Front Yard Vegetable Garden.
July, 2015





Yeah, so the good part is over.  The side yard, where there are very few vegetables aside from a couple of potato plants and the massive rhubarb you can see in the foreground, is the most attractive part of the front yard this year.




See?  I wasn’t fibbing.  Although  I don’t blame you one bit for assuming I was fibbing as I am a notorious fibber.  To be honest fibber gives you the impression that they’re tiny little fibs.  I’m actually more of a big fat liar.  Like that time I told my neighbour I had no idea how that garlic got planted in her yard.  Or the time I told my cat nobody was laughing at her, even though clearly they were because I had put a baby bonnet that said “Let’s Rock” on her.




Since I now have a 20′ x 40′ community garden plot, (Update, I now have this GLORIOUS 40′ x 40′ garden plot) I don’t need to use my front yard for the sort of stuff that took up a lot of space like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes and 15 varieties of tomatoes.  Getting rid of the squash alone freed up all kinds of space.  I love being able to run out and grab food in the front yard so those are the sort of things I grew there this year.  Green beans, herbs, celery, a few tomato plants …




I thought getting rid of all the big stuff would make the garden look neater but all it’s done is make it look anemic.




Luckily I have a plan, it was just too late to implement it this year when I came up with the idea.

My idea is to turn the front yard into more of an English Cottage garden.  What I’d really love is a French potager garden (which is more formal) but an English Cottage garden suits the 1840’s cottage I live in more.




An English cottage garden is basically a garden that mixes perennials and vegetables.  Although it doesn’t always.  Sometimes it’s just perennials.  Things are grown close together so that when the vegetables come out of the garden, there’s still a lot of garden left to look at.  Heights are always varying and there’s sort of a “just thrown together” look to it.  Which is really hard to do without it looking like it’s just thrown together.




Typically things are grown in clumps as well as opposed to lines.  So I wouldn’t be planting my green onions in a line like this.




A potager garden would also be wayyy easier to make look good.  There’s nothing harder than making something that’s messy (an English garden in this case) look neat.




This corner of the front yard vegetable garden has a tiny bit of the feel of an English cottage garden.  There are flowers, herbs and vegetables all growing together in separate clumps.  The green beans growing across the porch works really well. Everything just needs to be bigger.  Fuller.  More demanding of your attention.  Like Beyonce.  I need to Beyoncify my garden.




Then there’s the dreaded black kale.  We’ve had more cabbage moths this year than I’ve ever seen and they almost completely ate my black (dinosaur) kale even though I was constantly monitoring it for cabbage worms.  Finally, a few weeks ago, out of exasperation I moved my kale.  I also moved a tomato plant, some flowers and a bunch of herbs.  I just dug everything up with a huge amount of soil around the roots and put it where I wanted it.  Nothing withered, nothing died.  If you plan to do something like this try to do it either in the morning or evening when it isn’t so sunny out.  I didn’t of course, but you should. Also get your hole dug before you dig up the plant so you just have to lift it with a shovel and place it in its new hole. This is also solid advice for burying a body that may have died of unnatural causes. Due to not emptying the dishwasher one too many times.




Once I moved the black kale, I put up some hoops and covered it with row cover.  That way no cabbage moths can get to the kale plants to lay their stupid eggs on it, which hatch into their stupid caterpillars.  I stripped all the leaves that had a lot of caterpillar damage and checked the plants very closely for any remaining eggs or caterpillars.  Once I was satisfied they were clean I closed it all up and things have been great between me and my kale ever since.




Did you notice the black obelisk in the shot of the corner of the garden? It’s covered with mouse melon.




I grew a bunch of zinnias from seed in the spring and never thought they’d amount to anything but as it turns out they’ve amounted to a lot.



Lucky Tiger tomatoes are a new artisan variety.  They’ve a sort of grape tomato that taste better than any grape tomato you’ve ever had.  Unless you’ve had a Lucky Tiger tomato.




The Zapotec tomato is pleated all around and looks really great when it’s sliced.




The last of the first planting of radishes.  I planted another batch in the shade a few weeks ago so they should be ready to pick in a month or so.  Normally radishes are ready to pick after 20-30 days but since it’s too hot for growing radishes I planted the in the shade to keep them cooler.  It’ll take longer for them to grow but my chances of actually getting radishes are better.




I use my picket fence for cucumbers.



Mixed in with the rainbow Swiss Chard are herbs like cilantro, parsley and low growing flowers like the red kalanchoe.




It’s hard to see here but this is the Mascotte green bean I told you about earlier this year.  I wanted to test it out to see whether it was worth growing for anyone who was short on space.  So I threw one into my front had and planted 3 plants at my mother’s house in a pot.



It’s definitely worth it for anyone who can only grow their vegetables in pots or window boxes on an apartment balcony.  These green bean plants are filthy with green beans.  But you need to plant a lot of them.  For a standard window box I’d try to get at least 8-10 plants in there.




Again, this corner of the garden has a bit of the English Cottage garden feel I want to try to perfect.  Lavender is mixed in with oregano, salvia, geraniums and earlier this year that’s where I had all my lettuces.




This is my favourite day lily and it’s one of many perennials I’m going to split in the fall to help fill in the front section of the garden in front of the porch.  I’ll also split my phlox, delphiniums and foxglove to plant in the front.  That should help beef things up and give the garden more of an “I’ve been here forever” look as opposed to the “I’m brand new” look it’s sporting now.




The green beans growing across the porch will stay.  It’s wild enough to look English Cottage garden, without being so wild it looks Grey Gardens.



Ranunculus on its last legs.




Elephant garlic is not garlic. I didn’t know that.  Did you know that? I always thought elephant garlic was garlic because some idiot called it garlic.  Plus there’s that whole thing where it looks like garlic. But it’s not garlic.  It’s from the onion family.  And yet.  It tastes like mild garlic.

Seriously, someone’s screwing with us here.

The other major thing I’d have to do to make this an English Cottage Garden is to get rid of the straight lines.  No straight lines allowed.

So the front would have to go from something like this …


To something with a curved edge like this.



And through the magical magic of Photoshop and my magically sucky Photoshop skills  …




It’s not a huge change but the curving, softer lines are the way it should be.  If you go back up to the nice photo of my side yard at the top you’ll notice part of the reason it’s so nice is because it’s a curved bed, not straight. If I wanted to do a sort of potager/cottage garden feel I could formalize the yard by edging the beds with tiny boxwoods.  The only problem is that tiny boxwoods eventually become huge boxwoods.

So there you have it. An update on this year’s Front Yard Vegetable(less) garden.  To me it seems like so few vegetables when in reality, I mean let’s face it there are a LOT in there.

In the front yard I have rhubarb, red peppers, green onions, radishes, lettuce, kale, garlic, elephant garlic, cucumbers,  basil, oregano,  parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, simon, garfunkel, 6 tomato plants, a few potatoes, mouse melon, green beans, carrots and swiss chard.  Plus I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff.  I’m surprised I remembered garfunkel. Everyone forgets garfunkel.

If you happen to live in England or France and can direct me to a really great book on English Cottage gardens or French potagers feel free to let me know about it in the comments.

Actually, feel free to come and do my garden for me.  I’ll play some Beyonce for you while you’re doing it.


  1. Ev Wilcox says:

    I don’t think you could STAND for anyone doing your gardening for you! Your green thumb would be in spasms needing to be out in the thick of it! Your house, yard, chicken house, and community garden plot are all awesome. Really. Well done, as usual!

  2. Kris says:

    Your reference to Grey Gardens caught me off guard! Didn’t think anyone else knew if it, I always refer to my house as that when things start to get out of control!! Can’t wait yo watch the spoof!
    Karen, there is a woman in Cambridge, you might know of her, who has a business called From The Potting Shed. She has her shop in an old farmhouse, and has focused this year on her French Potager Gardens. You can go to her property, she does classes on this style as well as other things. Not that you need a class!! You could just go check it out for inspiration. she may also have that book you’re looking for, she does sell some books in her shop. Check it out, Her name is Elaine, used to be called The Vintage Gardener.

  3. Jen says:

    If anyone can have an English garden that didn’t look like a hot mess, it’s you! Can’t wait to see.

    And what do you think of those Mouse Melons? The cute factor is high but the flavor, she is loooooow.

    • Karen says:

      I actually like the flavour Jen. Like a cucumber but with some tartness. I put them in salads and I might try to ferment some this year with my dill pickles. Those’d be fun. ~ karen!

  4. Lindy says:

    Dear Karen, out of print and ridiculously expensive. I have two copies so I’ll post you one. When you take on a farm and garden in France you tend to get offered rather predictable Christmas reading. I’d really prefer good thick socks. But in this case this spare copy will be going to a good cause. The Makeover Of Your Future Potager. Email me the best postal address and I will go over to the village post office next week and send it off. She only opens a few mornings a week. xx

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lindy! Thank you so much. But that sounds like a lot of work for you. I’ll just come and pick it up. ~ karen!

      • Lindy says:

        Come at once! I have made notes. I can post them on a blog on my website (there are wonky drawings) and you can have a look and a ponder. I will make it suitably Edwardian such as ‘General Notes On Designing A Three Foot Wide Vegetable Bed in the North Americas.’

  5. Ann Brookens says:

    I cracked up reading your list of garden plants. (I’m still giggling while I’m writing this!) I haven’t run across mention of garfunkle for quite some time! Didn’t notice any in your pictures, though.
    Looking forward to seeing your cottage garden in the future; I love cottage gardens!

  6. Miranda says:

    I miss seeing your special cockscomb flowers! Even more so, I miss getting you to say “cockscomb”…

    Our rhododendrons and special dahlias (the variety was called K-K-K-Katie) that the Dundas museum gifted to us were stolen right out of the ground of our front yard while we slept!! On two different occasions! It’s due to some shifty landscapers, if you ask me, but we will be getting some sort of picket fence soon.

  7. Melissa in NC says:

    I love English Cottage gardens, once they get established it seems they would be so easy to maintain. I don’t like Beyoncé. I’m guessing she is high maintenance. She is a pretty lady, just don’t care for her or her music. If you don’t already know this little tip, I would like to suggest to you to use your garden hose to outline the curves for your borders. Works like a charm :)

  8. When I first started gardening everything was straight edged and formal. Then I discovered curvy, wavy lines. I love curvy, wavy lines in a garden, they are much more welcoming and relaxed enticing the visitor to meander. I love your gardens and am always telling others about the “stuff” you do. Looking forward to seeing the results next year.

  9. sledwell says:

    Great post Karen. Although I have a rooftop garden, my space on the ground in Toronto is small so have been considering mixing veg in with flowers/shrubs. I will try to track down the book suggested in some of the comments – very helpful.

  10. Helen Hubert says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. If you want more of those yellow daylilies I will be ripping out a bunch to make more room for the raspberries. I know I can eat them both, but raspberries taste better. I’m in Caledonia if you want some of the lilies… let me know. And I will take Simon off your hands for you, if you like.

  11. AmyInStL says:

    I had no idea I had an English Cottage garden this year rather than a vegetable garden. But I’d decided that other than tomatoes, I can buy good vegetables at the farmers market or from friends and flowers would be easier. So I have tomatoes on one side and then the rest is perennial poppies, zinnias, and cosmos. I tried adding petunias but they were too short once my queen lime zinnias grew in.

  12. Sideroad 40 says:

    I was hoping ‘garfunkel’ would have been a link, taking me to a wonderful magical website selling their seeds. And you would get a small cut. But seriously, good job Girl in a somewhat difficult S Ontario season.

  13. maggie van sickle says:

    You go girl! You sure have the energy and talent. Wish you lived closer to me. I would pay you to help me with my garden. Both your gardens are amazing.

  14. Hi Karen! Your garden is looking beautiful! It’s always tough to keep a vegetable garden looking perfect, like took out of Pinterest, because everything is constantly growing and some things need to be harvested in different time through the season. I’m sure your English Cottage garden will be just perfect!

    • Karen says:

      HI Aldo! You’re right. I’m actually pretty obsessive, lol and my 20 x 40′ raised bed garden is pretty perfect looking, but because of the style of it it’s easy to keep perfect looking. It’s MUCH more difficult to keep a more organic style like cottage gardens looking good. It’s definitely more daunting. Eep. ~ karen!

  15. Tigersmom says:

    I really love the relaxed look of English gardens. Plus, they usually include my favorite types of flowers.

    I like that you are still able to intersperse your veggies in, too, but I nearly mistook that cucumber for Liam Neeson.

    • IRS says:

      Am I missing something here? What’s-his-name with the split leather pants is certainly laying rest to THAT stereotype, but what’s this about Liam Neeson? I did not realize that he made XXX movies, so how is it that everyone but me seems to know his inseam requirements? I thought I had seen all of his movies, but maybe not……

  16. Lindy says:

    Aha, a request that is made for me. I’m just in from my French potager where I picked armfuls of dwarf French beans, zinnias and basil. A glorious place to start is the book written by your compatriot Louisa Jones The Art of French Vegetable Gardening. And your winter reading: Just Vegetating A Memoir by Joy Larkcom. I can see from the shots that you have a lot of bare earth between those well tended plants. A lot of French people do have potagers that look this bare between plants; but they tend to be blokes over 70 who are up at dawn howing the weeds. A better approach – and one that is both productive and aesthetic is to mulch or find a good ground cover. I mulch with compost (store bought weed free) each spring and that means you get a lot of self seeders from the season before. Coriander, fennel, cosmos, lettuce. All freebie plants because I cover the soil. And I know people will push for winsome little box hedges to frame the bed. Why not try sowing all bare areas with Dwarf French beans early in the season? And that way you get a lush look that is not too high and fun to wade through. For pervy pics of my potager have a look on the Farm Tour section where you can see all the mistakes I made before I settled on the final incarnation. Lindy

    • Karen says:

      I actually had you in mind when I was writing this Lindy, lol. My front yard garden is especially difficult because it’s so small. The beds by the front porch are only 3′ deep. Most of the bare earth is from where I pulled up all my lettuce from the spring. I should probably quickly get some spinach in there. I’ve browsed The Art of French Vegetable gardening on Amazon but can’t seem to find a copy. I’ll check again today and see if one has come up. It must be out of print and the copies available are really expensive!~ karen!

      • Pam'a says:

        Karen, are you familiar with They’re a great source for used books AND new from booksellers around the globe. They’ve come through more than once for me, so they deserve a plug.

  17. Hazel says:

    I’m in England and I love all of Alys Fowler’s books. ‘The Edible Garden’ is about her garden design, which is pretty much modern English cottage gardening.
    There are lots of pictures of her garden on Pinterest, so have a look to see if you like her style. It might be too informal for you…

    More traditional is the late, great Geoff Hamilton. I have his cottage garden book, but his Ornamental Kitchen Garden book might be worth a look. Both were written in the 1990’s, I think.

    Joy Larkom’s books on vegetable gardening may also be of interest

    Have fun! Cottage gardens are absolutely my favourite. I visited Jane Austen’s house last week and the garden there was beautiful.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Hazel! I love Alys Fowler. I’ll have to take a look at the book and definitely her Pinterest page! Thanks for the other recommendations. Honestly it seems so easy but a nice cottage garden is really hard to pull off. ~ karen!

  18. Milton says:

    Absolutely lovely photographs of your garden. I don’t see how it could be any lovelier.

    • Karen says:

      I LOVEEEEEEEE Grey Gardens. I first saw it when I was so young I don’t even think I really understood what was going on. I’ve watched it over and over again since. So I can’t WAIT to watch your link because I”m also a HUGE Fred Armisen fan!! ~ karen

      • j says:

        Just watched it again, and wowza! See something more every time,,,Like not being able to look away from a car accident,,,

    • Susan says:

      That is so funny!!! I love the sweat pants on Haders head!

    • Pam says:

      Grey Gardens is fantastic! Is it strange that I kinda wish I could more like Little Edie?

  19. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I never forgot garfunkel…how could you forget garfunkel???…Guess I’ll grow some Mascotte beans next year…If you want any orange day lillies let me know…I have about a gazillon of them…

  20. JulieD says:

    Well, I don’t live in England or France, but I just checked a book out at my library written by a Canadian expat who lives and gardens in France.I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks promising. It’s called The Art of French Vegetable Gardening by Louisa Jones. In the introduction she mentions the mutual influence between English and French style home gardens. The photos are beautiful. It might be worth a look.

    • Karen says:

      ha! I either own that book or was looking to buy it on Amazon. I forgot. I have a feeling I was looking to buy it and couldn’t find a copy. I’ll see if my library happens to have it. ~ karen!

  21. Jan says:

    I am English living and working in Michigan USA. I have only ever gardened by default cottage garden style. It’s natural to see lush mixtures, colors and heights of plants, including natural, annual, perennials and fruit/veg in gardens. I love Gertrude Jekyll style but really with more “grass roots,” (excuse the pun) of nature and need plantings.
    At last after 15 years, I think I’ve got it. Dwarf apple espalier tree with blackberrkies meandering amongst the branches and now melons growing infant and amongst both the tree and berries. Love it..
    Rooting through my larger cottage garden at the rear of my house, looking to pick beans or tomatoes, whilst smelling the sweet william and seeing the humming birds feeding on the jewelweed, brings huge delight to me. Why for heavens sake be formal in your gardens. You are missing so much….

  22. Jani says:

    Wow….what a green thumb you have!! You must be very proud of your garden. Would love to be your neighbor!

  23. TucsonPatty says:

    I’ve always loved this type of garden, and do not have the green thumb or the patience to grow it or keep it growing. I’m in the last stages of killing all the rosebushes and almost all of the Iris in my back yard right now. Lots of Lantana, though! It will be gorgeous!

  24. Alison says:

    I had a broccoli worm situation the other day, and immediately thought of you. And then threw out my broccoli. ?

    I’m glad you don’t have boxwoods; they look so nice, but the smell is nauseating!

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