Front Yard Vegetable Garden Day 2

Right off the bat I’ve lied to you.  This isn’t really a recap of Day 2 so much as a a week’s worth of work.  So it’s a week.  Not a day.

But that’s all semantics, right?

Last week I took a week off from blogging to tackle the job of turning my front yard into a vegetable garden.  See Day 1 of this fiasco here.

Here are a few highlights of things that happened.

  • 742 people stopped and asked what we were doing.
  • Of the 742 people I told we were putting in a vegetable garden, 741 said “Good for you!”.  The other person said “That’s practical”.  I started to wonder whether “Good For You!” was a euphemism for “Ohmygodyou’reahippie.  Stan.  STAN!  This one here’s a hippie!   Don’t touch her.  Weirdo.”
  • My top blew off.  Honest to God, over my head, hockey jersey-style.  It was really windy at the time, but I prefer to assume it was a garden Poltergeist.
  • I discovered after 12 hours in the garden, nothing says a perfect dinner like licking the counter.  Salmonella and all.  Too tired, too busy to cook.
  • When I wanted to take a quick break from the garden I came inside to work on the computer.  Ironically, when I need to take a break from the computer, I go out and garden.
  • I came to terms with the fact that one week was NOT going to be enough to finish this project.  But it’s definitely enough to get a good hump jump on it.

The week of work was broken down into 3 stages.

1.  Remove all the grass.  2.  Install automatic sprinkler system.  3. Dig & Level beds.

I took forever deciding whether or not to include some grass in my plan or not.  I went back and forth on the notion of an all vegetable front yard but in the end finally decided on a small amount of grass.  I know it’s useless, I know it’s impractical, I know it’s a pain in the ass.  But I like it.  I think a bit of grass looks  nice, adds a huge amount of nice green colour, and is really nice to walk on in bare feet.  Yup. That’s a whole lotta nice. Especially when you don’t own a dog.    Also since I had just ripped out all of our evergreen bushes, I felt like I needed something that would anchor everything.  And the grass is it.

The fella put his boots on and got down to work while I drew up plans for the garden.  Remember if you’re going to do this and you have bulbs, decide whether you’re going to save or chuck them.  I saved a few and chucked a few.



Step 1

Digging up the grass took the fella an entire day.  And we don’t have a lot of lawn. If you plan on doing this next year, lay black plastic over your entire lawn at the end of the summer.  By next spring it should be dead, and way easier to dig up.



They sell actual spades for digging up lawns, but we just used an edger to slice under the lawn and roots.



Once your lawn is dug up you can go ahead and dig your grave.



Step 2

Just kidding.  It’s actually a trench for an automatic sprinkler system.  To get under our brick walkway the fella used the pressure washer I gave him for Christmas to blow a hole underneath to run the pipe through.



Then it’s just a matter of connecting and running pipe in the trench and adding the sprinkler heads.  For now we’re just going to attach the sprinkler system to a regular water timer from a hardware store.  That way we avoid the pesky problem of installing a solenoid and dealing with electrical work.



Fill the trench in with dirt, pack it down, fill it in with more dirt, pack it down until your trench is filled.  Sprinkler system complete.  By now of course the fella is getting tired and my brain is positively exhausted from trying to decide where and what to plant.  I’m pretty sure I developed a callous on my frontal lobe.



Step 3


Once the lawn was dug up and the sprinkler installed I had to get rid of all the  sod which is no easy feat in itself.  Most recycle centres do not take sod and oftentimes  you have to actually pay to get rid of it.  Luckily for me I have Dr. Richardson and Christie View Farm to come to the rescue.  We borrowed a trailer and took the sod up to his farm where he’s going to use it to fill gopher holes.  Because he has a real farm not a pretend farm – like me.

Once the yard was relatively cleaned up I could start working on the beds.  I planned out where they were going to go then started digging.  And digging.  And digging.  If your plan is to grow root crops like carrots or potatoes you need to make sure you soil is loose and rich with compost.  Otherwise, it’ll get all hard and angry and you’ll grow small, round, poo ball looking carrots.  So dig, dig, dig.  Turn that soil.



As you can see, the bed on the right has been turned and levelled.  Just turning the soil raised the bed up by a good 5 inches.



On my last day off I got outside early and started laying out my beds for planting.  Don’t be fooled.  Just because it isn’t warm out doesn’t mean you can’t plant yet.  In fact there are many crops that do better in this kind of weather (if you’re in Southern Ontario I mean) than hotter, summer weather.  Lettuces and peas to name a couple.

I’m loosely basing my plantings on the Square Foot Gardening Method, which involves planting in square foot patches as opposed to the more traditional way of planting in rows.  You can get more vegetables in that way.

I would like you all to take a moment to admire my attire by the way.  Yes.  Those ARE Ikeda overalls, circa 1992 as seen on Jennifer Aniston in many an episode of Friends.  I found them in the bottom of my jeans drawer.  This is the fanciest outfit I wore all week.  I did a lot of p’jama gardening.  Which no one in my neighbourhood blinked an eye at.  Which should probably worry me.



Once my seeds were down I checked the weather forecast ’cause that’s what all good farmers do.  And clearly … I mean I’m wearing overalls … I’m a farmer now.  So, I discovered there was a huge thunderstorm coming complete with torrential rains and high winds.  So down went the feed bags.  Torrential rains and harsh winds would mean my day of planting my seeds in perfect, precision squares would be wasted.  And quite frankly, if that were to happen, Snacklefart wouldn’t even come close to covering the obscenities that would fly out of my mouth.

I gently wet the soil then covered all my rows up.  They can stay like that until the seeds germinate.  The seeds don’t need light to germinate, just moisture.  The second they germinate, you have to take the row covers off so the plants get light.  By now they will have established a tiny root system to help them stay in the ground during rain.



Everything’s still quite a mess, but the garden is getting there.

When I pulled out the huge Yew that was on my front lawn, I salvaged several large branches from it and removed all the needles from it.  I then cut some PVC pipe, hammered it into the ground and stuck the branch in the pipe as a support.  I did this in a few places around the yard.

They will be my pea brush.  Support for my peas.  When the peas grow, they’ll cover the bare branches, giving the look of a small bush.  I’m very clever sometimes.  I mean, my mom doesn’t think so, but other people do.



The tee pee support to the right of the picture was made out of bamboo sticks I bought at the Dollar Store for $2.  I’ll let you  know what they’re for … next gardening post.



Next week I’ll show you the complete vegetable plan, what I’m growing, where and how much I expect to get from my very small front yard garden.  Right now I have to go hunt down that one person who said my garden was going to practical and let them know it is also going to be beautiful.

I think.


  1. sarahbee says:

    Nice work! In my city, homeowners are required to obtain a permit for a sprinkler system and it needs to be inspected before it is covered up. Since one of your 742 passers-by asked to see your permit, I guess your city doesn’t require this (or maybe you have very noninterfering neighbours!), but readers who are interested in similar projects should check first. Good luck with day 2! :-)

  2. Debbie says:

    I love all of it. I just moved to Southern Ontario from the US and am trying to figure out where to garden in my shoebox-sized yard in the suburbs. Of course, all of my best sun is also in the front, so I have to find out what I can get away with in this “master planned neighborhood”.

    My favorite gardening touch ever was a teepee I made out of fallen branches for my cucumber that was growing in a pot on my driveway a couple of years ago. It actually looked so pretty and was a definite conversation starter!

    • Karen says:

      Debbie – If you’re worried about sticking out in your manicured community, just plant vegetables that look like “plants”. Ornamental vegetables like Kale and Swiss Chard. And plant them in the same way you would do regular landscaping, as opposed to in rows or a square foot type method. No one will even know! ‘Cept me. And I’m not telling. ~ karen

  3. Jessica says:

    Very very nice. Next step espalier. ( You know, just trying to give you ideas…)

    • Karen says:

      Jessica!!!!! Funny you should mention that! Several years ago I planted 1 of my 2 Weeping False Nootka Cypresses right by a wall I now realize I would have preferred an apple tree espalier! It’s the one and only place I could do it. I love my weepy tree, but the thought of not being able to have the dwarf apple on the house ANGERS me every time I walk past it. :( ~ karen

  4. sera says:

    It’s going to be so beautiful!! And I’m definitely using your tree branch idea with the willow branches I have in my back yard. I wasn’t sure I was going to plant peas yet, but now I know I have to! Although I wish I could take off a few more days to spend digging out everything. Over the winter, the grass crept up into my un-prepped beds and now I have to start from scratch. Oh well, that’s part of the fun right?

    • Karen says:

      You know what? Because my other projects over the past few years have been so HUGE, this seemed like a breeze. It actually was fun. :) I don’t mind diggin’. Tiring though! ~ karen

  5. ev says:

    Wow Karen! Indeed it was pleasant to view the fells’s bent over shot. Oh, and your garden was great too! We are planting more this year just because we miss it. All our chicks are long moved on. Now we have their chicklets to enjoy! Loving retirement–being able to plant or not, sleep or not, etc.,and not being too old (yet) to do so! Thanks for sharing The History of The Garden. Looking forward to next installment.

  6. Spokangela says:

    Fanfreakingtastic Karen!! I am going to go plant my peas now. And I am totally copying you with the bare branch that turns into a pea bush idea. I am so inspired!

    I also plan on trellising my cucumbers this year. I AM SO HAPPY IT’S GARDENING SEASON!!!

  7. Carole McGinnis says:

    The yard looksgreat – no wonder you and the fella are in such great shape. I can’t wait to see more garden posts. You insprired me to order some seeds from Cubits so I can start planting a few things – probably in big pots. Thanks again for such great posts – I look foward to you every day.

  8. Erin says:

    Congratulations Karen! You’ve gotten so much done. That sprinkler system is really going to pay off this summer.

    After five summers of veggie gardening, we finally installed drip hoses on our broccoli and tomato beds beds last year. What a relief. Everything else is watered by hand…with a watering can. Yes, it is good exercise, but the novelty wears off by early August. And yes, I also have a push mower!

    Can’t wait to see the next instalment. Get some rest – and a good meal.

  9. Gayla T says:

    Besides lusting after the fella’s butt like the rest of the crowd I am now lusing after your brick sidewalk. I lost my battle with the city and mine is gone! It seems that the handicapped accessability laws over ride the Historical Preservation Act. Now, me being legally handicapped and managing quite well on my bricks didn’t cut it either. The walk has been gone a week yesterday and still I have only a grave like yours only it’s a block long. I tried to get across it the first day and fell flat on my face. My daughter ran to get her phone to call 911 but her husband suggested getting me up out of the hole and seeing if I was hurt first. Where men come up with these ideas is a mystery to me but in this case it panned out. The $60,000 Titanium knee joints held up just fine and the cheap body parts did too. I was actually kind of disappointed that I was going to have no grounds to sue the pants off those heartless retards that tore out my bricks. Your idea of going under them with the water hose is, as usual with you, sheer genius. I don’t know why the jammie pants would faze anyone when half the people shopping at Wal-Mart have them on. What the rest are wearing is on You Tube so you were dressed appropriately. I do the same with my night gowns by calling them MuuMuus….out in the yard, not at Wallie World. You are doing a great job with the frint yard garden so far other than the feed bags. Too tacky for front yard use. You can get rolls of nice brown burlap at the garden store to use and it’s organic so you can leave it if you want to or roll it up to use again. That might be something for next year as this project is plenty expenive as all gardening is. Don’t even figure out what that few pounds of produce is costing you the first year or you will cry. Been there done that. Love the dead stick idea and that you got the fella to help. Just don’t let him catch you napping on the sofa when he comes in for a drink. LOL At least pretend to be busily plotting out your planting graph. Also tell the rookies on here that kneeling on the board is to keep from packing down your recently tilled up dirt. They should know by now that you have a very good reason for all you do. I’ve been trying to be patiently waiting for this post and it has been all I expected and more. I can’t wait to see more. You are a very “cleaver” girl!

  10. trinity says:

    Isn’t your little accidental rooster @ Christieview Farm?
    Yea, I can hear your neighbors mentally patting you on the head, “that’s nice dear”

  11. Lauren from Winnipeg says:

    Can’t wait to see the finished product, although seeing your process is great and educational. What a lot of work you two have done. I know it’s not very “Little House”, but you do know they have
    these things called sod cutters? They work great. As well as small rototillers for the beds. I’ve never used one, although I once had a garden weasel that worked well. I’m not good with things with motors that can cause me physical harm. You are the power tool guru. :)

    • Karen says:

      Lauren – You know what? If I can do it manually I usually do. People ask me how I stay in shape all the time and that’s basically the reason. I even have a push mower. Besides, my yard is small, it would have been more of a pain to rent a rototiller. Plus how to lug the thing home. Bleh. I once bribed a guy at a rental place to let me just rent the tools (a wet saw) and do my work in back behind their building, LOL. Guy thought I was nuts. As most guys do. ~ karen

      • Lauren from Winnipeg says:

        Yes, hauling that stuff home is a pain. Luckily I had a friend that had rented a cutter for his own use years ago and came and did mine just out of kindness. We had 2 overflowing pick up trucks worth of sod though.

        I would love a manual lawn mower. It’s so much nicer to hear the soft clicking versus a big noisy gas mower. Most people look at me like I’m “special” when I say that, similiar to when they hear that I hate to wear gardening gloves. But seriously, how can you feel what you’re doing while wearing gloves?

  12. kelliblue says:

    Lemme get this straight.
    -You put a garden in your FRONT yard.
    You could kneel in nice soft dirt but no…you kneel on a board. (pennance?)
    You start your post with a BOOTY SHOT of the Fella. After that I kinda lost track. Oh yes…when I read the 1,2,3, I thought it actually said this:

    1. Remove all the grass. 2. Install automatic sprinkler system. 3. Drink & Lay in bed.

    I think that last one might work better. ;-)

  13. itchbay says:

    I love front yard gardens! We get more sun out there anyway.

  14. Kim Steinmetz says:

    I DO think that is VERY clever about your “pea bush”. You are so creative. This is my favorite blog. Good ideas and funny to read.

    • Karen says:

      Kim – Thanks. If I’d known the pea brush was going to go over so big, I’d have devoted an entire post to it! ~ karen

  15. Sarah A. says:

    Ok, you’ve motivated me to remove my weeds and turn the dirt this weekend on my side yard. I’ve been planning a garden there for a while and your post is both motivating and discouraging. Ugh, it’s so much work! Hopefully I’ll have some beautiful beds full of veggies eventually!

  16. Karen says:

    I love the use of the bushes as vine trellis. This year I fought hubby who wanted to through out the remnants of an ikea loft bed(how dare he) who did not share my vision. Now those pieces, brightly painted of course, r great as vine trellised : the ladder, wire flat springs even the side rails I v’d together work and look beautiful.

  17. Nicole2 says:

    I bow to the garden goddess that you are. The Art of Planting a Garden. There’s a whole hullaballoo to planting a garden. And there’s me thinking all you have to do is plant seeds and water.

    Make sure you don’t plant anything too close to the sidewalk or it will get pilfered. Plant thorny bushes maybe.

  18. Beth says:

    Once again you have me laughing out loud (and almost not making it to the potty! Sorry TMI!) But I just crack up over your response to folks’ opinion of what you’re doing! And the fact that you get your fella to do all the stuff you come up with (and aren’t bothered by the almost “stalker-ish” comments about him!)well – you go girl!! I am living vicariously since I can’t duplicate what you are doing – not because I don’t have room – I just can’t keep up physically! So for this disabled wannabe active person – do you have any suggestions for an iron pot hanging in the yard??? I know it would look so “pretty” with pansies or begonias – but I would like something more productive – even though it’s just a tiny spot — and all I can do from a table top! We have almost no windows w/direct sunlight – and in Texas in summer, that’s sort of a good thing! So my pot in the yard will have to do!! Thanks for spurring me to do something – and for the laughs that come with it!!!! Can’t wait for the next installment! Be Blessed!

    • Karen says:

      Beth – Thanks! First, let it be know, the fella rarely gets involved in my “pursuits”. He’s knows better. So, just how big is this iron pot of yours? The size of it will determine what you should put in there. The one thing that worries me about it is if it’s a big, black iron pot, it might get ridiculously hot. A lot of plants don’t like their roots to get that hot. While, others do. So … let me know how big a pot you have and we’ll go from there! ~ karen!

      • Beth says:

        Karen thanks for getting back with me – the pot measures 10″ around and apprx 7″ deep (before I put shells/rocks in the bottom for drainage) I have included the link to view a picture I took and posted to Pinterest (easiest place I could think to put it so you could see where it’s located) it’s currently in a partially shaded spot but will get full sun late in the afternoon – of course we can move it if I have to. I am so lame at all this – and as you can see I have LOTS of yard, but my body won’t cooperate! So I have to keep my insane ideas small! Thanks so much for any help you can offer! I want to be like you “when I grow up” ;-)

      • Karen says:

        Hi Beth – Well, a couple of things come to mine. Yes, you could put flowers in it … just place the whole basket you’ve bought at the garden centre in the pot or…. you can definitely put vegetables in it. The biggest problem you’re going to have is the fact that even though you’re putting rocks in the bottom, there still isn’t any *real* drainage. If your pot is out in the pouring rain for days, the rocks at the bottom won’t be able to accommodate all the water and your soil will just end up getting soaked and saturated and your plant will drown from too much water and lack of oxygen. If there’s anyone you know who can drill a hole in the bottom of your beloved iron pot, that’s what you should do. Or ditch the iron pot all together and use something with a drainage hole. A windowbox set on a table for example would work well if you have body cooperation issues. ;) For a small container like you’ve snown me just for kicks I’d try a cherry tomato, and just let it all vine down. Your iron pot is also a great shape for a mix of lettuces, but lettuce likes a bit of cool and even shade, so the black pot might be a bit much for it. You could also try beets, miniature herbs and radishes in that size of pot. You need to use a bag of container soil. Not just a bunch of dirt from the garden. Good luck ~ karen!

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