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Edible Front Yard Landscaping: Pretty Enough to Fool Your Homeowners Association

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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.

kitchen garden in wooden raised beds with greens and yellow flowers

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!

celery in a basket

Celery

Growing celery in the home garden provides crunchy snacks and flavor for homemade soups and stews. It will provide a harvest – both leaves and stems – for an entire season, making it a worthwhile addition to your front yard garden plans. It grows upright, with bright green, leaf-topped stalks about 18” tall. Celery is a biennial that is grown as an annual in most home gardens.

Planting a front yard full of pretty edibles -- annual and perennial vegetables -- is a great way to use the most of your space. Eggplant

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
green jalapeno hot peppers on a plant

Peppers

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.

african blue basil

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.

Related:

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.

swiss chard in a grey planterGrow Swiss Chard right in the front yard

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.

Squash plant - pretty enough for edible landscapingSummer 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.

rhubarb plant - the tropical leaves are great for edible front yard landscaping

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.

Lettuce

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.

red beets with greens sitting on a wooden table

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.

asparagus on a cutting board

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 plant, pretty and perfect for edible landscaping

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.

baby pineapple on a plant

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.

growing green herbs from above

Herbs

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.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

19 comments… add one
  • Kirsten Jun 25, 2014, 10:52 am

    Kris,
    How clever is this post!
    I’ve got red onion sets (planted 80 of them) and garlic growing in my front “flower” bed, with swiss chard providing tall visual interest in the flower pots outside my kitchen door.
    Thanks for including my chard recipes!

    • Maria Jul 8, 2014, 1:45 am

      Kirsten,
      Where do you get your red onion sets and garlic? I will love to plant some in my garden but I haven’t found a supplier that I like. I use red onion and garlic a lot in my cooking. Please let me know.
       Thanks,
      Maria

      • Ajidulce Jan 12, 2015, 2:33 pm

        try http://www.sowtrueseeds.com for red onions

      • LaVerne Drommond Mar 5, 2018, 1:10 pm

        If all else fails, buy the garlic you like best ( I like the purple ). Get garlic with roots, as they are from the US, not imported. Pull it apart into cloves. Do this in late summer or fall. Plant in Oct, or while fall temps are temperate. It will come up in the spring. Let it mature and collect the top seed pod. Store and repeat in the fall. You will also get good garlic bulbs to use.

  • amummaof9 Jul 8, 2014, 1:13 am

    This is great! My sister in law lives in a gated community with an H.O.A. I can’t wait to share this with her!!
    I gave her mint to grow in her flower bed because her daughter liked mine so much. 

  • Susan Jan 3, 2015, 8:52 am

    I love cherry tomatoes in my front flower bed. Also the front is a great place for fruit trees and an herb garden. Here my lavender and rosemary are large and thrive in the areas I don’t tend as often. For onions, I order from https://www.dixondalefarms.com/. Great post!

    • Stacy Hanna May 17, 2020, 2:10 pm

      Do you have any sample layouts? I have to show the HOA a guide and I am not sure where to start.

      • Kris Bordessa May 21, 2020, 11:40 am

        I don’t, I’m sorry to say.

  • Fran Jan 27, 2015, 3:06 am

    Beautiful and some very good info unfortunately we also have many deer that eat everything…any suggestions for that problem????

    • LindaG Feb 15, 2015, 10:47 am

      Fran. Deer are repelled by the ‘fertilizer’ smell of Milorganite, as are rabbits and other kinds of rodents. It is safe for all plants, including food crops and golf courses in our area use it for fertilizer. It is organic and inexpensive and available at most garden shops. You can get a large bag for around $10-$12. I have been using it for years. I raise hostas, and I live in whitetail central, as far as deer are concerned. Go to Milorganite.com for more information. Good luck. -Linda

      • Mia Ibanez Jan 13, 2019, 9:50 am

        I am unable to ‘get past’ the fact that Milorganite is composed of waste product(s) and that includes human feces … no matter how it is processed, etc. and how safe it is ~ I worked in and around Gastroenterology too long I suppose. I suspect other fertilizers contain some percentage of ‘purified poop’ … because some has an odor that will blow you away to the next town . I may however, give it a try – I am having a garden/lawn service come and do my next small vegetable garden this year . 🙂 Thanks for your great tips and sharing your knowledge

    • Susan Robertson Apr 6, 2019, 4:38 am

      Liquid Fence works! It smells like the urine of a wild animal. The smell dissipates from human detection in a few days, but it keeps deer and rabbit away. Avoid getting it on your skin unless you want to smell like wild animal pee for a few days as well. : )

  • Cynthia Jan 28, 2015, 10:47 am

    This is a great article!
    The pictures were wonderful and so were the suggestions. And I think many more plants can be added to the list. The challenge here – and what I was really hoping for in this article – was *how* to make an attractive front yard with herbs, fruits, and vegetables! I know there were references to borders and such….but, instead of up close pics of peppers, it would have been more interesting to actually see them used in a front yard garden…

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 28, 2015, 11:17 am

      I suggest that you go poke around Rosalind Creasy’s site. She doesn’t post often, but her gardens and photos are gorgeous! https://www.rosalindcreasy.com

  • Julie Feb 26, 2017, 3:06 pm

    My HOA does not insist on lawn as we are in AZ. They do have a list of plants and trees that are allowed, and yes, it is very narrow. If I planted anything but the lemongrass in the front, I would be fined. Lemongrass, they may not figure it out. If the HOA did not recognize it, I have a next door neighbor – a very unhappy couple- who would. I garden in the back yard instead. I still have problems with the next door neighbor. The husband HATES that I have gardens and fruit trees although I keep the trees short and away from our shared property line. BTW, their backyard consists of cement and a pool. and 2 cats who are outdoor cats most of the time and use my nice, organic yard as their litter box. Which makes it no longer organic in those areas. I advise people NOT to buy in an HOA if possible. Here, it is pretty much all that is available unless you have the money to buy and build outside of an HOA. Unfortunately, I cannot at this point in time. Sorry, just venting. Hate HOAs. They should be outlawed.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 2, 2017, 10:14 am

      HOAs are certainly difficult to deal with if you’re a person who likes to do things differently! Yours is a cautionary tale for people who are considering a home in an HOA.

    • Ana Nov 30, 2018, 10:24 pm

      They could be breaking rules by letting their cats roam outside of their property. Even if there’s nothing in the HOA rules, many places have laws against it. In some places you are even allowed to trap the cats and give them to animal control. May be worth looking into when the neighbors are giving you a hard time about your garden while their cats are messing it up.

  • Kathy Davenport Sep 10, 2017, 7:55 am

    Just wish these suggestions could tell me how to disguise a clothes line. We didn’t realize (didn’t think to ask) there was an HOA until after we signed the contract here. We’ve planted fruit trees and bushe, but they’ve died or been eaten by rabbits. We’re not physically or financially able to keep replacing things.

    • LaVerne Drommond Mar 5, 2018, 1:20 pm

      Do you have a deep covered patio? If so, get a retractable cloths line. Put it up to dry and retract it back when done. Also a nice bamboo roll up curtain to put down while drying will hide your clothes.

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