Close your eyes and imagine your front yard as a place to grow food. What did it look like? I would guess that the images you see fall somewhere between the hapless Douglas Farm from “Green Acres” and the picture perfect veggie garden of the movie “It’s complicated”. In her new book, The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden (Timber Press February 2011), Ivette Soler urges the reader to repurpose the front lawn into something more useful than grass, and provides a clear plan for success.
The heart of the debate over the front yard is aesthetics vs. sustainability. The front lawn has long been the status symbol for success in this country, and has become a sacred space in the minds of homeowners. The American ideal has replicated itself in every corner of the country and presents us with a problem. A lush weed free lawn is labor and resource intensive, and gives back only a vast green, often unused space. As alternative, food crops or vegetable gardens are productive spaces that usually lack an aesthetic quality. “The Edible Front Yard” merges aesthetics and production to create sustainable space that is resource friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and a source of fresh homegrown food.
With a writing style that is accessible and encouraging, and a book that is wonderfully photographed, Ms. Soler opens up the boundaries of what a front yard can, and even should be. In the first chapter, she addresses curb appeal. “What will my neighbors think?”will be the first roadblock anyone considering transforming their front yard will encounter. Soler approaches this topic as the successful garden designer she is, stating about the front yard:
You want that prime piece of real estate to look fantastic as well as perform for you throughout the season, so any edible you plantthere is under pressure. It will be scrutinized. When dealing with the front of your home, we have to come to grips with the fact that beauty matters. Your front yard is a greeting to the world.
The next chapters in the book are dedicated to the plants that should be used in the edible front yard. Profiling the workhorses and companions that meet her criteria, Soler includes notes on each plant’s characteristics and aesthetic value, along with valuable growing tips and culinary uses. These chapters alone make the book worth the read.
A primer on garden design basics and profiles of several beautiful, edible gardens from around the country set up the second half of the book. Packed full of hints, tips, and how-to’s for creating a front yard edible garden, these chapters cover everything from removing lawn and unwanted structure, constructing new hardscape, irrigation, and screening, to creating, planting and organically caring for the garden. The book is written with a Southern California viewpoint, where the author lives, but ample notes are made for readers in cooler climates, and although many of the wonderful plants grown in Soler’s garden will not work here in my Southern New England Garden, it has inspired me to seek out viable alternatives.
With the sensibility of a designer, the passion of a foodie, and the enthusiasm of a coach, Ivette Soler has crafted a blueprint for creating a front yard that is no longer is a drain on resources, but a giver of life enriching nourishment. “The Edible Front Yard”, provides us the tools to grow our own food in a beautiful garden and reconnect with the land between house and curb. It has earned a spot on every gardener’s bookshelf.
Disclaimer(s): This book was supplied to me by the publisher for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are mine and remain my intellectual property, until such a time that my children deem me unfit to make rational decisions. At that time all rights will pass to the chipmunks tunneling through our stone wall. Ivette Soler is a friend and fellow contributor on Garden Designers Roundtable, neither of which has garnered privilege in this review. Such privilege is reserved solely for my Mom, who one day will write her memoir entitled, “How I Raised Three Sons And A Husband, And Lived to Tell About It!”Sure to be a work of pure fiction.