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. GG says:

    Can’t wait to see your garden, have fun.

  2. Anna says:

    I really want a garden in our new place, but I’ll leave that to the bf — I would kill anything I touched. I also really want a goat…

  3. Tracie says:

    Wow, I am totally in love with your porch! It’s my dream porch, which also sports a squeaky screen door in my dream….I realize you could probably never stand for a squeaky anything, but my Grandparents had one back in the day and it conjures up very fond memories….My Grandad was the gardener in our family and had a very green thumb. I intend to use your tips and advice to grow some container veggies this year. Looking forward to that and your front yard progress!

  4. Shauna says:

    I’m so proud of you for doing this and no, I don’t think you are a lunatic at all. Many people are growing front yard gardens nowadays (in my neighborhood anyway), it’s all very sustainable. Grass does nothing but suck up lots of water – gives nothing back – pfff. We planted a tiny little vineyard in our front yard and it looks fun and awesome. We’re in SoCal so low water landscapes are quite the rage here. Just add an aquaponic system to your front yard, then you might be a little nutty;)

  5. Melissa L. says:

    Yay you! I live in a rental, so my entire garden (flowers and vegies) is all in containers. If this were my house, GONE would be the grass, and HELLO garden! I’m recovering from breast cancer, and find my time in the dirt to be very therapeutic. Thanks for your continuing inspiration!

  6. Stefanie says:

    We’re going to be lopping out several monstrously overgrown cedars right in front of the house next weekend. Ours have to come out because the roots are messing with the banking on the house and the basement keeps flooding, but the front yard will look better without the beasts.

    My question: We can eliminate all the above-ground stuff easily enough, but what’s the best way to get rid of the root tangle? Our garden center recommended killing them off with salt, but I can’t imagine anything would grow in the soil after that for quite some time. Or, do yews and blue spruces not have quite as bad a root system as cedars? We tried to dig one of ours up last fall and it literally broke the shovel…

    • Karen says:

      Stefanie – These came out surprisingly easily. (I say that will all the confidence of someone who watched her boyfriend do it) They appeared to have fairly shallow roots and shockingly not all that many of them considering the size of the plants. ~ karen

  7. That was my question for Karen too!! What do you do with all the roots? Are you just cutting them to the ground(or just below), guaranteeing years of trimming back volunteers? Or are you ripping them out using your large and powerful super-muscles? Also am I reading correctly that it took two people half a day (8-10 person-hours) of labor to accomplish that feat? Thanks much!

    • Karen says:

      It didn’t take 2 people half a day to do it. I spent a couple of hours trimming back all the evergreens to make them easier to dig out and pulling out some angry rose bushes. The fella then came out for about 45 minutes or so and dug out the roots. We’re fast and hard workers though so I’m not sure how long it would take if you were doing it like a sane person! ~ karen

  8. Christina says:

    My mom introduced me to your blog the other day and I love it! I was going through everything yesterday and you are awesomely amazing! :) I’m also from Southern Ontario and boy the weather lately is odd! I was wearing shorts last week and now I’m freezing! lol Good luck with your front yard garden! :D

  9. Karol says:

    God bless gardeners and farmers. So much work, and so little time to do it. Enjoy your rewards!

  10. Julia says:

    Look up Alys Fowler’s Edible Garden series on Youtube. Not only is she the most adorable gardener ever, but she beautifully combines flowers and veg (and chickens) in her very productive garden.

  11. Manisha says:

    My neighbor looked at me real strange when I started planting vegetables in my front yard. Then I blogged about it and now she doesn’t mind. In fact, she planted tomatoes up in her front yard last year. I think I’ve started a trend in this neighborhood. It took me a while to get over my own sense of craziness, but it did happen. And we’re all happier this way.

  12. Yay! I also have a front yard vegetable garden that I started about three years ago…and because we live in a very restrictive neighborhood, looks do matter. But oh, it is pure luxury to wander out your front door when you’re pondering dinner and grab a handful of kale and chard!

  13. Sarah A. says:

    You’ve definitely inspired me. I’ve got a side yard that is a weedy mess and would be perfect for a nice vegetable garden. In California we’ve had some late wet weather, so as soon as it dries up those weeds are gonners! I can’t wait for tomatoes, lettuce, and peas… and now you’ve got me drooling!

  14. Jenna Avery says:

    Karen, I don’t know if this would be useful to you — I imagine you already have plans for your beds — but I found this to be incredibly helpful when it came to put in our vegetable beds, and our veggies are amazing, so here it is, just in case:

  15. Mickey says:

    This is going to be awesome…. just like the back yard and the chicken coop. Enjoy your latest adventure.

  16. Jasmine says:

    ANY kind of front garden would be nice for me! The deer are so voracious that I even put some fake leaves into a pot and they munched/pulled them! If I tried veggies, they would wait patiently until they were looking pretty and make sure it was the night before you were having a dinner party, then they would saddle up to the salad bar.

    • Jeannine says:

      I’m SO with you on the deer problem! I’ve donated thousands of dollars worth of plants to their daily buffet. Finally I just gave up! Any ideas on how to stave them off without odd smelling substances or prison-worthy fencing?

  17. valerie says:

    Since you are at the deconstructing phase I suggest adding a sprinkler system before you start your garden. It will prove invaluable in dealing with neibourhood critters (cats, skunks etc.)and you won’t have to drag a hose over all the growing veggies every single day – just set the timer to come on at 2 a.m.
    A wonderful idea Karen!

  18. Katie B says:

    Ooh, I am so excited to watch your vegetable progress! I am also in Hamilton and starting my first Major Vegetable experiment in our current location – backyard, though, since that’s where we get the sun. Previous attempts have all been in dinky little plots carved out around basement apartments, so I can tell you if you plant your carrots in very shallow soil and fail to thin them, it is possible to grow tiny round carrot balls;) I will be checking for tips!

  19. Clare says:

    Hi Karen
    I can’t wait to see what you do with the front yard. In Sydney I lived in a neighborhood with lots of Italian families. Every inch of their yards were covered with vegetables, and we often were on the receiving end of their bounty.

    I have always tried to maintain a veggie patch: there is nothing like veggies you have just picked yourself. It will be a while before I get one in here, too many other projects inside the house first!

    I just dug down the side of our house, too, though. But to put in a drain to stop our basement flooding, not for gardening purposes. All that work and it looks no different! I keep looking at that dug over dirt and thinking about what I could do to make it prettier.

    What plants would grow in clay soils, in full shade, though? Plus I would hate to plant anything whose roots would go into my lovely new drain. So mulch, maybe.

    Plus you may be interested in reading what artist Donald Fortescue has to say about whittling. He is doing a whole series of works around the subject.

  20. Kim says:

    Can’t you let the chickens in the front yard since it’s fenced? I thought chickens ate all sorts of yard bugs and grubs. Maybe they can de-bug it before you get to planting. Anyway, good luck with your project, knowing you it will look so cool that everyone will want one.

    • Karen says:

      Kim – My chickens happen to be illegal chickens. They aren’t allowed in my town. My neighbours love them so they don’t complain. So, no … sadly I can’t bring them out front for all the world and grubs to see. ~ karen

  21. I love that you’re doing this! Why NOT create a front yard that you both enjoy and find useful?!

    We are doing something equally crazy (sort of) with our own yard: killing off/pulling out all the grass and replacing with 100% clover. This is more than frowned upon here in the ‘burbs and we are basically making ourselves pariahs in our neighbourhood, but it’s eco-friendly (GOOD for the environment, even!), low maintenance and beautiful. What’s not to love? (except the hate mail we’ll receive from the neighbours. We won’t love that)

    Anyway, all that to say ‘Good on you!’ A front-yard veggie garden is just plain awesome.

    • Karen says:

      April – Be careful with the clover! The problem with clover (and why neighbours don’t like it) is it spreads through it’s root system. So while you may want a clover lawn, your neighbours who don’t want a clover lawn will end up with one because of yours. (if your lots join) If your grass is separated by a driveway or other such thing it should be fine. Clover doesn’t spread easily through seed. Another nice alternative is creeping thyme! ~ karen

      • Jeannine says:

        My mother replaced her front lawn with creeping thyme and some other low, low growing greens a couple years ago. She left the perennial beds, so now it’s a lovely gray green framed by flowers. She has a couple of meandering stone paths winding through it. Low maintenance and gorgeous!

      • Creeping thyme was definitely on our list of contenders but the preparation required to plant it was a little daunting. We’re in Halton and our soil is mostly red clay, so it would require a considerable amount of topsoil and fertilizer to make it work, otherwise it would have been perfect.

        We are absolutely worried about the aggressive nature of clover since we DO share a lawn seam with our neighbor to the south (and his version of lawn maintenance is 14 hours a day, Saturday and Sunday, basically trimming his lawn with nail clippers. To say he’s fussy is an understatement, so we’re pretty sure he’s going to stuff a pipe bomb in our mailbox by next year). We’re hoping to minimize the spread by digging a trench along the seam and filling it in with 6×6 lumber: basically railway ties but raw wood. If we treat the soil underneath with herbicide on an annual basis, would that reasonably discourage the roots from venturing over? We know nothing about lawns so if you have any suggestions about how to keep it contained, I’m all ears! (and very grateful)

  22. Janelle says:

    What a beautiful, delicious and ambitious idea! Will you do raised beds, or on-the-ground beds….or is that top secret?

  23. Brenda j says:

    I did my semi-detached, front yard into a perennial garden…taking out a stretch of grass each year and adding to the plantings. Split plants over the years and given some to neighbors etc.
    Such a wonderful way to burn stress and enjoy the fresh air.
    I’m adding some veg and herbs this year for a bit of a change. Green Thumbs crossed!!!
    The greatest part…. I’ve even had rowdy looking teens stop and tell me how they love my garden. Now how cool is that?

  24. Jinger says:

    We started a vegetable garden in our backyard this year and are taking it pretty slow, but totally loving it so far. Eventually we’d like to get rid of all the grass and make it a nice space to hang out instead of our weird big buggy backyard and bring some of it around to the front, too.

    I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do, as it’s sure to put ours to shame! Have fun!

  25. JamieK says:

    I’m very impress with how you removed those large shrubs! I have 2 acres of woods behind my house that I am trying to clean out (everythng but the trees). Will you please come over and remove all of the scrub elm? I can’t get their roots out of the ground!

    Thanks and let me know when you’ll be over. I’ll have a big pitcher of adult beverages ready.

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Awesome Karen..I am doing some raised beds this year..Herbs..tomatoes..lettuce and anything else I decide to try..I will be following along for your advise for sure..

  27. Alix Bouchard says:

    Ok, so I’ve been considering doing something crazy for my front yard that you might be crazy enough to appreciate. Moss yard. Screw grass, who wants to cut the lawn all the time? No one. Unless you’re weirdly in love with John Deere or something like some people. But anyway, there are so many types of moss, some are just like grass but don’t grow tall. I’ve heard of people replacing thier lawns with this moss and never have to mow the lawn again! It just sounds too interesting to not look into.

    • Karen says:

      Alix – I love the moss look. The only thing is, the really beautiful, soft stuff can be expensive and takes a long time to spread. Looks great though. Just stay away from Clover! People promote having a clover lawn instead of grass, but by putting in a clover lawn, you’re almost guaranteeing all of your neighbours will have clover lawns too (whether they want it or not). ~ karen!

  28. Lisa says:

    I found your site clicking about here and there and love it.

    Welcome to the dark side! Front yard veggie garden is my life… literally. Two years ago I got tired of limiting my veggies to 2 beds in the side yard so I convinced my husband to allow me to “till under” my east lawn. We went from a 150 sq. ft. vegetable garden to a 3200 sq. ft. veggie farm. I was like you, it must be pretty, but the flower beds must remain intact. My garden was a combo of raised beds, in-ground planting and meandering paths. The in-ground planting will be a thing of the past this year. I’m building new raised beds to tidy things up.

    My challenge here (Pacific Northwest) is that we don’t have the “luxury” of our garden being covered in snow in the Winter. So my garden looks a little… um…a little janky. But in the Summer it is gorgeous.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lisa! Glad you found my site. We actually didn’t have any snow this year in Southern Ontario. It was very weird. It was the winter that wasn’t. I love raised beds, but my beds are currently a bit curved so I’m going to try in ground plantings and if it doesn’t work, I’ll change it up to tearing out the lawn and putting in raised beds in that area next year. ‘Cause life isn’t fun if I haven’t created a stupid amount of work for myself. ~ karen!

  29. Maureen says:

    It’s a great idea. If you get grubs in the new lawn, turn the chickens out into it. They’ll eat every last one of them! One fun thing you can start now is, cut the bottom off a bunch of celery and it will grow a new bunch to transplant to your garden. It worked for me.

  30. anna says:

    Karen! I’m so excited!! I can’t wait to see the progression.

  31. Raquel ] says:

    Hi Karen,
    I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I wanted to share with you another blog that I’ve found so helpful with my own gardening. It’s — and there’s loads of information, including cheap, organic recipes for pest control and plant food. I wish you well on all your garden endeavors!

  32. taria says:

    Is that man there I see the fella? Glad you have hornswaggled him into helping with the big stuff.
    I don’t have a summer project yet. My back just hurts from weeding the perennial garden yesterday. You take it easy.

  33. Kimber says:

    Thank you for posting this! We moved into a new old house last September and as I go out to prune something that’s grown wild, I end up just ripping it out. I needed some validation, because I’m sure not getting it from our new neighbors. Good luck this summer!

  34. Jess says:

    I wish you good luck with your garden. I, too am expanding my garden and ripping out anything that have no purpose (it has to feed me otherwise it’s out).

    Happy Gardening!!

  35. Tenacious bulldog! Here’s some inspiration for you from my friend Brooke.

    Her yard is a similar setup as what yours appears. I love that you have a picket fence to contain your future edible decor.

    The veggie gardens at Versailles near the Queens hameau are gorgeous too. Let me dig through my pics of France….
    Course I haven’t sent you the mailbox photo either.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. That’s O.K. I’m loaded UP with photos of mailboxes from around the World now. I’ll go have a look at your friend Brooke’s site. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      O.K. … it’s stunning. Like STUNNING. I absolutely completely and totally love it. They’ve done a FANTASTIC job. Now that I’ve seen the whole lawn up and the pea gravel …. well … Oh no. Uh oh. ~ karen!

  36. Shannon V. says:

    Karen, I am on my knees bowing down at your feet. You are a Queen!!!! I can not wait to see the progress of your front yard. This year I am planting my very first veggie garden in my back yard (which does get tonnes of sunshine)…Just need to get out there and rip out that ugly Purple Leaf Sand Cherry and the over grown, scraggly Forsythia. Thanks for the OK to do so and the tonnes of inspiration!

  37. Kristin says:

    Hi Karen
    I live nearby on the mountain and I feel your pain. My front lawn is a breeding ground for grubs and an open buffet for the racoons and skunks. I’ve also been feeding the bunnies with all the clover that manages to grow in between the crab grass. I’ve been having the same “tear it all out and plant a garden” impulse that you’re having. Just can’t win over my fella to take the plunge. Another fear of mine is that the fella starts thinking green acres and then all of a sudden I’m Eva Gabor. I have to be careful what I wish for ;)
    I can’t wait to see how yours turns out…….maybe I can show him how great it would be to just sit on the front porch and watch the veggies grow.
    How do you plan to keep all the critters from having a late night buffet on fresh veggies? Are you going to block it in with something fun like a short electric fence…lol…that would make for an eventful evening sitting out on the porch while you’re whittling.

  38. Karena says:

    This sounds so fun! ( No I Know it is a lot of works and so good that you have a helpful fellow around!)
    Of course being me I would have to add some viney things like squash, pumpkins, and decorative cabbage!

    I hope you will come and see the feature I have on an amazing sculptor.

    Art by Karena
    The 2012 Artist Series

  39. jen says:

    our house is a 1922 cottage bungalow that we’re completely renovating. Along with the interior & exterior renovations will come a total reboot on the landscaping. We already ripped out all the privet bushes and obnoxious holly. Next the pine trees will come down (they lean over the road and our neighbor’s house in a way that makes us nervous for the next wind storm) and then our friend (an edible landscape designer) will help us plan out the best way to maximize the sun we get in the front yard. fortunately, here in Asheville, NC (USA) having a garden in the front yard is not unusual. can’t wait to see your progress!

  40. christine says:


  41. Sally says:

    Holy Cow (or goat, whatever)!!! The weather down here in GA is so warm that I’m planting my little farm (all 50 square feet of it) this weekend. I can grow so much food in those little raised beds that by the end of the season I’m whispering, “just die now…I can’t eat/freeze/jar any more”. My friends and family turn and run away when they see me coming at them with arm loads of tomatoes. I live up against a National forest and have wild herds of deer and it was only when my genius type hub came up with the idea of putting the beds in an old dog pen that I was able to grow my veggies. I’ll see if I can figure out how to post or email you a photo of my “farm”. You are gonna rock this, I have NO doubt!

  42. jen says:

    You’re nuts!!

    …and I love it!

  43. Pat says:

    When I moved into my early 1970s house, I turned the large front yard of grass into all shrubs, trees and perennials. Backyard is the same. No lawns to mow, chemicals to add, etc. Love it. And when I am away for a month in the summer, my neighbour just turns on the soaker hoses now and then. In a couple of years, when I retire, I plan to turn a portion of the front yard, which gets the best sunlight, into a veg. garden. I will be watching your big project for inspiration! You go girl!!!!

  44. nicole says:

    ohmygoodness, KAREN! you are also MY hero.. or, maybe more-so living out my dreams a few years ahead of me!!!

    it has been my life-long DREAM (after i outgrew my dream to marry a dairy farmer) to a) have a few of my very own chickens in my backyard b) grow a big ol veggie garden full of heirloom veggie’s and c) to be an avid DIY’er… and you are basically all of the things i strive towards… what an inspiration. :)

    i’m looking forward to your post on tips and tricks to grow veggie’s anywhere… b/c i live in an apartment right by the lake, and last year the wind kept knocking over my tomato plants on my balcony, and my herbs got scorched… so, i’ve resorted to just being a regular at the burlington farmer’s market to acquire my fresh veggies and fruits!

    anywho… i LOVE reading your blog, and look forward to hearing more about your garden!

  45. Heather-Mae says:

    I’d be tempted to skip the grass all together (why mow?) and plant veggies everywhere! Your lovely white picket fence will keep the neighbourhood association from complaining too loudly. :)

  46. Sebette says:

    The chickens could make short work of the grubs and churning and fertilizing of those beds and lawn. Are you allowed to bring them around front? You would be rewarded with even yummier eggs.

  47. AmieM says:

    I love this idea. And, Karen, here in Guelph you would be the oddity if you had a grass front lawn in some of the neighbourhoods. Efficiency of space is everything! So why not plant a vegetable garden that you can get more enjoyment out of? And your neighbours shouldn’t be worried about how it looks, not with a stunner of a chicken coop already in the backyard!
    Good luck, and this is inspiration for the future homebuyers :)

  48. Karen,
    I can’t believe how great your house looks without those bushes hiding all the beautiful details of your porch! Just a word of advice, Don’t wear your bikini while weeding your garden or you may cause an accident! lol.

    I am excited to see your project come together.


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