The Edible Yard

Growing your own food has so many rewards. It saves money, reduces the carbon footprint of your diet and provides you with a great form of exercise (we call it “exercise with a purpose” in our household).  And of course there is nothing that tastes as good as your own fresh produce harvested right before eating.

We live in the country on 2 acres, so we have a fairly traditional garden plot, as well as a fruit orchard, where we grow much of our own food.

A traditional garden plotOur garden plot in the spring.

Obviously, not everyone has a large plot of land to grow food, and that is not required. To survive on a planet with diminishing resources, at some point in the future, humans will need to develop local food sources. The traditional lawn in the front and back yard will need to be re-purposed. These small plots of urban land can be used to grow food where it is eaten.

An edible landscape does not need to be quite as wild as this front yard in downtown Sacramento.

berries and avo in jungle-1Bananas, avocado, berries and other edibles in a front yard in Sacramento.

Is this an “urban jungle”?

An interesting tidbit about this particular front yard is that a neighbor reported the owner to the city, and they were told that they do indeed have a right to grow edibles in their front yard and it is not a code violation. This is much better than Orlando, Florida where one couple has been told they are not allowed to grow edibles in their front yard. To really appreciate the insanity of this type of pro-lawn regulation check out this U-tube video.

I am proud to say that Sacramento has been recently designated America’s Farm to Fork Capital and a recent tour of urban edible gardens reinforced that well deserved title.

One homeowner showed that ornamental edibles can be tamed with raised beds.

front yard bedsPeppers in a front yard raised bed

For those of us who are not skilled in the carpentry trade, I love the raised beds that can be made with no nails and minimal carpentry skills by using these great recycled steel M-Braces from Art of the Garden, a local company.

art of the garden instant bedsRaised beds made with M-Braces from Art of the Garden

In this front yard, pathways and other hard-scape give an edible landscape a more civilized look.

front yard garden

Ornamental edibles can also be used as borders in a backyard. Citrus is especially attractive used this way.

lemon, mandarin landscape-1A mixed citrus tree (grafts of lemon, grapefruit and orange on one tree) and Satsuma mandarin tree used in a border surrounding a pool.

This gardener replaced their water hogging lawn with a pebble beach, complete with a fire-pit. The irrigated border areas are filled with a mix of edible and ornamental plants. The tall tree in the middle is a peach

fire pitA back-yard beach complete with fire-pit and edible and ornamental border plantings

Some gardeners can get very creative. All of these edibles are in pots, grown on an unused driveway between two houses in East Sacramento:

evelyn yardAvocado, peppers, tomatoes and herbs in an urban driveway.

Another way to conserve space is to go vertical. One of the best materials for going vertical is concrete wire. There are some great ideas for using concrete wire in this article in Mother Earth News Magazine.

My friend Rhonda uses a side yard in her Elk Grove home to garden, and concrete wire keeps her squash and cucumbers in check. She also uses string as a trellis for her “string beans”.

Rhonda's hardware-1Cucumbers and squash growing on a concrete wire and steel trellis. String beans…

Concrete wire can also get a more upscale look as seen in these garden structures at Theodore Judah School in Sacramento.

another use of concrete wire A concrete wire and wood trellis systemconcrete wire arch-1Concrete wire arbor

Bamboo can also be use to train plants vertically in an edible landscape. These tomatoes look very attractive in their planting box with a bamboo trellis support structure.

tomato wallTomatoes in a wooden planter box with bamboo trellis system.

Some gardeners just run out of space. This is a “thinking out of the box” solution.

growing onto roofYes those squash are being trained to grow up on the roof!

Anyone who has grown their own fruit or vegetables has had the experience of harvesting a bumper crop of one item, much more than they can possibly eat. For an urban gardener, sharing with the neighbors can be a solution. A really great idea is a weekly neighborhood produce swap, where everyone brings their excess produce and exchanges. Some groups, like Magowan Farm Stand in Santa Rosa, turn it into a weekly party and potluck. What a great way to socialize with the neighbors and eat locally!

How about you? Have you any great ideas to share about how to grow your own food in a non-traditional space?

© 2013. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.