Thomas J. Story
Vegetables have traditionally been confined to the backyard. But innovative gardeners like Deborah Risi are discovering that edible crops fit beautifully up front too.
When she remodeled her home in Menlo Park, California, Risi redesigned her front yard around three raised beds dedicated entirely to edibles. In the process, she was able to preserve the backyard as a play space.
"My primary objective was to create both a functional and inviting gardening space that optimized the square footage available and took best advantage of the sun," Risi says. "I wanted to create an environment where we would want to spend time―it seems that no one ever uses their front yards."
Risi's beds complement the contemporary style of her house, providing nearly 150 square feet for growing crops.
Landscape contractor Helmut Kroos built the beds, which each measure 4 feet wide, 12 feet long, and 18 inches tall, and filled them with a combination of standard potting mix and native soil. The beds are surrounded with pea gravel for a clean look and low maintenance.
Risi cares for the garden with her two children, Joseph, 6, and Nina, 5. "I want gardening to be part of my children's lives," she says. "They love seeing things go from seed to the table." Landscape installation: Helmut Kroos Landscaping, Menlo Park, CA (650/322-4818)
Landscape designer Rosalind Creasy is a pioneer in blending edibles and ornamentals in the garden. We asked her to name some of her favorite crops.
Artichoke. 'Violetto'―especially when interplanted with large pink cosmos.
Basil. 'Purple Ruffles' and 'Green Ruffles' basil, with their unusual, frilly leaves.
Chives. With thin, grasslike foliage and pink flowers, they look great in or out of bloom.
Japanese red mustard. Large burgundy-colored leaves are very dramatic.
Kale. 'Russian Red', for greenish purple color and oaklike leaves.
Lettuce. 'Black-Seeded Simpson', 'Red Oak Leaf', and 'Royal Oak Leaf' lettuce.
Peas. 'Dwarf Gray Sugar' is compact and has showy lavender and maroon flowers.
Peppers. 'Super Chili' (peppers change from green to orange to red) and 'Golden Bell'.
Swiss chard. 'Bright Lights', for its many colors, including orange, pink, red, and yellow.
How to grow vegetables: Your edible garden