edible front yard in knot garden style

Front Yard Vegetable Garden Makeover!

by / 31 Comments / 5957 View / February 22, 2011

One of my favorite garden television makeovers was a front yard vegetable and herb garden that Michael Glassman and I designed for our show, "Garden Police," (Discovery Home Channel).





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!


The Violation

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.



tudor style home with overgrown bushes hiding paned windows

Before- Hansel and Gretel would never live here!


Tudor home with front yard edible knot garden

After- But they would be proud to live in this home and eat from the edible front yard garden!





a large shrub obscures paned glass windows

Before- An overgrown bush obscures the beauty of paned glass windows




garden bench made of recycled plastic

After- Once the pattern of the windows emerged, we added focus to them with this complimentary  diamond back garden bench made from recycled plastic!


dead lawn with crabgrass

Before- What's the use of having a small dead lawn when the space can be transformed into something else…


edible front yard in knot garden style

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.



carving out the knot garden beds


Before- Shaping the knot garden requires digging and preparing the garden beds and digging deeper in other areas for the new gravel paths.


edged herb garden bed

After- Knot gardens are identified by patterned edging as seen here.

We planted lavenders, thymes and other herbs.



parkway being prepared for herb garden


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.


patterned parkway garden

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?




hawthorne bush pruned as a small tree


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.


Celtic retaining wall system from Belgard


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 Xeri Spray drip system

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:

  1. Gravel paths and sitting area.
  2. "Salad Bowl" urns as focal points
  3. Short hedges in a variety of plant material
  4. Edging for the knot garden with "Holland" Standard Pavers made by Belgard and provided by Thompson Building Materials
  5. 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

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.



Holland paver edging by Belgard


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.



gravel path in an english knot garden


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.



Design Details


4 x 4 redwood posts with copper wire

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.



chippendale style bench made of recycled plastic


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.



iron rebar garden arch


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!



Trees Features
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
Artichoke Edible
Viola (pansies) Flavoring
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 hedge pink jasmine and hardenbergia vines

Lavender in parkway                          Jasmine and Hardenbergia vines


rosemary hedgesalvia red lipstick

Rosemary edging with Lavender inside               "Red lipstick" salvia



teucrium germander myrtus compacta

Teucrium (germander)                         Myrtus compacta variegata



lavender and sage leptospermum tree

Lavender and sage combo                  Leptospermum topiary form




leptospermum planter

Leptospermum in shrub form with sage and mint




armeria sequoia strawberry

Armeria m "Cottontail" in white under salad urn       Sequoia strawberry




anna espalier apple tree

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.


To learn more about this ancient horticultural art please go to Aggie Horticulture or MotherEarthNews.com.


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, host of garden police show

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.


Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »

31 Comment

  1. Amazing results! You are really good at designing beautiful gardens! I'm in love with the front yard! Keem doing your magic! You are great!

  2. […] 3. A made-over front yard vegetable and herb garden courtesy of Shirley from Eden Makers. […]

  3. […] 4. Edenmakersblog [Source] […]

  4. […] In this episode, Ari and Emma find themselves in a garden designed by me, (Shirley Bovshow) that is full of edible plants. […]

  5. This vegetable garden makeover is really amazing! It will surely entice a lot of people to do the same since it is great to have an edible garden that promotes organic living. Thanks for sharing.

  6. oohh lovely makeover! once we have our new place i will make sure there’s gonna be a garden too!

  7. I’m super impressed! Love the before and after!

  8. fantastic makeover great blog will be back again thanks

  9. Urban gardening and urban agriculture are ideas that are becoming increasingly important as our world becomes more urbanized and developers transform agriculturally fertile lands and open spaces into sprawling suburbs.

  10. Thank you Mike!

  11. Your creativity and attention to detail are unmatched. We really enjoy looking through these transformations. Keep up the awesome work!

  12. The transformation is really amazing. I loved how you guys transformed the overgrown bush into a small tree that helped accentuate the interesting window patterns.

    A knot-garden with herbs is just practical and the English look to the landscape to complement with the architecture is just superb.

    Kudos to the team 🙂

  13. Great story. The make over is splendid!

  14. HI May,
    Thanks for visiting Eden Makers and for your kind comment! You made my day.

  15. This was one of my all-time favorite makeovers on your show as well.   Love it.
    Thanks for the photos so I can re-visit this lovely garden again!

  16. Shirley this is a great project, thanks for sharing it with us. The emotion shown from the homeowner tells the whole story, doesn't it? You must have felt so proud after completing it.

  17. Shirley, this is stunning.  Your attention to detail and the respect with which you treated the architecture is amazing. What beautiful photos and food for thought.

  18. Thank you Rebecca. I will share your compliment with Michael Glassman, we designed everything together. What a joy he was to work with!

  19. Thank you for your hearty compliment! I appreciate it Robert.

  20. Holy Cow, Shirley!  What an amazing post!  I am in LOVE with that garden, and have just the client who will be thrilled to see this (she's re-doing her front strip next to the street & will love your zig-zag pattern).  You are an amazing designer, and Hansel & Gretel are so lucky to have had you design their garden!  😉

  21. Wot a great makeover story.
    It is Fabulous!
    Well done.
    Best Wishes

  22. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Roots And Wings Co, Claudia Begal and Scott Kronabetter, Glenn Fournier. Glenn Fournier said: Front Yard Vegetable Garden Makeover | Eden Makers Blog http://bit.ly/fD5PFw […]

  23. Shirley, what an incredible transformation. I especially like the use of triangular lines to echo the Tudor architecture. Your before-and-after post brings home how much you accomplished in this redesign. Well done!

  24. Hi Susan,
    Thanks for coming by!

  25. Wonderful transformation, Shirley!  And thank you especially for sharing the plant list.

  26. Ivette,
    Thank you. I wish I had your book so I can add some heartfelt words about it. What i can say is that it must be FANTASTIC because I like the snippets I’ve already read on Gen’s blog!
    Glad you liked my garden and I wish you much success with your book!

  27. […] Shirley Bovshow – Eden Makers – Los Angeles, CA […]

  28. […] Shirley Bovshow: Eden Makers Blog: Los Angeles, CA […]

  29. Shirley, I ADORE what you did with this garden – you brought the architecture of the home into play by reflecting it in the hardscape! SMARTY-PANTS!!!
    Good hardscape is essential when planting edibles in such an important location – the front yard is totally pride of place!
    What a fantastic, comprehensive, and USEFUL post – anybody can take your plant list and resources and do it tomorrow! RIGHT ON!!!

  30. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  31. […] Shirley Bovshow’s Eden Makers Blog […]

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