My Big Spring Project
Front Yard Vegetable Garden – Day 1

Yeah, so … as it turns out, I’m a lunatic.  More on that later.  Well, actually it’ll become apparent as you continue reading.

Every year I tackle a big project.  Stupid big.  Permanent injury big.  4 years ago it was throwing out/selling everything we own and redoing our house.  3 years ago it was ripping out and redoing the entire backyard.  And last year it was building the Architectural Digest inspired chicken coop.

Keep in mind, I do these things myself.  I don’t hire someone.  Because I’m cheap.  And stupid.  And quite frankly don’t trust other people to do things the way I want them done.  And I’m cheap.

And as you may have guessed, every  fall when I finish up my major project  I say, I AM NOT DOING THIS AGAIN!  I am going to enjoy one SINGLE summer of my life!!!  I’m going to lounge and drink beverages because I WANT to, not because I have to replenish electrolytes.

So this year I’ve decided to rip out my entire front yard, bushes, lawn and various plantings …  and put in a front yard vegetable garden.


Because I never listen to myself.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m not all that smart, so clearly my judgement is not to be trusted.

This decision came in several parts.  A few years ago I knew the front bushes would have to come out.  They were just too big and couldn’t be contained.  I didn’t plant em there so  it’s not like they had any sentimental value.  Last year I noticed the grubs had won the war with my lawn.  I planned to throw down some nematodes, see how it did this year and rip it up next year if I had to.

Then about a week ago the weather got really warm in Southern Ontario.  Armageddon  warm. So the fella and I headed outside to rip all the shrubs out.

In fact, it was warm enough that I started thinking about gardening.  And vegetables.  And how I’d much rather eat a carrot than a blue spruce.  So while we were pulling everything out I decided to grow a few vegetables and stick them in front of my house amongst the replacement shrubs and trees.

And then I decided the replacement shrubs and trees could suck it.  I’m growing vegetables!  All vegetables all the time!  I’m not going to try to hide them in the perennials, I’m not sneaking them in around the side of some bushes, I am overtly and proudly growing vegetables.  I may even get a rocking chair and learn to whittle wood out on my porch.

I started my own vegetable garden in  my parent’s house when I was about 12 and have missed having one ever since moving into this house.  Sadly, the only place around my house that gets sun is the front yard and it never occurred to me to, you know, rip everything out of the front yard and replace it all with vegetables.  Because that’s what crazy people do.  Next thing you know, I’d be shoving petunias in an old toilet and entering it in the floral competition at the county fair.

Well.  Turns out I’m crazy.  A lunatic in fact.  Because I am in fact giving my yard one summer of vegetable heaven.  If my front yard vegetable garden experiment works out, I’ll continue with it. If not, I’ll go back to the way it was with shrubs and bushes.

Of course the trick will be to make it look good. Charming.  I do have some vanity when it comes to my front yard, you know.  I’m not a complete loon.  The existing flower beds around the outside of the lawn will stay the same, other than the removal of a few asshead roses that die every year around June 24th and present as angry bare twigs until the next spring.  Those will be pulled out.

New lawn will be put down, and all the beds around the house will be reserved for vegetables.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my life.

Here is what we accomplished in about half a day.  Not even …


To look at a picture of the front of my house it doesn’t look all that alarming, but it is well on its way to being a mess.


Front Before



The grass looks like it recently underwent chemotherapy.  It’s of no use to anyone other than the grubs, skunks and trolls.  I plan to eventually get rid of all the grass at some point, I’m not quite brave enough just yet.

Grub Damage



Everything needed to come out.

Before Front right


And it did.  Hey look!  We have a porch!  And a nice one.


After front right


Before …

Corner Before


During …

corner during


After …

corner after


To give you a bit of perspective, this is the mess as seen from the roof.

Roof Shot

There are a few steps left.

1.  Remove all and cart away all the brush.

2.  Dig up the sod and dispose of it.  I’ll probably throw it in the backyard for the chickens to have fun on.

3.  Level out the grass area and plan the size of the beds.

4.  Lay down the new sod.


6.  Sit around and wait for a few months.


So, that’s the gist of the plan, give or take that’s how it should all go.

I’ll keep you updated on a week by week and possibly day by day basis.  I was actually going to hold off on this post until the whole thing was completed, much like the chicken coop.  But I decided against it for one reason and one reason alone.

I  hope, from the bottom of my lunatic heart, that this post inspires you.  If you have a plant you hate, a bush that does nothing but anger you, roses or trees or twigs that need constant care and attention.  GET RID OF THEM.  Try, even if just for this year, a front  yard vegetable garden.

Look at Cubits and Twig & Tree for heirloom vegetable inspiration.

Need help starting your own seeds from scratch?  Take a look here at my “Starting Seeds” post.

I’m pretty proud of myself here.  I’ve always wanted a vegetable garden and really the only thing that was stopping me was convention.  You just don’t turn your front lawn into a vegetable patch.  Well.  Yes.  If you want to, yes you do.

Because I figure, if I’m going to screw around and devote hours of attention, watering and feeding a plant in my garden,  it should at least return the favour eventually, and feed me.



Stay tuned for the rest of this continuing saga including what vegetables I’ve chosen to grow in the small space I have, vegetable growing tips for YOU and the finished product with ideas on how you can incorporate vegetables into your home no matter where you live.





  1. Carla Barnes says:

    Karen, you are my hero. What more can I say? If you are crazy, I hope it spreads. Looking forward to a summer of garden posts!

  2. You’d fit right in here in Seattle. Half our neighbors have edible lawns, and it’s all I can do not to snatch a strawberry on my way up the hill come late summer.

    • Karen says:

      Sara – And it’s because of vegetable scoffers like you, I made sure to plan my garden WELL back from the sidewalk. ~ karen

      • sera says:

        I was just going to say, here in Seattle, everyone’s front lawns are filled with veggies. I would love a front yard veggie patch, but I had to wait while my husband and I finished building the front fence last year. Otherwise there would have been trampling. Any advise on prepping beds that are filled with bulbs that might be nice to have come up but still be able to go crazy planting veggies in the summer?

        • Karen says:

          Hi Sera – I was going to try to work around my bulbs, but in the end decided to pull the ones that were in the vegetable area up. I relocated some to the perennial beds and the rest I just brought in the house. Hyacinths everywhere! ~ karen

  3. Kate says:

    Woohoo!! Your porch looks fabulous now and I’m very excited to send you tomatoes 🙂 oh and great seed staring post btw

    You should do shots from your roof of the entire planting and garden growing process, its a great angle!

  4. Claudine says:

    I’m so excited for you!
    I tore out my front yard and put in a garden last late summer/fall. I chose to do a cottage garden, which perfectly suits my 1880 house, which is on a corner lot. I still have some of the stone path to put in, down the side of the house, as I’m doing mine myself also. Everyone loves it, and my favorite compliment is from people walking by who just smile and say “Charming.”

    A fun practical book for front yard gardening, which doesn’t even have photos of a true cottage garden, but does talk a lot about how plants look in a front yard, is “The Edible Front Yard” by Ivette Soler.
    And for beds, stunning abundance of plants, and great general growing information, check out John Kohler’s videos. Here’s his facebook page:

    I can’t wait to see what you end up with. You’re so amazingly creative. Have fun with it Karen. I know I’ll have fun watching your progress.


    • Karen says:

      Ooooo. I’d love to see your garden! I’ll give the book a look. My house was built in 1840 … so that’s the general look I’ll be going for. 🙂 ~ karen

      • Natalie says:

        My first thought was of people going by and snatching your goods (that doesn’t sound right). But I see you have a nice fence there so that should definitely detour some people from taking your great garden. Good luck. I look forward to seeing the results!

    • Silvie says:

      re: Claudine’s post, i also have “the Edible Front Yard”
      and it’s a good practical guide. I dont think I’ll have time for a big overhaul this year, but I do plan to start with a blueberry hedge. Yes, the bears will like it but so will I. Good luck with your project Karen!

  5. Jeanne says:

    Luv it!!! The bushes just did not do that beautiful porch justice…it looks like it was built specifically to “lounge and drink beverages” on! What a great place to hang out, watch your veggies grow, and reap whatcha sow 🙂 🙂

  6. Nicole says:

    I really like my coffee topped with coconut milk and a side of your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Nicole. I’m jealous if it’s coffee time where you are. 🙁 It’s bedtime here. I HATE bedtime. Until I actually get into the bed. ~ karen

  7. Marti says:

    When are you going to buy a cow and start a micro-dairy on the side yard? The t-shirts on that will be fierce, right?

  8. Not Real Name says:

    I had the front yard veggie revelation a couple of years ago after a long summer that we now refer to as “The Squirrel Wars”. I’m still experimenting, & haven’t been willing to go all in for the lush & gorgeous, but I’m getting there. My poor neighbors. Fortunately, I can appease them with fresh produce.

  9. Kate says:

    Good luck Karen! I’ve always wanted to do this at my mum’s house but 1) it’s not my lawn to mess around with 2) I’m only there once a week and 3) It’s a kikuyu lawn, voraciously hard to get rid of.
    Instead I’ll have to content myself with the seeds sprouting in my own back yard.

  10. sofia says:

    I love it! It will be charming!

  11. Rebecca says:

    I wish I could pull out my neighbour’s asshead rose bush. It is just on the edge of my garden and it shoots its prickly sticks to my side all year round. I trim it back, but it just keeps returning to snag me when I’m gardening (and I already hate gardening, but I’m also too proud to totally let it go-wish I could just hire someone, but I’m cheap.)

  12. Anemone says:

    You have inspired me. Yes. That rose bush is going(as soon as it gets a lil warm again). That ugly ugly ugly twiggy thing. I am fed up with it. Thank you so much. You are so brave. I had to know you woulda find something to completely rip out and change up. I can’t wait for updates.

  13. Wes says:

    I want to do this as well! However my wife won’t let me 🙁 Will you email her for me and suggest she let me do it? She’s a big fan so this may sway her.

  14. Amanda P says:

    Awesome and most definitely inspirational!

  15. Mary says:

    I’m hoping to have a garden this year, but in my back yard (front yard gets no sun). We have new neighbours kitty-corner behind us who bought the property & promptly chopped down the hundred year old plus pines & maples that lined the property. Mad e me want to cry, but now I have SUN in my back yard. I have visions of heirloom tomatoes and, and, and… (And maybe even some citron to put up in the fall!)

  16. Gayla T says:

    Brave girl! I know you will do it with pazzazz! I bought some mixed salad greens although some will be red to put out front but that will be short lived and colorful so it doesn’t take much courage. I put my pepper plants in with my cottage garden stuff last year and it was very pretty. I only have sun in front and the back also has a black walnut tree and that spoils the soil. I’ve been researching plants to grow under walnut and there are very few so I have to do it in the front or not do it. My front yerd is very deep from the street and I have a circle wall bed on one side of the walk. I’m getting set for a protest out front too. The city thinks they are tearing out my brick sidewalk and putting in concrete. All the stakes and flags are in so they mean soon. What I know and they either don’t or hope everyone has forgotten is that when I lived just a block from here 28 years ago, I belonged to a group called Historic Topeka and we had all the brick streets and sidewalks put under the protection of the Historical Landmarks. My daughter’s family lives on my block and even they think the bricks need to go so it’s not going to be popular. My stand is going to be that once you remove the historical charm from these old neighborhoods what you end up with is a ghetto! And it’s true. There are some of us who live in neighborhoods that are kind of edgy because we love the old homes. If we leave and don’t fight the blight it won’t be long until it’s a mess. Thankfully the historical designation keeps the big Victorians from being devided into apartments. My house is only 106 or 107 and is a big craftsman cottage. I love the charm of it and it’s worth fighting for. It should be interesting. I haven’t done a sit in since the 60’s but I may have to sleep on the bricks to save them. LOL If I try to I’ll probably never walk again. I might not even be able to get my old chubby butt up once I get down. Should be aa hoot!

    • Karen says:

      Gayla – Fight the fight! I’d have to see a picture, but I can’t imagine concrete would look better than brick! ~ karen

  17. Emily says:

    Very exciting! I’ll be living vicariously through you from my yardless condo. I do have a planter box with herbs on the patio… and I keep thinking about starting some lettuce.

    • Karen says:

      Emily – Go nuts! Do some lettuce! It’ll croak on you in the heat of summer, but is good for the spring, fall. ~ karen!

  18. Wow…you are so brave. It would have killed me to rip out those bushes! I must say it looks great! Beautiful verandah! Can hardly wait to see your veggies. Cheers!

  19. MichelleG says:

    Just found your blog because I had a dried out Sharpie that I needed to use RIGHT NOW. Thanks to Google I now have a new favorite writer (who? whom?) I don’t have to feel guilty about wasting time reading because I’m learning stuff. Valuable stuff.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Michelle! That’s my goal. I also like it if you spit coffee on your computer or pee your pants a little. I consider those to be high compliments. ~ karen

  20. Heather says:

    I LOVE it!! Not only is it going to be yummy but you are helping the environment by setting an example that a front yard does not have to be wasted space productively. Check out all the permaculture sites out there and you may save yourself a bunch of work in the future. Also as a do it yourselfer and future urban homesteader check out Mother Earth News too–that is right up your alley. We put in a beautiful veggie garden last yr in the back and I am now trying to convince my guy that the front yard needs to be included. So far I have only got rhubarb out front for edibles. I think I am going to sneak some other yummy stuff out there….good luck! I am sure this is the beginning of a trend you are starting in your neighborhood!

  21. Sam says:

    Hey Karen… Next you”ll be planinting by the moon (like a real lunatic)… Rain and water cycles and other “crazy” stuff. But you will have some awesome veggies! I have more and more clients asking for some fancy schmancy veggie gardens in their landscape plans (raised beds are always good for containing the “crazy”)… And why not? We’ve all got to eat!

    For all the gardeners out there–don’t forget at least one mojito planter… Everyone needs a mojio planter. And for the love of god (or whatever higher power guides you)– thou shalt not use hockey sticks in the veggie garden! Although Karen could probably make and awesome bean-bearing oblelisk now I think about it?

    Blessings to everyone eating a little lower on the food chain once in a while :). Crazy’s way more exciting than not crazy <3

  22. Brenda says:

    Karin, Your porch is gorgeous, what a difference. That weather anomaly hit PEI as well, got us all thinking spring chores. I think it is a wonderful plan, there are some beautiful vegetable plots out there, way to go…oh and I whittle many hours away, it can be addictive.

  23. Deborah says:

    I wish I had your gumption/stubborness/lunacy to do what you are doing! 🙂 My front yard is awful as well, but it is also 5 miles wide, ok, 145′ wide and just too darn big with a big-ass 35′ blue spruce smack in the middle that will live way beyond my life because I hate it so much. I would dearly love to till it under for a corn field…BUT, hubby won’t let me. I had my revelation about a veggie garden last year after 14 years of trying to grow a FLOWER garden in the hottest/sunniest spot in my backyard, WHAT A FOOK-TASTIC IDEA! Instead of shriveled petunias and dried up verbena, I had MOUNDS of peppers and tomatoes out the ying-yang! I already have about 30 little mini peat pots sprouting with tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, lemon balm, chives, parsely, cilantro and thyme. My livingroom is a jungle at the moment, no room for company (evil grin) and I can not wait to get my little ‘kids’ planted firmly in the dirt. Good luck and keep us posted! Thank goodness you have the picket fence, makes it a tad more difficult for strangers to walk by and pick their dinner 🙂

  24. Joanne says:

    Am really looking forward to seeing your front yard Karen! We are about to tackle our incredibly over-grown garden ‘this weekend’ for the last two years, and your post and energy has inspired me to get my ass in gear – and soon! I’m a landscape architect, so this lazy inactivity is particularly embarrassing…

  25. Karen J says:

    I listen The CBC everyday while working. They did a story the other day about Preppers. People
    preparing themselves for Armageddon – stock piling food, water etc.
    I’m thinking you’d make a pretty good Prepper Karen (lol). Get a cow and there’ll be no reason to leave your house!

  26. Jane says:

    My kinda gardener! I can’t imagine doing all that work and not getting something to eat out of it. Veggies (and fruits and herbs) rule!

  27. Anita says:

    Holy crap- you have a lovely front porch. Must be great to finally see it. My parents bought a house in Bayfield that was so over grown with damn spruce & cedar trees. It took days to get rid of all the greenery crap. Why why do people these damn trees close to the house?????? I love the fact that you are going to plant veggies in the front. You can do a lettuce border. Crap I cant wait to get out to my community garden plot and start planting.

  28. Maureen @theThriftyLass says:

    The only loon-worthy moment that I read here was when you got on the roof to take the photo. Hope you’re firmly on the ground again!

  29. Julee says:

    So glad that you’re doing this! This will be my third year of raised bed vegetable gardening. Love the results – wish I could love the process. There’s extra pressure this year because our family has divided canning duties and will share our bounty with each other. For example, I’m assigned salsa, one sister-in-law will make pesto, another is making pickles, etc. Your tips will be appreciated!

  30. Amy Schmucker says:

    I wish we were neighbors. That way I would bring you over loads of veggies from my garden as an excuse to come over and “watch you” to see what new project your up too. hee hee. I am currently RIPPING out the three foot high railroad ties that hold my garden. We are replacing it with a clean new brick wall. Garden got moved to the side of the house. Green beans will be the first to be picked, oh and the broccoli is coming in already. Just mulched my zucchini and cucumbers. Pepper plants are pissed off because its already too hot for them. Good luck. Loads of pictures are so helpful when your telling us about your projects. I WANT CHICKENS…

    Amy in Florida

  31. courtney says:


    With your chickens and your soon to be front yard garden you are reminding me of the BBC show The Good Life. It was an excellent show from the late 70s about a couple, who done with the rat race, decide to start living off the land. Hilarity ensues.

  32. cred says:

    This is so exciting- I’m envious because I, too, have the best sunlight exposure in my front yard. Unfortunately, we will be moving in a year or two and the front yard is best left to appeal to the masses. In this case, the masses are two-income commuters with little time or interest in tending a garden but with unhealthy obsession with their lawn tractors.

    But I will happily live vicariously through your front yard transformation. And you had already inspired me when I read your post that only mentioned that you were preoccupied with planning this seasons garden. That same day I started several types of peppers & tomatoes- hopefully the poor babies will survive the limited light they get in our backyard.

    Best of luck with your garden- I hope it inspires many.

  33. Rebecca says:

    Your yard is going to look so much better full of vegetables! I can’t wait for the next post.

  34. Kim Merry says:

    I love the picket fence! I can’t wait to see how everything turns out. I am working on my backyard garden this year (Thank you Cubits), not sure if I could talk my husband into replacing the front with veggies just yet. Thanks for the inspiration!

  35. celia says:

    Oh how exciting! I’m looking forward to reading about your progress!

    Have fun!

  36. Mary Werner says:

    Congratulations on your new front porch life! The book previously mentioned is wonderful. Why do most of us spend so much money and time on growing grass then money and time on cutting it down. Stop and think about it – we are like sheep following each other and I’m so glad you are going back to our “roots” in making a front yard garden like in the olden days. Visiting historical neighborhoods in US will find plenty of front yard gardens. You are an inspiration!

  37. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    What a wonderful idea! And without a doubt it will be perfect and amazing just like everything you do!! Besides grass do grubs eat other plants? Or maybe it’s just slugs I’m thinking of (which are my problem along with the deers and rabbits)? I look forward to watching this whole process bloom!

    • Karen says:

      Sherry – From what I know it’s grass that grubs are attracted to. I’m still going to put in some nematodes this spring and fall, a few japanese beetle traps and hope that takes care of them. They’re on the rampage here! And now, … so am I. ~ karen

  38. marilyn says:

    you go girl!! (and fella)

  39. Melissa says:

    I am so excited for you and the fella. May I suggest SFG (Square Foot Gardening) as a resource. It has really helped me and my fella (and our growing family) actually grow stuff in an otherwise barren yard. Ooooh,oooh, and I hope you’ll trellis some berries, or snap peas, or cukes, or morning glories(or something!!!) up your columns or on the actual trellis. (Such a good choice to release the evergreens!) Can’t wait to see the adventure unfold.

  40. charissa says:

    Go you! When we moved into our house, the very FIRST thing I said once spring hit (we moved in the winter) was “Those ugly-ass shrubs have GOT to go.” So maybe our neighbours thought I was harsh for digging up the hideous bushes out front before I ever mowed the lawn, but you know? You are totally on the right track: you should like where you live. And that includes your flora.

    Since I do miss having a little something out front, we planted a pear tree (which never produces pears) and this year’s project is an asparagus bed. I say it again: you’re not alone!

    Also: there is a book entitled “Food Not Lawns”, so don’t feel you’re alone. (I personally found the book to be kind of angry in tone, but I agree with the general principle.)

  41. Barbie says:

    I LOVE your porch! It is BEAUTIMOUS! All those shrubs covering it up just didn’t do it justice at all! What do you have growing on the trellis’s on each end? Looks like whatever it is it provides a nice privacy barrier and is a good climber.

    I am SO looking forward to watching this project unfold! I LOVE my garden.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbie – The left sided trellis is covered with a huge Climbing Hydrangea and the other side is 2 or 3 varieties of Clematis. ~ karen!

  42. Susan Sutherland says:

    Did you ever watch the British comedy a few years back called Good Neighbours? That’s the first thing I thought about when I read your post this morning. They did have uppity neighbours to contend with so I hope your neighbours are supportive of all your innovations. Your porch looks so much better without the shrubs and tree and I think your garden is going to be amazing. My condo corporation would frown on me doing something similar so I’ll live vicariously through yours!

    • Karen says:

      Susan – My neighbours are supportive of my chickens, LOL … so I’m (pretty) sure they’ll like the garden. 🙂 ~ karen

  43. Kera says:

    I am planting veggies in my flower beds this year, too. Mostly peppers because I do have a big sunny backyard garden. Can’t wait to see what you do!

  44. Melissa Leach says:

    Awesomeness personified! Can’t wait to see your garden grow. Love the idea of views from the roof top.

  45. Fabulous! I have a side yard garden with asparagus ( as I am nor the ass-paragus Queen) and lots of lettuce and veggies and herbs.I
    found some of those things on the side of the road that you attach to the backs of doors to hold jars in your pantry so I went back and got them in my car. I wired them the the back of a fence that gets lots of sun and start seeds in those little desposable pots you get at the garden center. That is now my seed nursery!

  46. Jen H. says:

    the end of this post should read “brought to you by the Little House on the Prairie series”


  47. Lisa says:

    What a TOTAL coincidence! I’m helping a friend do exactly the same in the new house she bought late last summer!! The front yard is the only place she gets enough sun.

    The only difference in our plans appears to be that I think a few small shrubs for some winter interest so it doesn’t just die back to a barren landscape. And it will be a place for christmas lights and birds.

    I was thinking maybe a dwarf lilac, red twig dogwood, something…. I’m also throwing in a few native perennials that flower and attract bees. False indigo is one of my faves.

    Maybe I’ll see if I can drag my friend off to the nursery one evening this week!

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – Come the fall when plants/shrubs are on sale, I’ll look for something like dwarf globe cedars or something. Don’t even know if such a thing exists, LOL. I agree .. I like to have some evergreen so winter isn’t so pathetic looking. I’ll see how the garden grows before I decide on anything though! ~ karen

    • karla says:

      Lisa – I love my red twig dogwood, but it is NOT small. Luckily I put it in the woodland section of my garden, because it really is barely civilized. Just so you know….

  48. Thera says:

    Oh how exciting! I am also thinking of doing a front veggie patch with traditional veggies, but we don’t have a pretty white picket fence and we have a steep 3-4′ slope, so I am still brain storming.
    We also have a balcony off the master and we got some long planters last year, one will be our Asian Garden I think. Bok Choy, bean sprouts, watercress etc. I have no clue if these will grow in Ontario, but I am going to give it a go! Your Seeding post was great btw and sending good garden energy south to Hamilton!

  49. Deb says:

    The “after” photo, of your porch minus the overgrown shrubbery, literally took my breath away! What a BEAUTIFUL porch! Green with envy, I am! Can’t wait for pictures of your front yard potager project in progress!

  50. sarah says:

    That porch is awesome!!! I love “open-ness”. You have inspired to bite the bullet and get rid of my oversized, double reclining couch. It is just overpowering my small living room.

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