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Front Yard Face Lift

 
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We’re currently living with my parents’ while saving for land, and I’ve been joking with them about turning the front yard into a food forest. Well, I just got the go!! It’s a small space, and we live in a pretty urban area. So, I can’t go too crazy… but I can go kinda crazy ha!

I’d sure love suggestions!

Zone 6b, clay soil, eastern facing.

We don’t plan on staying here very long, so I want to keep it mostly perennial. That way, it’ll be minimal maintenance once we leave. I already put in 3 red currant bushes because I got excited, hah. I plan on putting rhubarb, echinacea, strawberries (trying to find a variety that won’t spread too much) somewhere in there and possibly arctic kiwi along an old trellis on the north side of the house.

This is my first attempt at edible landscaping and know it needs to be much cleaner than the jungle in the backyard. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

-I included a terrible drawing of the layout. The curved line is a brick retention wall which we plan on keeping. There used to be an Eastern Red Bud in the largest curve, but it reached it's potential for our area and died. We removed the stump but left the roots. We were so sad to see it go since it was our only well established edible, but hey, here's to the future!-
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pollinator
Posts: 643
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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This is great -- I'm sure your parents will love it once they realize they can have food in the front yard and still have something that is pretty to look at.

I would put a plum or peach tree in the spot near the wall where the redbud was. Since the wall offers some protection from the north and you are in a relatively mild winter zone, a good, cold hearty variety should do well there and give you lovely spring flowers too. (Am I interpreting the retaining wall correctly? I can't tell if it is highest on the house side or the sidewalk side. The tree should go on the low side with the wall at its back for heat reflection in winter.) Depending upon the height of the wall (how tall is it?) you could also plant some other dwarf fruit trees or shrubs next to it for that added warmth.

The cold hardy kiwis are another good idea for the north fence since it faces south, but you could also put some runner beans in there for added food value. They won't be hard to tell apart for harvesting and the flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies as well as to us humans.

I don't know what kind of soil pH you have, but if it is somewhat acid, you could establish a small thicket of blueberries in the NW corner where it will be a bit shadier and cooler and grapes in the opposite (SE corner nearest the sidewalk) where it will be sunnier and warmer. If your soil is alkaline, you can still grow those, but you will want to amend with sulfur and keep a mulch of pine needles or leaves in the area to bring down the pH below neutral. It would be better though to just put in something that likes an alkaline soil because you will be constantly battling to keep it acidic otherwise.

You can easily tuck in a few small beds here and there for wild and cultivated salad greens like kale, arugula, mustard, dandelion, chicory, chickweed, collards, mallow, etc., interspersed with edible flowers like nasturtiums, marigolds, zinnias, violets, lavender and so many more plus herbs like dill, fennel, sage, oregano, lemon balm or basil. Many of these are perennial but those that are not will often reseed themselves if not deadheaded.

While you're at it, you may even want to put in a very small water feature -- a preformed pool, perhaps to attract birds and bees to the garden (and just for the beauty of it). You could get a small solar-powered recirculating pump, install an additional small pool above the wall and let it flow over the wall into a pool below and have a very nice, yet inexpensive waterfall feature. Then plant some watercress around the perimeter of the bottom pool and throw in a small waterlily to add interest.

Just a few ideas. I will probably have more when I get time. Meanwhile, it would help if you could put up some BEFORE shots of the space to be landscaped and also some info on the soil conditions, shade or sun areas, etc. Also what state you're in.
 
pollinator
Posts: 909
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Hi. I don't have suggestions, only want to encourage you by showing how my miniature food forest in the front yard looks.

Facing south-east (that's the right side in this photo, the path you see here is in the middle of the garden, towards the front door). Climate like in England, maybe like Seattle region (the Netherlands).
 
Posts: 62
Location: Western MA, zone 5b
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I've been in my urban lot since last June, and I've got a nice mix of natives, ornamentals, and edibles in already.  I had an 8 acre sheep/duck/rabbit farm so this was a huge adjustment.   I'm enjoying the challenge though.   It was blank canvas aside from a few rose bushes and lawn.     So far I've got hazelnuts, blueberries, bayberries, quince, and  mulberry for trees/bushes.   Willow, holly, azaleas added for privacy, windbreaks, color.   Serviceberries and a sweet crabapple are also on the wish list for this year.   Perennials so far:   hosta, sochan, sorrel, strawberries, comfrey (it's funny on a perm. board the spell check tells me that word doesnt exist) , rosemary, sweet cecily, chives...      You can make all of that look quite attractive!   Good luck!  
 
gardener
Posts: 950
Location: Ohio, USA
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Wonderful start! I live in urban zone 5/6 and I do edible garden design.

I suggest spice herbs for sunny areas of your understory: sage, hyssop, chives, oregano, thyme, garlic chives, green onions. There's also American cranberry,  if the need groundcover.  I usually then ask my clients about their tea habits, because lavender, rose hips, roman chamomile,  echinacea,  elderberry, lemon balm, etc. are all flowering tea plants.  Elderberry being a tree and making a wine worth noting. Here you have to consider the mail person's route. I usually also hand my clients an eburgess catalog.  Not that they have to buy from there, but most people seem to not know half those plants exist and a catalog is a good discussion starter.

We also discuss their eating habits (adventurous enough for French sorrel?), wildlife presence/interest, and aesthetic style.  Some people like a "clean" look and others a full, lush look...etc.

There's a huge number of plants that can grow in zone 5/6. 6 being more flexible than 5. I have been trying to catalog what I have grown on my Facebook page. Google Imitating Eden Garden Design,  if your interested.
 
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First good luck on the project. I am a little fond of figs so they are always the first plant I think of in a food forest.

The best use of time might be fighting your local planning commission. It surprises me just how restrictive some cities are about how YOUR property is supposed to LOOK in their eyes. You know. Something that looks like the 50yd line of a football stadium.
 
pollinator
Posts: 302
Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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[quote=Janell Traicoff]We’re currently living with my parents’ while saving for land, and I’ve been joking with them about turning the front yard into a food forest. Well, I just got the go!! It’s a small space, and we live in a pretty urban area. So, I can’t go too crazy… but I can go kinda crazy ha!
[/quote]


What a wonderful arrangement you have with your parents! They help you, you help them... Since [u]you[/u] do not plan to be there too long, your parents will enjoy the fruit of your labors, so you might want to ask [u]them[/u] what fruit [u]they[/u] prefer, keeping in mind that as they age, they might enjoy bushes more than tall trees, taller planters and aisles wide enough for a wheel chair. [I have no idea how old they are but they are not inclined to move any more, right?]. Since it is your project, they may not want plants that demand a lot of care from them after you leave. Roses, tall trees that need to be sprayed may be out. If they enjoy spices in their cooking, I'd make sure they get the spices they like near the kitchen door.
I live in a sandy zone 4, so I won't advise you on what to plant in clay zone 6: I would not know. You might also want to make sure that you do not have a covenant regulating your life: I lived in a "pretty suburban lot" for a short while. The reason it was "pretty" is that everything was manicured by covenant rules and regulated: you had 6 months to establish a lawn, you could only have animals that could not wander, bark, defecate or cock a doodle do! down to the color of your shingles, lest you mar the uniformity of the neighborhood!
I was there a year.
 
gardener
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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There are lots of good suggestions above. I particularly like that I have many cooking herbs very close to the house entrance and on a path.
The one thing I will add is to plan low-growing perennials near the driveway and sidewalk so as not to interfere with line of sight for a driver backing down the driveway.
 
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   Lots of great ideas on thing to plant.  My best advice is don't think food forest (even though that is the goal) think Landscaping!  The biggest problem that cities/neighborhoods have with front lawn gardens is that the LOOK like a garden.  People put them in straight rows or have raised beds (in straight rows). Think like you would if you were just putting in a few trees and bushes with some flowers.  Have curving lines  and no straight rows.  Just because you are going to eat it doesn't mean it must look like a garden. There are so many beautiful plants that are edible that there is no reason for it to look anything but beautiful.  I think asparagus looks as great as any decorative grasses that people plant just put them in a staggered "clump" with some lower growing edibles in front.  There are also many edibles that come in other colors besides green. There is a really great Plum that the leaves are a dark red as well as the fruit. It is a beautiful tree even without the fruit.
 There are many edible and medicinal flowers  that are perennial that could be included. This also helps the bees since even those that plant flowers tend to put pesticides on them. You could also add some annuals in as well,like multi-colored lettuces or rainbow chard.  Even having some things in big pots can add to the "decorative" vibe and if you wanted to grow things that might need a warmer climate they could be taken indoors in colder months. I am so glad you are doing this and hope more follow your example!!!
 
john mcginnis
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Lyda Eagle wrote:    Lots of great ideas on thing to plant.  My best advice is don't think food forest (even though that is the goal) think Landscaping!  The biggest problem that cities/neighborhoods have with front lawn gardens is that the LOOK like a garden.  People put them in straight rows or have raised beds (in straight rows). Think like you would if you were just putting in a few trees and bushes with some flowers.  Have curving lines  and no straight rows.  Just because you are going to eat it doesn't mean it must look like a garden. There are so many beautiful plants that are edible that there is no reason for it to look anything but beautiful.  I think asparagus looks as great as any decorative grasses that people plant just put them in a staggered "clump" with some lower growing edibles in front.  There are also many edibles that come in other colors besides green. There is a really great Plum that the leaves are a dark red as well as the fruit. It is a beautiful tree even without the fruit.
 There are many edible and medicinal flowers  that are perennial that could be included. This also helps the bees since even those that plant flowers tend to put pesticides on them. You could also add some annuals in as well,like multi-colored lettuces or rainbow chard.  Even having some things in big pots can add to the "decorative" vibe and if you wanted to grow things that might need a warmer climate they could be taken indoors in colder months. I am so glad you are doing this and hope more follow your example!!!



Loquats are a good choice for a 'decorative' tree in the yard. Its a good fruit producer too.
 
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Alpine strawberries don't spread--they are tiny bushes rather than runner-forming groundcover like other strawberries.
 
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