Garden book review week at RDR

So, the bubble of spring weather we had over the weekend burst in the 30s yesterday. As you run from your car to the indoors, I bet you’re barely giving the garden a glance. Are you feeling sad? Don’t be, it is February, the cruelest of months. And, it is nearly finished. Hip, hip, hooray!!

The Edible Front Yard, by Ivette Soler

It’s nearly March, and you know what that means, right? It’s book season which is always something to celebrate. I’m pulling out the party hats with a week-long celebration of garden book reviews and maybe even a giveaway. So, let’s get the party started with The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden, by Ivette Soler, otherwise known online as The Germinatrix.

First, I’m green with jealousy. Ivette lives in California, and she gets to garden nearly year-round as do so many of my other gardening friends. I’m a California, green envy monster, and I’ll try not to hold this against Ivette in my review. Instead, onward and upward, I say.

Ivette is a garden designer and writer. She is also very popular and for good reason, because she is funny, witty and knows her stuff. There is nothing I like better than a writer who says it like it is.

The idea of an edible landscape in America isn’t new. Colonial gardens are perfect representations of this ideal. Just go to Williamsburg and see those small enclosed spaces where everything was grown together in the front yard and back. Rosalind Creasy also wrote of edible landscapes in her book,The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping in 1982, but she thought it was an important enough subject,and so much had changed, that she wrote another, Edible Landscaping, in 2010. I bought it the other day.

Still, somewhere along the way, Americans lost their minds and began doing
obeisance to a patch of green lawn. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like grass. I just don’t like how we turned our yards into chemical waste dumps. Plus, without something to set them off, lawns are b-o-r-i-n-g. I live on 7.5 acres so I have some pasture and a bit of front lawn too, but if I lived in town, I would need every inch of my home’s landscaping to garden. What would I do without tomatoes and bronze fennel for example?

I love how Ivette takes the notion of edible landscaping and makes it seem possible even in the suburbs where the covenants say you must have a lawn, and it must stay tidy. She’s not an all-or-nothing writer and designer. She makes very good points about beauty and style which are the entire first chapter. She also refers to to them throughout the book.

Chapter Two begins with, “We are so lucky these days. The gardener who wants a flair-filled garden has a vast array of plant choices that would be welcome in any garden, anywhere.” I concur. We have Swiss chard, amaranth and eggplant in an array of colors, and these along with several other plants, she calls “the supermodels.” They have style.

She blends plants, some edible, others not, to create designs which will please the gardener and the neighborhood. Ornamental plants are seen as “helpers” which give the beds and borders a “backbone.” I couldn’t agree more. Although once productive, several rows of six-foot-tall, winter-weary corn stalks in your front yard may not make the neighbors happy (unless you live in a neighborhood with more advanced taste that is).

Chapter Four contains design principles which will help anyone plan their own edible masterpiece. However, if it seems to complicated, hire a garden designer or a garden coach to help you realize your dream. I help lots of people start gardening on a small scale, or as large as they desire, but getting that structure in place first makes everything else seem easy.

Chapter Five has three actual gardens with their designs. It’s nice to see the design on paper, and the photograph of the garden as implemented. Chapters Six and Seven deal with the nitty gritty of change: building codes; unhappy neighbors and ways to bring them around including a profile of gardeners who did just that; your climate; existing structures, and removing lawn and concrete.

About removing the lawn, in my state, we rely on Bermuda grass for sunny areas and a variety of grasses in the shade. I used to get so frustrated when reading magazine articles and books showing the gardener just stripping the top of the lawn. Early on, I would try to do the same, not knowing Bermuda grass had roots all the way to China. Don’t be frustrated like me. The best way to remove Bermuda (yes, I can hear you whispering Roundup, but I’m ignoring you) is with a good garden fork like the one sold by CobraHead because it goes between the roots instead of breaking them off in the soil where they just regenerate. I cleared an entire grassy area for a border in a couple of afternoons.

Back to the book . . . I think it’s great. Lots of good advice and problem solving written in a clear and energetic voice.

One more thing, the photographs are eye candy. Beautifully done with rich colors and textures. I enjoyed seeing all of these beautiful front yard gardens, and I long to visit them.

What are you waiting for? Buy it now, and you’ll be ready to call me for garden coaching in March.

Note: Timber Press sent me Ivette’s book to review not knowing whether I would or not. I really enjoyed it, and I think we all need a little something to get us through the rest of winter, so I’m sharing my thoughts with you.


  1. So the two best edible landscaping books are out of CA. Even though Rosalind’s book has some neat Midwest yards in her designer’s galleries. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone penned a book for zone 6 and above. Thanks for the review, Dee.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Patrick, I don’t know if they are the two best. I’ve read others. These are out new though as is <a href="The Complete Kitchen Garden: An Inspired Collection of Garden Designs and 100 Seasonal Recipes“>The Complete Kitchen Garden, by Ellen Ogden, which Pam mentions below. That one I haven’t read yet, but it looks intriguing too.

  2. Pam/Digging says:

    Great review, Dee. I haven’t received my review copy of Ivette’s book yet, but I am looking over another edible-gardening book, The Complete Kitchen Garden, and it looks yummy too. Have you reviewed it yet, I wonder?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Pam. No, I haven’t read it, but I’d like to. I’m all about pretty vegetables and their gardens. 🙂

  3. commonweeder says:

    Even those of us who have plenty of room, are finding in our older years that moving some of the edibles very close to the house is a very good, and attractive idea.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m with your there Pat. I wonder how I will keep all of this up as I age. Hire some help I suppose, and that’s a whole other issue.

  4. Donna says:

    can’t wait to read it my stack of newly bought garden books…thx for reviewing it…now it will jump to the top of the pile

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, it was very fun to read and let soak in like rain after a drought.

  5. Carol says:

    Eye Candy? I love a gardening book with eye candy! So, how would this book/look play in the Midwest? Might just have to get it to find out!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Carol, me too, and one which doesn’t just have stock images. Blecch, I am sick to death of those. I think you could write something similar for the Midwest. I really do. You both have such great senses of humor.

  6. An excellent review, Dee. If the Gentleman Farmer didn’t have a vegetable patch the size of a small truck farm, I’d be tempted to buy this book. You make the designs sound so wonderful, I think I’ll look for it in the library because-who knows?-I may someday be the vegetable gardener.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, Kathy, you guys produce a lot of veggie goodness, but of course you need to with your family.

      You might become the veggie gardener. It’s a very pretty and fun book.

  7. Hi honey,

    I’ll get right in line for this one. What a great review. I tucked it onto my Facebook page to cheer you and Ivette on.

    We all need some jazzing up right about now.

    Sending love,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

    My Moses is 4 today! What a joy. He helped me garden and watered all my “wittle fwowers.” Oh, I am wrapped around his pinkie finger.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh, Sharon, thank you so much. I love gardening books which feature delightful prose too, don’t you? I had a small tear about your Moses. Already four! I miss my little Bear. She is becoming all grown up at almost twelve.

  8. Ginger says:

    Hi! I am so enjoying the wealth of information you all share! The books and magazines all make me crazy with envy and send my off mindlessly to the garden centers! Thank you all for sharing so much. I’m wondering about that “red dirt” ~ my sister just moved to Tennessee and she says the dirt is red and the weeds love it. Should I keep dreaming about moving there or keep fighting my own Minnesota weeds? 😉

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Ginger and thanks for stopping by my little blog. I appreciate. I’d moved to TN over Minnesota in a heartbeat especially if my sister were there. I love my red dirt home too.

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is one of those books I would love to read but I doubt it would convince me to start a veggie garden. I like to read about all sorts of gardens though. I like your analogy of the “spring bubble”. It sure has burst here too. Brrrrr

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, you could just read it for fun.

  10. gail says:

    Well Dee, you’ve convinced me~it’s on the list. What a terrific sounding book and your review is splendid. I have a few friends who would benefit from reading The Edible Front Yard. gail

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It’s good Gail.

  11. Ivette Soler says:

    Sweetest DEE!!! Thank you for reading and reviewing my book – I am so glad you found useful info in there, and I am thrilled that you found it fun! You KNOW how much I love to entertain. It is wonderful to have such a carefully considered reading of my first book – your review makes me glow! And I hope you saw that I give BIG props to garden coaches, who I see as an essential component of the process of creating a fantastic edible garden – there is nothing like getting knowledgeable advice from someone who really knows your climate and the specific conditions of your area. Garden Coaches DOMINATE!!! And you dominate twice over, friend! Many heartfelt thanks!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ivette, you are so welcome. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for the atta girl on garden coaching. Sometimes, folks just need a little help.

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