Sunday, January 10, 2010

Front Yard Gardening

My vegetable garden is in the front yard—long story, but basically that’s where the sunlight is. The garden’s being right where I see it every day gives me extra motivation to keep it well-tended, but its location also adds more elements to garden planning, going beyond “what would I like to grow this year,” in terms of what is actually planted and where in the garden those plants will be grown.

For example, I grow Sunspot sunflowers; each plant makes one big flower, usually ten or more inches across, with big sunflower seeds that we can eat or feed to the birds, and each plant is only two and a half to three feet high. Really, they are wonderful, and I am not the only person who thinks this.

The year I planted them in the position nearest the road, I woke up one morning to discover that someone had cut (low to the ground) and walked off with a couple of the plants. I hope they looked nice in a vase in that person’s home, but ever since learning the hard way that these are Desirable Flowers I have taken care to plant them in a protected position. Last year they were hidden from the road by the okra. The year before, a row of hot peppers was nearer the edge of the garden bed than they were, making them harder to reach.

Of course, I could just stop growing them, but so far this placement strategy has worked for me.

I haven’t lost much else to passers-by, but my friend who gardens in containers on half of her driveway in her front yard (again, that’s where the sunlight is) came home from work one day last summer to discover that someone had taken her ripe tomatoes. Her purple eggplants also disappeared last year, and she has lost Sunspot sunflowers, too.

The good news is that the non-purple eggplants, the Casper White, Apple Green, and Rosa Bianca, were not taken. We think that, possibly, they didn’t look familiar enough to be recognized as eggplants, or that maybe they just didn’t look ripe.

This means that another strategy for protecting front yard crops, if needed, is growing plants that are enough different from the standard grocery store versions that they are left alone.

Choosing unusual varieties and planting in ways that deflect interest from desirable plants can be important parts of planning the front yard garden. Another part is maximizing the attractiveness (and minimizing the weirdness, when possible) of the garden for neighbors.

I have been very lucky in that no one in my neighborhood seems to really mind that I grow vegetables in the front yard (and if anyone does, he or she has yet to complain out loud where I can hear), but I do grow flowers along with the food, which might help.

I also try to find shorter/smaller varieties that will fit the garden, but this isn’t always possible. Winter squash vines would run all over the yard if left alone, but I try to keep them in the garden by picking up the growing tips of the vines and aiming them back toward the center of their planting bed. Ditto for the sweet potatoes.

However, this year I will go back to growing the shorter okra, Cajun Jewel, that I have grown before, after last year’s Louisiana Short (which I had not grown before) got way too tall for a front yard, and I will stick with the Dakota Black popcorn, which was not too tall considering that it is corn, and which really does have kernels that are almost black (making it look less like grocery store corn).

Someday I may find a winter squash that is sweet, productive, and resistant to the vine borers, and that has a less sprawling growth habit. If I am lucky, it will also be ugly enough that everyone who sees it thinks it is diseased. This squash of my dreams is only one of the many front-yard-appropriate plants I am looking for as I make my seed orders for the year.


  1. Great post, you a very compelling read, will surely be going over older posts, it is a lucky day for me to find something decent to read, thank you. I took a giggle seeing (food) after your title :). My garden invaders have 4 legs never would have thought you would have to worry about the 2 legged in the city! Peace

  2. Ruralrose,

    Glad to know that you have found something here worth reading! We have some four-legged invaders, too. In particular, I have a rabbit problem, but some of my friends have lost entire gardens to deer, which seem to follow creeks (usually left a bit wild) in and out of subdivisions.

    Problems of the two-legged sort vary by neighborhood, too. So far, luckily, my problems have been minimal. My friend who gardens in containers on her driveway has had more trouble.


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