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I live on a very small corner lot (⅕ of an acre), with about 8 feet of back and side yard, entirely in shade. Because I really wanted to grow some of my own food, I started gardening in my front yard, inspired by Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates. When I discovered that having a vegetable garden in Minnesota meant a lot of bare soil in spring (not beautiful in the front yard, and not great for erosion, either), I began looking into perennial food plants, many of which are beautiful. I planted dwarf fruit trees everywhere they would fit and stuck rhubarb and berry bushes on my boulevard. In the picture above you can see an area next to the street that used to be nothing but weeds, where now I have rhubarb (see my post on making rhubarb leather to see why I’m putting this plant everywhere I can), gooseberries, serviceberries, several varieties of mint, alpine strawberries, and a few things that are edible if I bothered to do anything with them. The cool red plant poking in on the left is amaranth, which has edible leaves and seeds. Even the weed next to the curb is edible; purslane sounds pretty amazing, so I let it be, though with everything else to eat around here, I haven’t gotten around to trying it.
Another part of the boulevard has a quintet of honeyberries (above), a very early elongated blueberry-type fruit that my little ones couldn’t get enough of. This area also has more rhubarb and an apple tree, and sometimes self-seeders borage and calendula, a medicinal herb with a lovely yellow flower.
I have containers to take advantage of sun where I don’t have a good spot to plant directly in the ground and grow pots of basil, tomatoes, and creeping rosemary (above, with a weed called wood sorrel, which is also edible and has a nice tangy flavor, good for salads when other greens are not yet plentiful). When we needed shade on our porch, I planted grapevines, which not only give us lovely shade in the heat of summer, but a bumper crop of Bluebell grapes. The vines are underplanted with strawberries and serviceberry shrubs, because we can never have enough of those!
Interested in growing more food? Look around your yard. If you can add trees, consider one with fruit for you and your family to enjoy. Dwarf plums, apples, and pears can yield quite a lot and require very little attention. Have space for a veggie garden? Dig up some grass (or better yet, try the lasagna method of gardening) or build a simple raised bed like the one here. Renting or not ready to commit? Pots can grow everything from tomatoes to cucumbers to strawberries. One of my friends filled a kiddie pool with soil and grew all the veggies she wanted for summer on her concrete patio. Also check out Mel Bartholomew’s fabulous Square Foot Gardening for a simple and efficient way to grow a lot in a small space.
These delicate pink raspberries grow off to the side of my front yard, but the plants are pretty invasive, and a little rangy for a front-yard garden. I’m moving them to a more contained out-of-the-way location by our back door. I underplant this area with strawberries, thyme, and borage, an odd-looking self-seeder with edible flowers and leaves that lend a melon-cucumber flavor to water.