manure w/bedding (free & available to me in abundance). I would have used more of my leaves, but I wanted to save them to mulch the veggie garden.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to liberate any more yard this season, but your post has me dreaming about the future possibilities… :)

    Thank you for blogging!

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  15. Jerilee Costa on June 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Most of our yard is front yard. There are two areas divided in the middle by the driveway. When we moved in we got to work pretty quickly removing on one side. We removed a 30ft tall overgrown hedge, three larger trees, several other shrubs and leveled it. Then we began planting. We call it our orchard. Once side is lined with what will be espaliered fruit trees. There are currants, blueberries, strawberries, two grapes over an arbor, a few large rows of raspberries and blackberries, and a large perennial garden bed. I also plant all my larger garden plants our there like squash, melons and pumpkins. We love it!

    Reply to Jerilee Costa's comment

  16. KimH on June 3, 2011 at 5:25 am

    My tiny nod to a veggie garden is in the front yard.. My honey was going to build a water pond so collected a bunch of large river rocks to surround it with.. but just let the rocks sit there.. That was prime sunny space and last year I decided it needed filled with good stuff so I made a little garden. Its probably 8×10′ or something similar and it doesnt provide all of our veggies but a handful of this & that.. I also have herbs, rhubarb, & asparagus growing along the side of the house.
    I’ve been wanting to put a huge garden in the front yard for year but my honey is just too conventional for the most part..

    Over the years, I’ve known & seen lots of folks with a veggie garden in the front yard. You gotta go where the sun is. :D

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Susy on June 3, 2011 at 6:20 am

      And you can make your vegetable gardens quite ornamental. I’d highly recommend getting Creative Vegetable Gardening for some great inspiration! You’re husband might be inspired to put one in the front yard!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. Lucy on June 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Hello, we live in central Ohio and although we have an acre, most of the back yard is the leach field. We did not know this until after we had bought. I would love to have more for veggies but we mulch heavily with grass clippings so the front yard is our mulch field. Little by little though, we are putting in more for food. Our back garden is planted intensively with veggies, herbs, annuals, perennials, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. This year we added two pear trees and my husband and son are working on a greenhouse to extend the season!!! Our pool did not last the winter and even though that is sad, tomatoes and peppers and cukes and some herbs are in its place. Your blog is super.

    Reply to Lucy's comment

  18. A Blessing and a Curse | Chiot's Run on June 21, 2011 at 4:47 am

    […] bonus is that it’s free, except for the work of digging them up and moving them. Remember that new garden area with big sweeping curves on the southeast side of the property? That is the new asparagus bed with a box hedge along the […]

    Reply to A Blessing and a Curse | Chiot’s Run's comment

  19. Whit on June 26, 2011 at 12:31 am

    We also have a garden in our front yard. Our backyard (all 50 feet of it) butts up against a gorge, and is laced with Doug Fir and Oak trees. We let that area stay wild (can’t imagine what would happen if we were watering anything back there–possible mudslide?!?) and have sloooowly cut back the amount of grass in our front yard. We made a flower garden in the shape of a Celtic Cross, a 400 sq ft veggie garden, and run berries and grapes along the other two sides. Most of our neighbours are older–with their idyllic notions of a post war home with an ungodly green, weedless lawn with numerous bushes requiring fert and pesticide–are a bit unhappy about our hap-hazard ways of using edibles instead of rhodies for hedges. :) I think our chickens gave a few people fainting spells, but for the most part, there have been some really kind people from neighbouring blocks that have had really positive things to say. I hope in some little way, we can inspire our neighbours to grow something edible…even if it’s only an herb or two.

    Thanks for providing such insightful inspiration here. Best of luck with this year’s season.

    Reply to Whit's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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