Explore the garden

house-beforeWhen I bought this house, the front yard was nothing much to look at. The margins of the lackluster lawn were defined by two massive white pine trees (still there, causing mayhem with their midday shade) and a scraggly line of the largest euonymous shrubs I’ve ever seen (also still there, but maybe not for long). The lawn was dead-brown, and filled with a wide assortment of most everything except for grass. A series of box-like shrubs stood sentinel along the foundation of the house. Among the standard yews and arborvitae, I found two azaleas. The poor things were so aggressively pruned that I think they must have suffered a crisis of identity. They’ve been moved to a quiet place, where I hope they will recover. The rest of the foundation shrubs were simply put out of their misery.

Less than a year later, the front yard has been totally transformed. There is still MUCH to be done, but this is a good start.

Less than a year later, the front yard has been totally transformed. There is still MUCH to be done, but this is a good start.

I haven’t been shy about recreating the front yard. I replanted the foundation with blueberries, and have plans to add a small grape arbor and a peach tree. The front beds are now easily four times their previous size, and I expect they will grow ever larger in the coming years. Among the many annual crops — tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, melon, corn, etc — I’ve planted a small stand of asparagus, several artichoke, one dwarf plum tree, and an assortment of flowering natives, such as purple coneflower and false indigo. Along the new front walk (working with brick is equal parts fun and exhausting), I’ve planted enough herbs to keep my kitchen smelling grand — rosemary, several thymes, tarragon, garlic and regular chives, oregano, mints, and more.

The future may bring a few more fruit trees and blueberry bushes. If I find the courage to pull down the gargantuan euonymous shrubs, then there might be some sort of vertical wall thing going in their place. Perhaps a trellis for tomatoes and beans? More asparagus seems likely, and grapes are a definite. Of course, each year will see a blend of annual veggies and flowers (mostly natives), so the garden will always be changing with the seasons and with the years.

I’m approaching my one-year anniversary in the house, and so far the outlaw garden has received nothing but compliments. One neighbor — an elderly gentleman — even told me how proud he was of all the work I’d been doing. He probably had no idea he was talking with the neighborhood (gardening) renegade.


  1. Good for you! Most people have no idea what a vegetable looks like “in the wild” … they just think it must be ugly, in a box with weeds, not anything stylish or pretty …! 😉

    • Thanks! I’ve always been a believer in the beauty of veggies, though I’ve always grown them in orderly rows in designated vegetable gardens. This is the first time I’ve let them run free in flower beds and foundation plantings. It’s turning out to be a lot of fun.

  2. Thrilled to find another renegade!! As I was planting a pine tree in the front yard recently, a man stopped to tell me that evergreens were not allowed by the HOA and that the flower bed that I have put in was too big ( truly, is there such a thing?); I planted the tree anyway planning on making it the anchor for a kidney shaped bed that I am hoping to work on this weekend. I had interspersed veggies in perennial beds for years; lost those 5 acres due to a horrid ex-spouse and am now in a townhouse on a postage stamp size lot where I am intent on creating gardens galore and a garden room under the deck, ridding myself of all lawn….happy to know you are out there!! : )

    • Thank you, Karen! Your comment totally made my day. And, I’m so glad you went ahead and planted that pine tree! 🙂

      I’m with you; can’t imagine such a thing as a too-big flower bed. That’s as hard to comprehend as a too-large veggie garden. Don’t think such a thing could ever exist…

      Good luck with that new planting bed. Hope you’ll let us know how it goes.

  3. I just read Karen’s comment and I can’t believe someone said that to her. Actually it’s mind boggling in general that local governments/homeowners associations etc take umbrage with gardens in the front yard at all. Just can’t wrap my brain around it. Good for both of you for doing it anyways!

  4. Bravo! The world needs more “outlaws” and more front yard vegetable gardens. People think I am weird when I tell them that a lawn is a waste of space, especially in a sunny spot. I am afraid to say that this feat would be nearly impossible to do where we live, so we have to be content with the backyard kitchen garden. Let’s keep changing the world, one garden at a time.

  5. Hey! A couple from kentucky here, we just inherited
    My husbands grandmothers home! We want to grow our own veggies,
    We’ve had 2 gardens so far, I started an herb garden right outside my
    Door and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! And we had hummingbirds, and butterfly’s everywhere! I’m very interested
    In planting down stuff in my front yard this year, my sweet potatoes I planted in my regular garden last year but I noticed how absolutely
    Beautiful they were!
    We live in western kentucky, we are pretty well off
    Financially, but we live in an impoverished area, we ended up giving away a lot of our veggies, to the elderly, and a few single mothers here in the area. (I would let the kids pick whatever thy wanted it was a sight to behold!) this year I would like to plant even more! But I thought about how much room I had, and coming across your website, it was like a light bulb went off! This year, I’m going to have veggies, and maybe some fruits in my front yard, and it will not only be beautiful, but functionable.
    Looking forward to seeing what ya got!
    Crystal and James Smith

    • I love it! Welcome to the site, and keep up the good work in the garden! 🙂

  6. Hi Cristina,
    I was super excited to read the article in the Fauquier Times! I have joined the Outlaws and cannot wait to read more. You should check out our school at http://www.Mountainsidemontessori.com. Our classrooms are designed with gardens as part of the classroom. Children have full access and gardening is considered important work!

    • So glad to meet you, Edel! I love the fact that you include garden space with your classrooms — wonderful!


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