Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sustainable Saturday - How to Grow Edible Ornamentals in Your Front Yard

Do you have a tiny urban plot? Or, is your back yard too shady to grow food crops, as mine is?

Don't despair. It is possible (although not always easy) to grow food plants under less than ideal conditions.

I do not have deer problems at my house, but have tremendous problems with groundhogs.  So everything listed here is groundhog-resistant but I can't vouch for their ability to withstand foraging deer.

One solution is container gardening, which I will blog about another time.

Another solution is ideal if you have ground but just not enough.  Why not grow ornamental but edible plants in your front yard? (Note, the zoning in some communities may make this difficult - if none of your neighbors are doing this, there may be a reason - check into it.)

Why have only a lawn? Unless you are unlucky enough to have neighbors who object to this, you may be able to sneak some ornamental, edible plants into a flower bed.

Scarlet Runner Beans July 2013
These scarlet runner beans were in a large flower pot in my front yard last year. We put fencing around it when they were younger due to animal damage.  The harvest was not as great as if we had put them in the ground, but we did get some beans.

I've entertained you with pictures of my yard this week, so wanted to share this picture from last year with you. Every year I do something a little different.

In the front of the photo, I had pepper plants on the left side, orange gem marigolds (edible flowers) on the right side.  Groundhogs do not disturb these.

Behind them - garlic chives (beginning to bloom with white flowers), perilla .

As with flowers, you would prepare your soil with compost and make sure you keep plants watered.  Pick your veggies frequently for best results.

Here's a closeup of one of the peppers I grew last year in my front yard, called Bishop's Hat. They were quite hot.  This year, I am growing several "fool me" jalapenos in my front yard.

Moving along to another pot-
I have an ornamental Perpetuo basil plant - and yes, it is a very good culinary variety.  I am growing this again this year.

You will note no brassicas, and no lettuce.  Groundhogs, alas, are too fond of these food plants.  If you can grow them, though. lettuces are quite ornamental, coming in various leaf shapes and colors.

Last year, I grew tomato, basil, and ginger in one pot.  Yes, I grew ginger in upstate New York.  I used a technique described by a fellow blogger and I got a good harvest.  This year, I am growing ginger by itself - not all the rhizomes germinated but the plants, right now, are several feet high.

Have you ever tried sneaking ornamental food plants into your flower beds?


  1. Alana,
    I've never tried to grow ornamental food, let alone sneak it in--unless you count chives! I love those and get a great harvest every year. I never knew it was ornamental though. I love that! My sister has a wonderful garden vegetable garden they created out of their side yard. They have tons of tomatoes, spaghetti squash, cucumbers and even red raspberries along the side of the house. Those red raspberries look pretty ornamental to me and they taste great, too! Thank you for sharing this. The more I read, the more I want to try growing a garden - at least with herbs! Thanks!

    1. Your sister's garden sounds wonderful. We are going to have to grow more things at home next year, as we may be losing our community garden (still up in the air) and are going to have to figure out how to do it. Incidentally, cucumbers are another plant that the ground hogs go for - too bad!

  2. I'm not much of a gardener, but your posts make me want to try! Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. I've tried but seems like the only vegetable I can grow is squash!

  4. I don't have a garden Alana; however, I didn't realize that marigolds are edible. That's interesting! Looks like such a lovely garden...thanks for sharing your photos and info. :) <3

  5. I remember my grandmother reading your post. She loves gardening. This is very helpful who loves gardening

  6. I like the idea of all plants growing together and have used this technique over the years. In the back garden my plants are mostly ornamental. They grow in pots and the soil is covered with membrane and then bark to limit weed growth because I can't do much there anymore. But my naughty husband snuck some potato sprouts under the membrane edge and all summer the potato plants have been getting bigger. I can't wait to see what's hiding when the greenery dies down.

  7. This is such an awesome way to garden, Alana! Many perennial food crops can be snuck in with your flower beds, too, because they are so pretty: rhubarb comes to mind, also horseradish, even a few strawberry plants! I love your gardening posts. How did your ginger come out this year? I haven't dug mine yet.

  8. Half my front yard is a cottage garden. And, mixed in there with the cutting flowers and perennials are green beans, peppers, dill, radish, onions, and basil. Shhhh. The neighbors don't know there are veggies in there.
    Next year, zucchini!


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