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. What’s required for a front yard garden can be restrictive, but this list of vegetables that are pretty as well as tasty is just what you need to embrace edible landscaping.
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. But hey — what if you could put in edible front yard landscaping with nobody the wiser? How’s that for some front yard curb appeal?
Vegetables for edible landscaping in the front yard garden
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 veggies mixed into your flower border. The trick is to create a beautiful, lush front yard landscaping that—unbeknownst to the “board”—is actually feeding your family.
These vegetables and fruits are so pretty, nobody will know the difference. Call it edible landscaping. And if you need more convincing, check out these five reasons to ditch the lawn and plant food. Another option to consider? Using fruit trees in the front yard. They provide shade and you’ll harvest a crop from them, plus they can provide beautiful fall foliage!
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 or taller.
- 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 — there’s even a purple bell pepper — and from small to large, adding a pop of unexpected color to your edible landscaping. Most pepper plants grow to about 12-15″ high.
Basil in the landscape design
A summer staple for a lot of gardeners, basil is prolific and pretty — it comes in both green and purple varieties. Tuck some into your flower garden. The leaves can be harvested all summer long for pesto or as an addition to salads and Italian dishes and nobody will be the wiser.
Artichokes are an edible — and pretty — perennial
Unlike most summer vegetables, artichokes are a perennial. Use them as part of your edible landscaping plan and you’ll plant once and harvest veggies for years. The grey-green foliage grows about two feet high and produces many artichokes in a season. Not sure how to cook artichokes? This will help.
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 and this edible plant looks beautiful as part of an edible landscaping plan. It grows about 12″ high and relatively erect. One of the edibles that can easily be tucked into small bare spots in your front yard garden border, add this one to your must-grow list of vegetables for the front yard. Or grow it in a pot.
Summer Squash for a prolific front yard crop
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
Rhubarb is amazing
Another perennial plant that just keeps on giving. The oversized leaves of a rhubarb plant add almost a tropical feel to the edible landscape. They’ll likely die down during your cold winter months, but come springtime an established plant will provide lots of rhubarb stems.
Rhubarb leaves are high in oxalic acid and can cause unpleasant side effects and in some cases, poisoning — don’t eat those! You can, however, use them as mulch in your front yard garden.
- Rhubarb cake
- 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 in your front yard garden will be filled with pretty, edible greens.
Add beets to your front yard garden
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.
Edible landscaping with asparagus
Another perennial vegetable that looks as good as it tastes, asparagus is a good choice for edible landscaping. 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.
Lemongrass for the landscape
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.
Pineapples for edible landscaping
Pineapple plants can take up to two years to produce a crop. Which means that if you plant one of these pretty plants in your garden as a focal point, it will be there through two seasons. Of course, pineapples thrive in very warm regions, but you can easily plant one in a patio container to enjoy its beauty and an eventual harvest.
- How to grow pineapples
- Make a pineapple salsa to enjoy fresh or fermented
- If you happen to grow several, preserve them in this pineapple jalapeno jam
Oregano, thyme, and mint all make great ground covers when you’re working on an edible landscaping plan. If you need to cover some bare ground with a low-maintenance plant, these are the ones to consider. Some herbs — like mint — 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.
Originally published June 2014; this post has been updated.