Three Januarys ago, I made a pact with myself: Within 10 years, I promised, I will replace nearly all the grass in my yard with food-producing plants and hardscaping. My wife wasn’t enthusiastic about this idea, and my neighbor seemed truly perplexed. Still, I’ve expanded my planting beds each year, and various food-producing features have taken shape in my mind.
Then what happened? My friend Ivette Soler wrote a book titled The Edible Front Yard!
Everywhere a Kitchen Garden
The Edible Front Yard is a flag-bearer for the expanding anti-lawn movement. It puts its arm around your shoulders and whispers in your ear: “It’s alright to remove your lawn. It’s good to remove your lawn.” Then it helps you imagine how your yard can serve you rather than keep you in service to it.
The Edible Front Yard looks at growing food as art: If you’re putting it out there for the world to see, it probably shouldn’t look like a commercial vegetable farm. Ivette enthusiastically introduces you to one food-producing plant after another, explaining roles each can play in an ornamental setting. Then she discusses how non-food-producing plants are important complements to your edibles and she describes a host of compelling varieties.
Ivette’s plant descriptions alone are worth the price of her book. Of the ornamental sweet potato she suggests, Let this sweet potato be a helper—it wants to be beautiful for you. Her description of rhubarb includes, Rhubarb’s thick, fleshy bat wing leaves and crimson stalks demand attention. You can feel her energy in her prose.
Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on words alone to learn from this book; the pictures are worth 167,000 words! Seeing artichokes repeatedly on the pages got me finally to try growing them myself though I suspect they won’t be happy when they figure out what hardiness zone they’ll be calling home.
I love photos of artichoke plants that I see on so many west coast gardening blogs. The time to maturity on artichoke seed packs suggests my growing season is long enough to grow these plants. Still, having little space and only marginally enough warm days, I’ve shied away from artichokes. Ivette’s book pushed me over the edge: These artichoke seedlings will find their ways into my garden near the end of May. Actually, as exotic as they’ll look, I may sneak them into one of my wife’s ornamental planting beds. We shall see.
Logistics and Design for Kitchen Gardeners
For those of us who can’t (or who choose not to) select appropriate furniture upholstery from swatches, The Edible Front Yard teaches basic design principles for gardeners. Learn about structure, borders, repetition, vining, mounding, arching, texture, and color. Then look critically at some example designs and imagine how you’ll exercise your new knowledge in your own yard.
Not Your Only First Gardening Book
As you build resolve to eliminate your own lawn—or as you muse about what you might put in its place—The Edible Front Yard will get you thinking in many directions: edible and ornamental plants, shapes and textures, planting beds, trellises, pathways… there’s even a discussion about using your boulevards for vegetable gardens.
The book isn’t packed with gardening fundamentals; it assumes at least a basic grasp of how to prepare soil, to plant, and to maintain a garden. So, if you’re completely new to gardening, look for a book to complement this one—but still get this one! In fact, buy several and give them to your neighbors. Perhaps those books will inspire your neighbors to get rid of their lawns and you’ll be able to enjoy weekend days without the racket and stink of lawnmowers running on all sides.