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!!
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.