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.

5.  PLANT THE VEGETABLES.

6.  Sit around and wait for a few months.

7.  EAT THE VEGETABLES.

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.

 

GO TO DAY 2 of The Front Yard Vegetable Garden

GO TO The Front Yard Vegetable Garden REVEAL

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.

 

180 Comments

  1. Rondina says:

    I am absolutely thrilled with this new adventure. I loved the chicken coop, but this is WAY more exposed to interesting comments by well-meaning (?) neighbors. Look how beautiful that porch is. I tore out shrubs last year that had been here since the 1930s. The early 30s. Someone should have filmed me. I love my roses, but they bloom all year here in Texas. As I convert the backyard over to the beginnings of veggie patches, I’m going to be attempting to come up with some kind of plan for the front yard. This is too much fun to miss.

  2. Debbles says:

    You realize the neighbor two doors down is going to do EXACTLY THE SAME THING!!!!!

    • Karen says:

      SHUT UP!!!!!!! Oh my God I would die. (For everyone who doesn’t happen to live in my neighbouhood, I have a neighbour who copied my entire front yard a few years ago. Same flowers, same walkway, exact same white picket fence. 2 houses away. Yup. ~ karen

  3. Becky says:

    I am doing this too. I have even gone so far as to warn the neighbors that its coming… I just haven’t yet gotten out the shovel. But I am going to.

    I plan a few espaliered pear treas in the midst of the veggies, and some strawberries.. I drool every time I think of all the fresh produce that will come from my front garden.

    kudos to you.

  4. Eileen says:

    This sounds not like insanity but instead like a SERIOUSLY AWESOME PROJECT to me! I only wish we could do this with the front yard of our rental house–but I think our landlord would be a trifle put out. Vegetables for all!

  5. Danielle m. says:

    Since I am a renter, I can only be so inspired, as I can only do so much. That said, you have inspired me to adopt the phrase asshead into my vocabulary and I am quite excited about that!

  6. trisha says:

    Hi Karen-
    I have to say –
    1. you are not crazy. my husband and i do EVERYTHING our selves as well. and for the exact same reasons as you – we’re cheap and we never, ever trust anyone else to do work on our house (we own an 1870’s Victorian)
    2. what is crazy – is having a front yard double maybe even a little more than double the size of yours and redoing it – over 5 times. when i say redoing. i mean REDOING. like scraping it down to dirt every time. and this year – yes – we are doing it again – not TOTAL craziness – but we are doing to incorporate veggies into it- which were previously on the side mixed in with our herb garden. i know you will be crazy busy with your own project- but if you have a chance, swing by my blog in the next couple weeks and i will be starting to post the cleaning up and ripping out!

    good luck with your project! (my last project was building myself an art/glass studio in my backyard. so yes – i am your long lost little sister i think!

    • Karen says:

      O.K., Trisha. I’ve bookmarked you! You better get your ass in gear. ~ karen!

      • trisha says:

        Oh my ass is in gear! I just have about 50 other projects going on at the same time. Gotta love OCD! But I will post pictures this weekend of “the start” It’s sad it is stunning during the summer when everything is in bloom ii can;t believe we are redoing it again (the last reno was making the entire yard ALL flower gardens- and its a pretty big front yard) Our neighbors all look at us like we are insane. They are going to look at us even worse once we paint the house black. haha but thats another post for another day!

  7. Lin N says:

    Check out square foot gardening and ‘lasagna’ gardening…and no it’s not how to grow the pasta dish! Have fun…creating landscaping and a vegetable garden is also on our summer project list.

  8. Erin says:

    Awesome plan Karen. I am eying a few hated perennials that will be coming out thanks to your inspiration.

    Now comes the hard part – whittling down your choices of veg to grow in the space you have! My advice (since you asked): grow what you LOVE to eat. Anything marginal, buy at the farmer’s market. OK-except sweet corn and maybe pumpkins…

    Looking forward to future posts.

    • Karen says:

      Erin- LOL. Thanks. I actually gave the same advice in a seed picking post I did a while ago. I’m not new to growing vegetables, just new to growing them at this house. I started vegetable gardening when I was about 12 at my parent’s house. As the years went by the garden got smaller and smaller as the surrounding trees got bigger and bigger! ~ k!

  9. Diana @ frontyardfoodie says:

    Hells yeah!!!

    I dug my front yard up for a veggie garden too and it was an awesome decision. You won’t regret it!!

  10. Lynne says:

    I LOVE your blog but am new to leaving a comment so hopefully I’m doing this correctly. I live in Chicago and we are also having a great winter and spring! For the last 2 years I have been trying to slowly remove the grass in my yard and plant more vegetables, herbs and flowers so I appreciate your hard work.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynne – Yup. You did it right. :) Just jump right in and comment away from now on! Now … back to work. (for me) ~ karen

  11. Liz says:

    Wow, what beautiful porch railings you have! And how did you manage to keep them so well painted behind that heavy shrubbery?

  12. Ali Winter says:

    Seriously, Asshead roses and grass chemotherapy are just 2 reason why I continually read your blog.
    Shit you’re funny!

  13. Laura Bee says:

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Lawns are such a pain. Grubs, skunks & trolls love my yard too. The little grass that is left is sad, but the clover, violets, moss & daisies are very happy. I expand the flower beds every year, hopefully I can give away my lawnmower in another year or two. Can’t wait to see what you do, I can use some fresh ideas (or even some old-timey ones, even better!)

  14. kelliblue says:

    Building a veg garden. In your FRONT yard.

    You don’t have an HOA, do you???

    I miss my grandparents’ GINORMOUS backyard garden and all the goodies it used to give us while I was growing up. So viva la heirloom tomatoes! Can’t wait to see what will be popping up in your new garden!

    • Karen says:

      Is that a “Home Owner’s Association”? I don’t think we have those in Canada. Not that I know of anyway. *ESPECIALLY* not if you own your own detached property. Besides … I think we all know I’d tell them to suck it. ~ karen

  15. Jodie says:

    Excited for you!
    And I love that you have such a small, simple list of things “to do” for this to work… good luck with that!

  16. Traci L. says:

    I LOVE your front porch! Good idea with getting rid of all the bushes. Your post kind of reminded me of my father-in-law, who decided a couple of years ago to plant a corn FIELD in his front yard. The word “lunatic” did cross my mind a few times. My Mother-in-law wasn’t too happy about it either. I am sure your garden will be charming!

  17. Patty says:

    Good for you Karen!! I can’t wait to see what you do with the garden! Actually, what a good idea to show off that beautiful porch. It was so hidden before. It probably feels like a new house to you now. I was kind of surprised that it looks like you live in a “neighborhood” since I know you have chickens. I am thinking of starting to plant heavy bushes all around my perimeter so I can hide a few hens. Not sure I have the courage to do it!! lol! Don’t think my neighbors would say anything but then there are meter readers, etc. Good luck with the garden!!

  18. Laura O says:

    I haven’t finished reading your column yet. I saw the words “nematode throw down” and got all excited. Scrolled down to look at pictures and they were a little anticlimactic, quite frankly. I’ll have to go back to the top and see what it’s really about, I guess.

  19. Laura McG. says:

    Way to go! Ditch step #4, you won’t regret it. Reading list should include: THE EDIBLE FRONT YARD by Ivette Soler, and EDIBLE ESTATES by Fritz Haeg. Don’t look back….Laura

  20. Nicole2 says:

    Have you checked to see if there are bylaws in your municipality against planting vegetable gardens in front yards? Bylaws can be weird sometimes.

    • Karen says:

      Nicole2 – I don’t much care if there’s a bylaw against it. I’m a bit of a rebel that way. Just ask my chickens. ~ karen!

      • Nicole2 says:

        You go girl! I’m all for it by the way, front yards are so useless, might as well make them productive. Plus, it’s totally eco-friendly to grow your own veggies, so it’s win-win in my book. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a huge trend!

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