It used to be that vegetables took a backseat to ornamentals in the garden. Common wisdom held that vegetable gardens were “messy” and best situated away from public show, in the back yard. This is changing. Gardeners are rethinking where they grow their edibles. If your front yard is sunnier than your back yard, than that’s the best place for your edible garden, as most vegetables need around 6 hours of sun a day.
Some gardeners mix food plants in with their ornamentals, and some give over their entire front garden to edibles, as in the picture above, from Woodbine Avenue in Toronto.
Edible plants can look every bit as useful in the landscape as many shrubs and perennials: they have a beauty in their own right. The zucchini in the picture at top has a sculptural form, with its massive leaves, and makes a bold statement on this streetside front garden. It’s growing a ton of fruit too. The garden also has lettuce, rhubarb and squash.
In the past, front yard vegetable gardening gave us the name of a famous Toronto neighbourhood: Cabbagetown. I’d known about the Cabbagetown nickname arriving with the practice of immigrants growing cabbages in their front yards, but here’s a timely story from Lost Rivers.ca that fleshes out the tale a bit:How Cabbagetown may have gotten its name:
Eileen McBride, who tells us that she was born and grew up in Cabbagetown, where her grandfather told her this anecdote. “It seems that the mayor, running for re-election, was visiting the area with other dignitaries & newspapermen, when they stopped at one cottage and asked a woman there why did she have cabbages growing there. She told them that she also grew potatoes in the backyard, but the cabbages were prettier to look at in the front yard. The then mayor replied ‘what a lovely little town of cabbages.’ When the daily paper came out next day the headlines read ‘mayor visits Cabbagetown.’ The name stuck and represents all the immigrants that have lived there with their lovely heads of cabbage.” She added “I hope this tale is true, as it is more romantic and Irish to boot.”
For me, I think potato plants are pretty nice looking too, but one woman’s cabbage is another woman’s potato?
For those who want to experiment with front-yard foodscaping, there’s an excellent book called The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler and you can also check out this Pinterest board on edible front yards to get more inspiration and ideas.