Author and gardener Ivette Soler shares tips on growing the perfect kitchen garden in your front yard
Vegetables and herbs want to grow where it's sunny. But often, the sunniest spot is the front yard--a place where most of us wouldn't want to install what is, basically, a working farm. "We still want our front yards to look like gardens," says Ivette Soler, a Los Angeles garden designer, blogger (thegerminatrix.com), and author of The Edible Front Yard (Timber Press, 2011, $20). In her own garden, Ivette proves that kitchen gardens can be both pretty and productive.
Ivette recommend these herbs that will blend beautifully in your front yard garden:
Basil (Ocimum basilicum): This annual and attractive culinary herb is used in many cuisines. Each variety has a slightly different flavor, so you have an excuse to grow several. Purple-leafed varities like 'Red Rubin' are particularly decorative.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): A perennial edible with licorice-flavored seeds and young leaves. Wispy and tall, the plant's fronds sway in the wind, adding movement to the garden.
Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus): Grow this "superstar of front-yard food," as Ivette describes it, even if you don't like eating its big flower buds. Its
architectural structure, downy leaves, and softball-size purple flowers are all highly ornamental.
Sage (Salvia officinalis): The mounding shape and gray leaves of this perennial Mediterranean herb make it a great front-row ornamental. Pink tinges in 'Tricolor' play off the burgundy flax, and the large leaves of 'Berggarten' echo the blue-green edging of the agave behind.
Plant sage and succulents together for maximum impact. Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor,' a variegated culinary sage, surrounds a rosy Echeveria 'Afterglow'.
Thyme and phormium make a perfect pair. A mound of gray-green culinary thyme (Thymus vulgaris) softens a stiffer, upright form of 'Tom Thumb' New Zealand flax (Phormium).
Basil and thyme grow great together. 'Golden Lemon' thyme (Thymus x citriodorus), a low-growing thyme with bright gold leaves, edges 'Red Rubin' and 'Siam Queen' basil.
Ivette loves to make free-form beds of corrugated galvanized steel, scattered throughout her garden. For tips on making your own, visit sunset.com/raised-bed.
We asked Ivette her top tips for an edible front-yard garden:
What's the one thing to remeber when planting edibles out front? Choose crops that have good foliage all season. Save mildew-prone crops for the backyard.
What are your foliage favorites? Leafy crops. I use lettuces to edge shaded borders, kale in sunny spots. Red mustard, purple mizuna, and arugula come up wherever they want.
What about the ever-popular but foliage-challenged tomato? I like small-fruited tomatoes because their fruit clusters are extra-ornamental and their foliage doesn't deteriorate too rapidly.
You have a lot of herbs in your garden. Why? Low plants knit everything together, making a garden look like a garden. Plus, you can let some of it flower to lure in bees.