Hello and welcome! I’m Cristina, the rule-breaking gardener behind the Outlaw Garden.
Whether you’re brand new to the Outlaw Garden, or a returning friend, I’m so glad that you’re here!
If you enjoy gardening outside the lines, this site is for you!
We break the rules by growing veggies in our front yards, mixing edibles and ornamentals, applying landscaping ideals to vegetable gardens, and much much more. We are the rule-breaking, status-quo-defying, outlaw gardeners. Come join us!
(That’s a real invitation, by the way. Just click here to sign up for occasional email updates from the garden, including the latest rule-breaking stories, tips, and more.)
Thanks again for visiting the site, and happy gardening!
Scroll down to learn more, or just click on these links to jump to the section you want to read:
- What is an “outlaw” garden?
- Where is the Outlaw Garden?
- How do I get started with my own outlaw garden?
- The Outlaw Garden Grow-Your-Own Guides
- What more would you like to know?
What is an “outlaw” garden?
It all started with my home purchase in a community with a Home Owners Association (HOA). Like many towns, cities, and communities these days, my HOA forbids vegetable gardens in the front lawn. But, well, the backyard was super shaded, and I wasn’t about to forgo homegrown tomatoes. So, I decided to break the rules. To go rogue. I planted those tomatoes (and a whole lot more).
And the Outlaw Garden was born… er… planted.
Now, I think the term “outlaw” goes way beyond the where of your garden. It’s also the what (mixing tomatoes with flowers?) and the how (using landscape techniques to make those veggies really shine?).
Anytime we challenge the status quo of vegetable gardening, we break the rules. We become outlaws. Gardening outlaws.
That’s what this site is about. We break the rules. We challenge the “right” way to do things. And, sometimes, we discover something really cool — like the fact that cherry tomatoes look great as sprawling ground covers through flower beds.
Of course, it’s also still about growing veggies in front yards, flower beds, and other unexpected places. Gotta stay true to our roots. Ha!
Where is the Outlaw Garden?
I’m working on a big expansion to the “explore the garden” section on this site. In the meantime, I can give you some of the basic stats about the garden.
I’m in the great state of Virginia — USDA Zone 7a — about an hour west of Washington, D.C. That puts me at about the midpoint of growing zones in the United States. Some of you are farther north and others are farther south — keep that in mind as you read.
My house sits on a half-acre of land within a 1970s-era housing development. The soil is a mix of Virginia red clay, sandy sandy fill, and pockets of nice fertility (mostly due to me bringing in compost). There’s absolutely nothing special about my yard, home, or garden. I’m working with a very typical canvas — probably very similar to what a lot of you have — and am slowly adding more garden beds each year. It’s a work in progress, like most gardens.
The weather here can be interesting. We get a bit of everything in the Mid-Atlantic, but we specialize in thick, muggy, buggy, cut-with-a-knife summertime humidity. This makes tomatoes and other fungus-prone plants a big challenge. Winters are usually pretty mild, but we get bitter-cold exceptions every few years. Springtime is usually marked with big, loud, damaging storms, and summers are often dry (despite that humidity) with occasional unpredictable downpours.
I don’t know where you live and garden, but please keep your local conditions in mind when reading this site. The challenges for growing tomatoes here are very different than in Seattle, for example.
How do I get started with my own outlaw garden?
Oh gosh. That’s a great question. And, you know, the answer will be different for each of us. I’m working on a big summary of how I transformed my front yard into a vegetable garden, but in the meantime let’s go with this: Start wherever you are, and with whatever you have.
Working with an established landscape and looking for an easy transition? Why not plant a few veggies in among your annual flowers this spring?
Do you have a lovely patio with great sun exposure? That’s a great place for growing sweet potatoes or other heat lovers in big containers.
Already have a huge veggie garden out back? Why not work some flowers in there, and invite some of your veggies into flowerbeds or containers out front.
My biggest piece of advice would be to not rush it. Pick one spot and make it awesome. Then move on to the next. And repeat.
(This is totally not what I did, by the way. I decided to change everything up all at once. As a result I still have a couple half-landscaped beds on my property. Luckily, I have some very patient neighbors. If I could do it again, I’d go one bed at a time.)
The Outlaw Garden Grow-Your-Own Guides
I’m super excited because this spring I finally launched a project I’d been working on for y’all for ages: The Outlaw Garden Grow-Your-Own Guides for Beautiful, Edible, Rule-Breaking Gardens. The series will ultimately include a dozen or more books about growing specific crops in the front yard landscape. Corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers, and much much more.
The first Grow-Your-Own Guide runs about 45 pages long, and tells you everything you need to know about growing sweets. In the guide, I explain how to start your own slips (baby sweet potatoes) from store-bought roots, how to transplant into the garden and tend your plants all summer long, and how to harvest, cure, and store your sweets for homegrown eating all winter. Click here to buy yourself a copy.
What more would you like to know?
Like any good garden, this page is a work in progress. If there’s something else you’d like to know, please post a comment at the bottom of the page or just send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again for visiting the Outlaw Garden!
ps. Many, many thanks to the very talented Rob Cardillo, who snapped that photo of me when he came to photograph the garden for an Organic Gardening Magazine article. If you like beautiful garden photography, you will LOVE Rob’s work. Check it out!