Who would have guessed that edible gardening would become a trend in the past few years?
Perhaps it is more than a trend and growing your own food is here to stay.
In any case, many people are starting vegetable gardens in their backyards, on balconies and patios and a few daredevils, in the front yard!
Of course you can grow food in your front yard, but I believe it should be designed well so that the yard looks great year-round.
This can be accomplished by adding structure to your landscape.
We did this by creating a formal-style Knot garden filled with edible plants and herbs!
I want to share this edible garden project in conjunction with a few other talented designers who are blogging on the subject of edible gardens for the Garden Designers Roundtable blog today.
I have links to these other blog posts at the end of this article.
Before- Such a waste of beautiful architecture!
An English Tudor-style cottage has been taken over by dead plants, an overgrown bush and a really dead lawn!
Grab a cup of tea and sit down to watch the Garden Police take this disgrace of a yard and change it into a traditional herb knot garden.
You will "knot" believe the transformation!
Homeowner Susan Yakley has a Tudor-style cottage in a charming neighborhood of architectural homes, but her eyesore of a yard is causing undue stress on the neighbors.
The biggest dilemma is that there is no design to her yard, just a dead lawn and some oversized bushes that cover up her beautiful paned windows.
There is also a "pseudo" retaining wall near the driveway that isn't holding anything back, including bad taste!
The Garden Police cite her for neglecting her yard, causing a public nuisance, and failure to design an appropriate garden that makes better use of her space.
Before- Hansel and Gretel would never live here!
After- But they would be proud to live in this home and eat from the edible front yard garden!
Before- An overgrown bush obscures the beauty of paned glass windows
After- Once the pattern of the windows emerged, we added focus to them with this complimentary diamond back garden bench made from recycled plastic!
Before- What's the use of having a small dead lawn when the space can be transformed into something else…
After…Such as an edible front yard garden in the Tudor Knot garden style!
Garden Police Solution
In order to bring some style to this yard we had to put in our hard work and demand some "sweat equity" from Susan.
We wanted to start with a clean palette so everything in this yard, dead or alive had to go- except one plant, an overgrown Hawthorne shrub.
Michael and I decided to keep it and shape it into a small tree.
Other areas that were addressed included:
The retaining wall near the house was demolished so that we could build a better planter using a "Celtik Wall" system that requires no mortar and is self-leveling.
Thompson Building Materials provided it for us.
The soil was rototilled and amended with new soil from Kellogg Garden Products in order to give the plants a rich and nutritious planting medium.
We installed a new sprinkler system using a state-of-the-art Rain Bird drip spray system.
Before- Shaping the knot garden requires digging and preparing the garden beds and digging deeper in other areas for the new gravel paths.
After- Knot gardens are identified by patterned edging as seen here.
We planted lavenders, thymes and other herbs.
Before- The design is taken all the way to the curb.
Why not use ALL of the front yard?
Triangular beds are edged with pavers for a clean outline.
After- The parkway knot garden is pattern perfect!
We planted herbs for their ornamental value although they can be eaten, this is a popular walking route for the neighborhood dogs.
Who wants to eat "pee pee" herbs?
We removed the lower branches as well as crossing branches of the overgrown Hawthorne bush and fashioned a small tree.
We also opened the canopy so that it looked light and airy.
After grading the raised bed away from the house for better drainage, we enclosed the area with a Celtik Wall System by Belgard.
The stacked pavers gave us the opportunity to plant inside the crevices.
Rainbird's "Xeri-Spray drip spray system provides complete coverage of the edible garden while conserving water usage.
The Design Plan
One look at this Tudor-style cottage and Michael and I were swept away to England.
Instead of putting in a water-thirsty lawn and some plants, we wanted to plan a garden that was theme- appropriate for the architecture.
Susan expressed an interest in cooking and wanting to be an active gardener so we designed a "knot-garden" and filled it with herbs for her to tend.
The Knot garden is an ornamental creation of shapes using short hedges, herb garden areas and pathways.
Privacy was also an issue for Susan as her yard was open to the neighbors driveway and she looked on to parked cars.
We installed a lightweight fence using redwood posts and wire to train espaliered apple trees along it.
The apple trees will become a "living and giving fence" in a couple of years.
Other elements of the design included:
- Gravel paths and sitting area.
- "Salad Bowl" urns as focal points
- Short hedges in a variety of plant material
- Edging for the knot garden with "Holland" Standard Pavers made by Belgard and provided by Thompson Building Materials
- Custom rebar garden arch made by Iron Knob Corporation in Northridge California (818. 830.7747) for the walkway.
French Urn in "eggnog" color by Asian Ceramics, Inc. (model 5-2727-E) becomes our "salad bowl" with lettuces, chives and artichokes.
Keep in mind that if you raise edible plants in containers, you are more likely to keep the plants from being urinated on by dogs.
We edged our knot garden beds with "Holland" standard pavers by Belgard.
It's so simple to keep an edible front yard looking neat with design structure like this.
We used pea gravel for the walkway as it is a traditional flooring material in English and Knot gardens.
Pea gravel is also inexpensive and comes in a variety of colors and sizes and is a wonderful permeable floor that allows water to drain through instead of running off into the street.
A simple wood post fence supports the espaliered apple trees that will grow and form a living wall to separate Susan's yard from the neighbors.
Espaliered fruit trees come in many different varieties and are ideal to use in small yards especially when integrated as walls.
We used 4 x 4 redwood posts and copper wire tied to eyebolt screws to fashion the support fence for the espaliered apple trees.
Stained in mahogany color.
The "Chippendale" style bench in mahogany color is made from recycled plastic and won't warp, splinter or mildew.
The design matches the window panes and provides a place to sit and enjoy the edible front yard up close.
Made by the Polywood company.
Michael and I designed a custom arch made from iron rebar to punctuate the front walkway.
We needed to add a tall vertical element to the yard as most of the plants were lower profile.
The edible front yard Knot garden is defined by its symmetry, repetition of plants and patterns.
A nice detail is the containers used within the garden beds as focal points.
The Edible Plant List
The plants, hand selected at Green Thumb Nursery were chosen for their contribution to the garden through fragrance and culinary or medicinal use.
Try them in your garden, we don't mind if you steal our ideas!
|Eugenia myrtifolia (three-tier topiary)||White flowers, edible "cherries"|
|Apple "Beverly Hills" for espalier||Small fruit, early ripening date|
|Knot Garden Hedges|
|Rosmarinus officianales "Tuscan Blue"||Use for cooking, medicinal tea to increase energy and improve memory|
|Myrtus compacta variegata||Evergreen dwarf form. Fragrant for flower arrangement|
|Teucrium chamaedrys||Attracts bees for pollinating your garden, lavender/pink flowers. Fragrant|
|Leptospermum scoparium "Gaiety Girl" (small accent trees)||Evergreen with flowers, early New Zealand settlers soaked leaves to make tea substitute.|
|Leptospermum scoparium (shrub form)|
|Lavandula stoechas "Quasti"||Fragrant ,dark purple flowers, attracts butterflies.|
|Lavandula multifida||Fragrant, grey-green foliage, deep blue flowers. Dry for potpourri, flavor water.|
|Salvia greggii "Lipstick"||Aromatic folliage, attracts hummingbirds, use in cooking and sore throat gargle.|
|Armeria maritima "Cottontail" white||Profuse white blooms extends all year in mild climates.|
|Chamomille nobile||Essential oil for relaxing. Tea made from dried flowers|
|Thymus (Creeping Elfin Thyme)||Used for seasoning, pot pourri|
|Mentha r. (Corsican Mint)||Can be invasive. Use as aromatic filler between stepping stones|
|Strawberry "Sequoia"||Large dark red fruit, sweet tasting, long fruiting season, good in most zones|
|Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine)||Fragrant, evergreen, pink flowers late winter/early spring|
|Hardenbergia (Lilac vine)||Evergreen, lilac blooms late winter/early spring. Nice alternative to wisteria|
|Garden Police "Urn Salad Bowl" Collection|
|White flowering cabbage||Foliage is edible raw or cooked|
|Mustard "Osaka purple"|
|Swiss Chard "Brite Lites"|
|Nastursium "Tip Top Alaska"||Flowers, edible add to salad|
|Knot Garden Herbs|
|Italian Basil||Culinary herb, fresh or dry|
|Italian Parsley||Culinary herb, in cold areas, plant in spring after last frost|
|Greek Oregano||Culinary herb, use as ground cover, hanging baskets|
Lavender in parkway Jasmine and Hardenbergia vines
Rosemary edging with Lavender inside "Red lipstick" salvia
Teucrium (germander) Myrtus compacta variegata
Lavender and sage combo Leptospermum topiary form
Leptospermum in shrub form with sage and mint
Armeria m "Cottontail" in white under salad urn Sequoia strawberry
Well-shaped "Anna" apple tree in espalier from
A Word on Espalier Trees
One of the benefits of espaliering fruit trees is that you can enjoy fresh fruit from your garden and you do not need a large yard.
The space required is horizontal and you can grow against a sunny wall or create a "living fence" like we did.
It takes a few years for the tree to take the shape, but you can buy instant espaliered trees at your nursery if you are impatient.
If you are like me, most of the fun (besides eating the fruit) is nurturing and handcrafting the shape of your espaliered tree.
A Word From Shirley
This project was very exciting for me since herb and vegetable gardens are one of my specialties!
The garden was filled with delicious scents- especially around the basil and rosemary beds…it made me crave pasta.
You could see the growing excitement in Susan as soon as we brought out the plants.
Her eyes opened wide and I could see her salivating from the thought of all the delicious food she was going to prepare with her fresh herbs.
A gardening convert, Susan declared that gardening was her new hobby and that she couldn't wait to dig in and weed, stake, harvest, and share with others from her plot.
With a reaction like this, I say "mission accomplished!"
Get out in your yard and enjoy life to the fullest.
Shirley Bovshow and Michael Glassman co-hosts and designers of the "Garden Police" show.
Follow the links to see how this months line up of the Garden Designers Roundtable tackle the edible side of gardening.