7 Edible Garden Design Ideas

Author and gardener Ivette Soler shares tips on growing the perfect kitchen garden in your front yard

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Edibles in disguise

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.

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Edibles that blend in

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.

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More edibles that blend in

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.

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Sage + succulents

Plant sage and succulents together for maximum impact. Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’, a variegated culinary sage, surrounds a rosy Echeveria ‘Afterglow’.

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Thyme + phormium

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).

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Basil + thyme

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.

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Great front yard idea

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.

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Ivette's secrets

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.