If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), you probably know all too well how restrictive they can be in what’s allowed—or more frustratingly—not allowed. HOAs often don’t allow chickens. Or painting your home outside of a very narrow color spectrum. Or planting a vegetable garden in the front yard. Hold the phone. How ridiculous is this? Instead of growing food, they insist that you maintain a certain amount of lawn, requiring regular mowing and intensive fertilizing to achieve that lush green swath and a sense of conformity.
If you’re facing micro-management via your HOA but would really like to grow some of your own food, take heart. You can maintain that requirement of 70% lawn in the front yard and still harvest some edibles. The trick is to create a beautiful, lush border that—unbeknownst to the “board”—is actually feeding your family. (That pretty bed with zinnias up there? That belongs to Susan over at Learning and Yearning. Can you spot the eggplant and okra?)
These are so pretty, nobody will know the difference.
If you’ve not ever grown eggplant, you’re in for some fun. The fruit is so beautiful and can come in dark purple—almost black— or light purple; striped or solid. The handsome plant itself has grey-green leaves and stands one to two feet high.
- Try it over pasta
- Preserve it by making zacusca (if only because it’s fun to say!) — note that you’ll probably want to process this one in a pressure canner. It sounds wonderful, but I can hear the canning wonks out there screaming “unsafe procedures!”
- Make babaganoush
Whether you like ’em hot or sweet, peppers grow on a sturdy plant that stays nice and green all summer long. The peppers themselves can range from green to yellow to red, and from small to large. Most pepper plants grow to about 12-15″ high.
A summer staple for a lot of gardeners, basil is prolific and pretty. The bright green leaves can be harvested all summer long for pesto or as an addition to salads and Italian dishes and nobody will be the wiser.
Unlike most summer vegetables, artichokes are a perennial. Plant them once and they’ll produce for years. The grey-green foliage grows about two feet high and produces many artichokes in a season.
While I don’t love Swiss chard on my dinner plate, my husband does. I do love it for the fact that one seed results in a plant that produces for months. It grows about 12″ high and relatively erect. It can easily be tucked into small bare spots in your border. Or grow it in a pot.
While prolific zucchini plants can tend to overwhelm a small space, a summer squash variety like Patty Pan grows on a more compact plant that makes a great background for annual blossoms like marigolds and petunias.
- How to pollinate squash by hand
- How to use all that zucchini
- Turn your abundance into hamburger relish
- Stuff some squash
- Parmesan zucchini medallions
Another perennial plant that just keeps on giving. The oversized leaves of a rhubarb plant add almost a tropical feel to the landscape. They’ll likely die down during your cold winter months, but come springtime an established plant will provide lots of rhubarb stems. (The leaves are high in oxalic acid and can cause unpleasant side effects and in some cases, poisoning — don’t eat those!)
- Strawberry-rhubarb pie
- Honey rhubarb soda
- Rhubarb wine
- Rhubarb butter
- Add it to a sweet kale salad
- It adds flavor to this grain-free rhubarb bread
If you have bare spots in your border, fill them with lettuce! Sprinkle a mix of lettuce seeds, keep them moist, and in no time those bare spots will be filled with pretty, edible greens.
You’ll probably grow beets for the bulbous root, but while it’s busy growing underground it will make pretty (and edible) leaves in your flower bed.
Another perennial vegetable that looks as good as it tastes. You’ll need to prepare a really rich bed for this one, but once it’s established, plants will produce asparagus spears for several weeks each Spring. After harvest season, spears are left in place and develop a wispy, fern-like foliage.
This sturdy perennial will fool most everyone into thinking it’s a landscape plant. It’s great for tea and it keeps mosquitos at bay.
Oregano, thyme, and mint all make great ground covers. If you need to cover some bare ground with a low-maintenance plant, these are the ones to consider. They can be invasive, so choose your spot for them wisely, but once they’re established you’ll be all set for spicing up your favorite dishes or making freshly brewed tea.