I live on less than a tenth of an acre – what my dad would call a postage-stamp sized lot. In order to use all the open space available, I had to work around the drawbacks of gardening in the front yard. My neighborhood doesn’t have CCRs, but with the flak other gardeners across the nation are receiving, I wanted to be sure not to raise anyone’s concern.
My first foray into front-yard gardening involved sunflowers. Our neighborhood promotes that idea year after year as a way to beautify the town, but I take advantage of it by growing giant snack-sized blooms among the smaller ones. (Yum.) This year I let some pole beans use the sunflower stalks as supports, which doubled my output for the space. (In the backyard, in fact, the sunflower/pole bean duo created quite a jungle – and nearly two gallons of green beans for my freezer! Jack’s beanstalk never had it so good.)
Meanwhile, my tomato vines are camouflaged in pots between the rosebushes. It worked out great, because the roses helped support the vines, and the vines hid the woody, dead parts of the roses. I’ve also got perennial herbs growing under the roses, where in the past lots of pesky weeds liked to reside. Now I have a permanent supply of oregano, thyme and mint at hand.
And what to do with that spot by the front door where nothing ever grows? In went a small patch of comfrey, which this year burgeoned into a large bush with purple flowers and huge green leaves. Who’s to know I’m really growing it as a compost booster (not to mention its topical uses).
Since California is in a drought, this is the year I persuaded my DH to take out the front lawn and build me some garden boxes. I planted it with the requisite petunias, but I filled out my desire for foodstuffs by planting sweet potato slips from a single organic tuber from the grocery store. I felt really good about that after I saw sweet potato vines on sale at the nursery in the ‘decorative plant’ section! Those things put out cascades of green to cover the planter boxes, and the morning-glory like blooms are still going, even in November. I haven’t dug them up yet because the fall leaf colors are so pretty. Who’s to know that there could be edible tubers growing beneath all that foliage? I can’t wait to see if I got any – even one would be a decent return on my investment.
The front yard was rounded out with a white picket fence, an arbor, and grape vines going up the sides as a trellis. (Why bother with wisteria when you can’t eat it?) Our property had no trees to start with, so of course the yard’s centerpiece is an apple tree surrounded by luscious lavender. And between the petunias and sweet potato vines, I planted several “Italian Rose” bush beans and bright red peppers.
The neighbors seemed to appreciate the effort. Several stopped by on their walks to say they liked it. But if the world turns sour, won’t the neighbors just strip the garden bare? Why put in the effort? Because that’s what it’s there for! It’s so much easier to feed someone than fend them off. No amount of preparation is complete without considering the people around you. Besides, in the meantime I get to enjoy a beautiful retreat just outside my door.
Not that I’ve always been a great gardener. My first year, I definitely had a “brown thumb.” In fact, I’m the only person I know who killed a philodendron! Marjory’s suggestion to start small really does work. This is my fourth year, and for the first time my bell peppers produced more than one measly specimen. My task for next year: figure out how to make melons and pumpkins flourish, because this year’s batch looked great and produced nothing. For now, I’m trying a winter garden for the first time. (Purple cauliflower and red cabbage should look decorative in the front yard, don’t you think?)
It’s definitely a process, and the Internet has become my BFF for looking up what to do when a plant droops. But it’s so worth the investment of time and energy. The best part is, I get to eat those decorative -looking plants, because I’m guerrilla gardening on a postage stamp!
Note: This article was an entry in our October – December 2014 writing contest. Click here to find out about our current writing contest.