The Front Yard Vegetable Garden
June 2013

This post has a LOT of pictures so it might take a while to load!

Last year I embarked on a project so huge, so satisfying I couldn’t imagine not doing it again. It was a lot of work of course, as most worthwhile projects are, but it paid back in dividends.

What am I referring to?  It could only be one thing.

Bird Theatre:  The play I put on using only birds I found in my front yard as actors. If you’re a raccoon or cat I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Of course trying to get sparrows and crows to get along let alone pretend they love each other in a feathered friends version of Romeo & Juliet wasn’t easy but getting them to wear the wigs was a nightmare.

That same year I also started a Front Yard Vegetable Garden.  Growing vegetables is much easier than putting on a bird play.

The entire Front Yard Vegetable Garden for this year is now officially planted, with the last of the vegetables (the sweet potatoes) going in last week.  I’ve moved things around a bit from last year and added a few new things.

Behold the Front Yard Vegetable Garden 2013.




Things may look a bit bare now, but you’d be surprised at how much this garden will fill out by the end of the month.


I’ve tried to keep things relatively symmetrical when you look at the house with cauliflower flanking the brick path up to the porch, and a Dinosaur Kale at the end of each row.  Because it’s so cold tolerant the Dinosaur Kale will add greenery right up until February!  It’s like having an edible evergreen.
Onions &amp ;- Potatoes


Last year my neighbour gifted me with a whole whack of garlic, all different and interesting varieties.



They’re already huge and growing scapes.


This is the crop of squash I won’t get a single squash from.  Or I might.  I’m going to experiment with this crop, trying a variety of ways to discourage vine borers and squash bugs.  The first thing I’m going to do is cover the stems with either plastic pipe, or nylon to prevent the vine borers.  Since I know this is my experimental crop I won’t be too disappointed when it dies a slow and painful death.  In July, after the risk of vine borers and squash bugs has passed, I’ll plant a new crop of squash that should be ready to harvest in the fall.


Yellow Onions.


I use this huge bamboo teepee to support my  heirloom tomatoes which get big.  BIG.  I plant one tomato on each side and it seems to work out perfectly. As the tomatoes grow, I tie them to the bamboo support.



The first thing ready to pick in anyone’s garden is almost always the ubiquitous radish.



Again, I know this looks bare and like wasted space, but it will fill in.  I hope.  If not, I’ll throw some heads of lettuce from the grocery store on it to give the illusion of a productive and beautiful garden.  I could go nuts I guess and plant ridiculous things there.

OMG.  Like coconuts!  Just lay out an entire row of coconuts and explain to anyone who asks that of course you can grow coconuts.   Where have you been living?  I bet you’ve never even attended a bird theatre. Luddite.


Ground Cherries!

Beets-2As you can see, the beets started indoors have already formed beets.  They aren’t huge beets, but it won’t be long before they are.  I predict by starting them indoors I’ll have beets to eat by July 1st.  The second planting will get me beets later in the summer and the third planting I do in July will produce the beets I store for the winter.


These are the carrots I germinated with paper towels.


These are the carrots of hope.  And they are not doing well.  I still pray that one day I’ll come out and they’ll be bursting out of the ground, their leafy arms stretched over their heads proclaiming WE’RE HERE! WE WEREN’T DEAD!  WE WERE JUST NAPPING!

I may have to give up on growing carrots this year and try to grow something a bit easier.  Like a stegosaurus.



This one peculiar looking area is home to 3 different plantings that will mature at  different times.

Back to the important stuff.  The Art of Doing Stuff little bird Theatre is proud to announce that this years production will be a theatre in the round version of Cats.  Open casting call tomorrow.  Costume fittings to follow.   This is a non paying gig, but all participants will receive a home grown coconut.

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  1. Sera says:

    Your garden looks amazing! I feel like I didn’t plant anything compared to you! But things seem to be growing decently. Including the carrots. But my beet greens look wilted and crunchy and my kale keeps getting attacked by green worms. Turns out I was supposed to plant the kale in the fall along with my garlic and chard. We’ll see if I get anything.
    I have been delighted to harvest snap peas and arugula though. And I’m intrigued by your lime basil because my lemon basil is my tiny pride and joy. I put it in everything including yogurt with blueberries! So delicious! I need about five more plants.

    • Karen says:

      Sera – Those are cabbage worms. Use BTK on your Kale. Mix 1/4 tsp. with 2 cups of water and spray the tops and undersides of all of the leaves. Do this once a week, or after any rain. It will stop the cabbage worms in their tracks and doesn’t harm any other bugs. (only wormy/caterpillar/eatey things)~ karen!

  2. Becci says:

    I used to know an elderly man who, even though legally blind, was so passionate about his garden that he would be planting and weeding with his face just inches from the ground so that he could see. He told me to mix carrot and radish seeds together and plant them. The radishes come up first and loosen the soil so that the carrots have an easier time growing. The radishes mature quickly and are harvested way before they can crowd the carrots. The soil in my garden was Montana gumbo (clay) and it worked like a charm.

  3. Karen, your front yard veggie borders are beautiful and inspiring. Look forward to watching everything grow! The one thing your plots are missing, though, is MULCH! Mulch of any sort will keep the moisture in and keep that soil from cracking in the sun. And a thin layer of straw mulch is my secret to carrots. Seed and water, then scatter a think layer of straw. Keeps just enough moisture at the surface that I can get away with a light spray each day until they germinate. The greens don’t seem to have any trouble coming up between the straw bits. Good luck!

    One more tip/question–I’ve started putting the chicken bedding (hay/straw/poop) over the beds in the fall as the veggies come out. It looks tidy, keeps the weeds down, and then breaks down perfectly for spring. Win!

  4. Suzanne in Austin, Texas says:

    What an incredibly beautiful garden…thank you for sharing! I have several tomato plants…the largest and healthiest looking produces flowers but no fruit. Green beans, jalapeno and shishito peppers are going like gangbusters. Other items like cucumbers and green tomatoes have been eaten by rogue black squirrels who have been seen on the hot tub enjoying the green tomatoes. Stupid squirrels!

  5. Carole McGinnis says:

    I love seeing pictures of your garden. Last year you inspired me to plant my own garden. I ripped out some of my grass and have pole beans, zucchini, cucumber, acorn squash, peas and butternut squash growing. I think next year I will rip out more grass and expand my garden. It is so rewarding and such a great hobby. I even used a dead tree as a trellis for my peas, just like you did.

  6. Amy Schmucker says:

    Florida has had 10 inches of rain in 11 days of June. The beans have fuzzy white mildew and the squash are long gone from the heat and bugs. Its even too hot to go out and pull up the rotted out plants. We will replant in September.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Two questions: First, have you tried organic approved “neem oil” for squash bugs? I have used (diluted with water in a spray bottle)for several seasons now. We have heavy pressure from squash bugs and when I spray all my squash family plants once a week religiously through out the season, I have no problems. You would need to commit to it though, as the neem destroys the eggs and the bugs when they are in young nymph soft body stage, but not so well once they have become hard shelled adult flying beetles. Also, it must be sprayed in evening when bees are not still out on plants. Second question, did you already show us how to make the adorable harvest basket in all your garden pictures? So cute!

    • Karen says:

      Stephanie – I did use Neem Oil on my squash bugs last year to no avail. I sprayed the underside of the leaves where the eggs were etc. etc. but I was overrun. I ended up cutting the bugs in half with scissors (GROSS) and ripping the part of the leaves with eggs on them off. The plants survived. Then a gang of vine borers moved in and killed em. This year I’ll start spraying need before I see any damage and do as you say, spraying once a week no matter what. ~ karen!

  8. nicole d says:

    oh man…

    i started my seeds a little late, (im a first timer, and just lost track of time… likely because i was too pre-occupied by building a chicken coop!)

    anyways… all my plants look about the size of your carrots… even my dinosaur Kale looks like a tiny little sprout… hopefully it will survive!

    your garden looks so lush, compared to mine. haha.

  9. May says:

    Love your very inspiring garden, your blog and all of your projects. As a loyal reader of your blog, I was excited about your front yard garden project. Our team at encourages people to grow their own food, and the space and sunlight in front yards is often the best spot for it. Getting people to embrace veggies incorporated with flowers and other landscape plants, and to give up, even if just a bit, of water-guzzling lawns is sometimes hard. Your front yard is another perfect example of how beautiful it can look. Thanks for your always motivating and !funny! posts, and the great tips from your readers and fellow gardeners.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks May! Yes, I pulled the whole front yard up last year and put in veg. It takes more work to make it look pretty than a backyard vegetable garden, but it’s fun to see that vegetables can look pretty and organized too. Now to find out what ravaged my corn last night … ~ karen!

  10. Kim says:

    Odd that you mention your squash problems, I was just thinking similar thoughts and took another chance this year. Check out the surprise twist at the end of today’s post. We’ll talk speckled hound squash and big max pumpkins tomorrow!

  11. Cathy says:

    Hasenpfeffer, anyone?

  12. toekneetoni says:

    Notwithstanding the carrot cemetary, your garden is awesome! You’re like a pioneer woman born in the wrong century with a really cool hairstyle.

  13. Laura Bee says:

    Dammit – my lettuce is doing nothing yet. My veggies are never amount to much. I either ignore them or kill them with kindness sometimes. Kinda like my house plants. Thankfully, the child, two cats, hamster & handful of guppies are thriving.

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Well now..this is a very good post..the garden looks great as expected..I’m sure Cleo & Ernie will be enjoying this years Bird Theater..and once again the Pie Nazi gets put in his place..yes indeed..good post..

  15. Maria says:

    I am glad to see you are taking breaks from your awesomeness to relax and put your feet up. Do the chickens have a part in the bird theatre or do they just do stuff backstage?

  16. Anemone says:

    Your garden looks lovely and delicious. What is the plant in the middle of the bamboo teepee? I thought it was dill for a second. I hope you didn’t leave that lovely basket there overnight? Where do you live…I will swipe it. Your corn looks fracking amazing. Okay…so two things i gotta get now… corn and them luscious spring onions.

    • Karen says:

      Anemone – Well, 2 of the corn stalks have since croaked due to cutworms. The plant in the middle of the tee pee is asparagus! ~ karen!

  17. Jasmine says:

    I planted green zebra and some other type of tomato that is good for sauce that I ordered on your recommendation…I have never planted anything other than herbs or letuce in a pot. After time spent with compost (horsepoop) from my sister’s farm, I’m kind of skeazy now. “I hope this is worth it” I said and you said “If I like tomatoes, it will be”. There’s the thing…I don’t really. #wifeoftheyear #loyalblogreader

  18. Jeannie B says:

    I wish I was able to have a front yard garden like yours. Karen. But big trees and shade and rabbits make it easier to just go to the Farmer’s market to buy veggies. The mocassins and sitting on the porch are more my domain. I love your trug basket. Is it from Lee Valley? And yes, my white picket fence needs a coat of paint too. I wish I just had a fraction of your energy. You are amazing!

  19. Mary Werner says:

    What is a Cape Gooseberry? I thought all berries were grown on bushes – excuse the stupid question but I’m in Florida and don’t think we grown them. Also, do you use plastic under your sweet potato vines? I’m getting hungry looking at your wonderful front yard!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mary – This … is a cape goose berry. I do use plastic on the soil for my sweet potatoes. Since my growing season here is short compared to what a sweet potato is used to, I lay the thermal plastic down in early May to help the soil warm up underneath. It also helps keep the soil much warmer throughout the growing season. ~ karen!

  20. Manisha says:

    We’ve had a cold, wet Spring so I have yet to plant some of my seeds which I hope to get to today. I had to replant a bunch of seeds I started indoors back in April that grew way too big and died. Your garden is an inspiration and the perfect motivation for today!

  21. Deborah says:

    LMAO at the Fella’s Dad :) Meanwhile, over at my Homestead – RABBITS!!! Damn things cleaned out two whole rows of beets and sheared my peas off at the roots, when they finished those, they turned their attention to the radishes and carrots (BTW – no issue growing carrots directly from seed sown, lots of them and they germinated quickly). I have now installed a 3 foot mesh fence surrounding the perimeter of the garden, plugged 2 rabbit entrances at opposite ends of the yard (crawling under fencing) and now me and my pellet gun are on point duty….rabbit confit anyone? I will have the bugger in my sights soon…

  22. Brenda J. Moore says:

    Looks good! I put the Lettuce mix seeds I bought into a hanging planter… to elevate it from the slugs. Had two salads made from the growth already. Dontcha’ love Little House on the Suburb Lot?

  23. says:

    Is your breakfast radish the same as mine?
    Quietly tiptoeing around the veggie garden first thing in the morning, you spot a radish, ready, just begging to be picked… so you do. You lightly brush off the dirt and pop it in your mouth.
    Breakfast Radish

  24. Maureen Locke says:

    I’ve tried some container gardening this year on my back deck which gets lots of sun until about 4 pm. I working on sweet red peppers, snow peas, variety of lettuce, tomatoes (beefsteak and tiny tim), green onions and I wanted to do sweet potatoes but my poor sweet potato is super, super slow at sprouting. I think my problem is that I have a regualar sweet potato which apparently they spray with an antisprouting agent. I couldn’t get an organic sweet potato in my town. :( Hopefully I’ll have some luck. I’m super excited about it. :) Your garden looks amazing. Jealous.

  25. Sarah says:

    Lovely! Just lovely! I love to see that you’ve taken an often tedious part of the garden and made it into an edible garden that will fill in and look different and beautiful the whole summer and fall.

  26. Sarah In Illinois says:

    We have terrible luck with carrots here in Illinois also. Sometimes they take, most of the time, they do nothing. Your garden is beautiful! What are ground cherries?

  27. It is interesting how your area affects your produce. I live in NY, and my carrots are thriving. The craziest part it that I didn’t plant carrots this year. I planted them last year and they went wild and seeded themselves for this year. It sounds bizarre for you to say that they are hard to grow, but we are in completely different ares and that must be why.

    I love that you grow your vegetables in the front yard. I have a bed in the back, but I also grow things mixed in with the flowers in the front yard. I wish more people found it odd. We should all be growing more edibles.

  28. Terry says:


    I don’t understand why you have so much trouble with carrots. They seem like a no brainer to me. When I was a young pup. I used to avidly read “Organic gardener” I learned all sorts of fascinating things. My mom let me have a small corner of our yard to plant things. We had such wonderful red brick clay. So I went to work adding organic materials to break it up all things I learned from my avid reading. Once ready to plant I went searching for pop bottles to return to the grocery store for 2 cents each until I had enough money accumulated for a package of seeds. What seeds you might ask? Well a package of carrots of course. Oh and 2 tomato plants as well. I had the best tomato plants on the block. And as for those carrots all neatly planted in two rows – I did not know anything about paper towel germination, they all seemed to germinate and I had a wonderous crop of big long carrots to brag about. So come gal drop the seed in the ground and lets get going here.

  29. Feral Turtle says:

    Wow I can’t believe your corn. Mine is like two inches tall…and I thought I was doing so well. Your garden is simply amazing!

  30. Karen too says:

    Lovely, lovely.
    Are you saving details on the garden basket for another post?

  31. SuzyM says:

    My carrot seeds, 14 days after paper towel-sowing, are still not sprouting. I’m going to give them a day or two, but in the meantime I’m throwing the rest of the seed packet into a row somewhere and hoping for the best!

    I have a load of old costumes from former bird productions in a trunk somewhere in the basement. You’re welcome to whatever I have, however, I’m thinking you may have to shred them and cut them up a bit for authentic looking CATS costumes! Good luck with applying extensive makeup on birds, an essential for any CATS production, it’s not easy.

  32. The Fella's Dad says:

    You need to slap a coat of paint on that fence.

  33. karol says:

    Do you have critter issues? Not just insects, but like squirrels and rabbits that help themselves to the smorgasbord? Just curious. You seem to be in a fairly suburban setting, as am I, but we get armadillos, possum, and a bazillion squirrels that all love to eat our plants and flowers.

    • Karen says:

      Karol – There are skunks, raccoons and squirrels to watch out for. Rabbits have been seen as close as a few houses down but they haven’t ventured into this garden yet. So far the biggest pain are the squirrels who dig everything up, wing it across the garden then jump away. ~ karen!

  34. Nancy says:

    W O W Z E R!!!!! I am IMPRESSED. How much coffee do you drink during the day to get all that accomplished?

  35. ~JackieVB says:

    Last year I tried planting pink petunias around my squash – it’s one of those old timey things that’s supposed to keep the squash bugs away. I didn’t get a single squash but I also didn’t see a single squash bug. (I usually start to see them when the squash is flowering).
    That lime basil looks interesting, I’ll have to try that. If I can find it that is…

  36. I did the paper towel method with my carrots this year. They were lovely to behold. All green and lush looking. I was so proud. Harvested about 30 one inch long carrots. Almost enough to make a teaspoon of carrot soup. Score!!!! (too ashamed to use my real name)

  37. Suanne says:

    Great job Karen. I’m sore and tired from just looking at your pic’s. I know the backbreaking effort that you’ve put into this. Its beautiful! Oh, and where can one purchase tickets for the summer bird production of CATS?

  38. Su says:

    I too feel the carrot pain. I used the Burpee seed tape and they are still spotty at best. Sigh…. LOVE the use of space for the veggies!

  39. Kim says:

    Beautiful — you guys have a long enough season for corn? Impressive! Love the peonies about to POP!

  40. Elaine says:

    Your garden is going to be beatiful. I want to take a stab at gardening. Perhaps a few containers to start with.

  41. Ann says:

    This is a great trick for carrots. Sow a row directly in the ground reasonably thick. Because no matter what you do, germination is moderately low. But cover the seeds very lightly with extremely loose soil, even fine sand if you have it. Water this very well but carefully to not dislodge the seeds. Then cover the row with a board. Keep it covered except when you need to water. You want the soil to be slightly damp all the time. This is why carrots fail to germinate. The second the soil dries out the seeds die. So it needs to stay slightly moist for the 2 weeks or so it takes for the seeds to break dormancy and sprout. The board over the row is an old old trick that I have read about on the internet. And it works very well. You want an untreated board such as pine, just not pressure treated.

    I envy the fact that you northerners can plant almost everything at once. In the south we pretty much can garden all year round. But we do crops in appropriate shifts according to the season. So radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots are never in season together. Makes it hard to make a salad!!

    • Karen says:

      Ann – I’ve tried the board method. :( But I’m always afraid to overseed because my carrots are always some sort of weird heirloom variety that I only have one seed packet for so I’m stingy with them, LOL. I know what my problem is. It’s watering. So, just a couple of days ago I planted ANOTHER section of carrots, overseeded a little, watered and covered with a board resolving to water every single day for 2 weeks. Wish me luck. ~ karen!

  42. Kimberley says:

    Love your garden! We gave up on carrots after our first try. What a waste of time. My FIL can grow carrots like you wouldn’t believe. But then, he can grow anything. We just eat all of his. :)

    • Karen says:

      Kimberly – I grew carrots last year and they were great. They did have a bit of a slow start though. That’s for sure. I think I’m just not water enough. Or too much. Or exactly enough. I don’t know. :) ~ karen!

  43. Gina says:

    Love it! Carrots are stupid. Except when they actually do grow it’s like Christmas. Pulling any veg out of the dirt is like Christmas.

  44. Nomes says:

    Fantastic! I am so jealous of your wee corn crop! I love how you’ve made a few things accessable from your veranda and the ‘evergreen’ Kale makes the perfect entrance.

  45. Elle says:

    Darn! This post reminded me that I followed your advice a few weeks back and germinated carrot and artichoke seeds in cardboard + paper towels.

    Now, where did I put them? (or rather my husband, since I put them on the kitchen counter but he didn’t want them there).

    • Shirley says:

      What? You put your husband somewhere because he didn’t want your carrot seeds on the kitchen counter? And now you can’t find him? Now that’s just plain careless. Tsk!

  46. Reg says:

    When do you sleep? There was the kitchen, bathroom, mudroom floor reno, now the garden is planted.
    Maybe you don’t sleep just take catnaps?

  47. Pam'a says:

    Beautiful! I’m envious, because due to other life events I’ll be lucky to get four tomatoes planted this year…

    But I have a question: What are ground cherries?

    • Karen says:

      Pam’a – Ground cherries are those things you sometimes see in the Asian supermarkets or the exotic food section in your produce section. They look like a cherry tomato, covered in a paper husk. They taste more like a pineapple, or something like that. Not exactly a fruit taste and not exactly veg. taste. Cape Gooseberries are similar but apparently with better flavour. ~ karen!

  48. Amie Mason says:

    I feel your carrot pain. Mine are pathetic. PATHETIC! Stupid carrots.

    • Ella says:

      Where did you get that lovely bamboo trellis?? I have been trying to work magic with some things I have found at the dollar store to make something similar. They are okay, but not as lovely as yours!

      • Karen says:

        Ella – The bamboo trellis is from my local garden store. It was on sale, and in with the tomato cages and bamboo stakes and such. ~ karen!

  49. Laura says:

    I love all of this. Just so much.

  50. Melissa L says:

    Gorgeous! I don’t have that much space, but do have stuff in containers. Tonight we had a lemon (in the scampi), cucumber and tomato out of our yard. Delish!

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