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Replace Your Lawn with Edible Ornamentals

Amaranthus tricolor Joseph's Coat By Kor!An CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

I read a quote from an Englishman whose name I can't recall. He said that only in America do people spend millions of dollars growing a crop you can't eat. He was, of course, speaking of lawns. Some homeowners are quite obsessed with perfect lawns. I'm not one of them. I hate mowing grass, and would much rather have something edible than something green and useless in front of my abode.

More and more, people are turning their lawns into vegetable gardens. It isn't that hard to do! You don't even have to dig up the grass. You may, however, have to fight your city to do so.

Laws to Protect Grass

For some reason, municipalities revere grass lawns above all else on a person's property. Ordinances many times forbid the growing of anything other than grass or ornamentals in the front yard. Some people have actually been arrested for having front yard gardens or had their entire yard ripped up. I lived in such a city, and I learned to comply with the law and still grow edibles in my front yard.

Purslane By Dave Whitinger CC-BY-SA-3.0 
via Wikimedia Commons
My city ordinances did not prohibit fruit trees in front yards as long as they were kept healthy and not allowed to become diseased and unsightly. We were also allowed to grow plants around the bottom of trees inside edging, but there was no limit to the size of these edged gardens. I planted three fruit trees in my front yard and surrounded them with large circular edged gardens. There was no ordinance as to what could be planted in these beds under the trees. The ordinance simply said you could not plant a vegetable garden in your front yard.

 Hiding Edibles in Plain Sight
I planted my herb garden around the starfruit tree, with some edible flowers such as purslane and nasturtiums to pretty it up. Some herbs have beautiful flowers, or are ornamental all by themselves, such as variegated cuban oregano and purple-leaf basil.

Cuban Oregano By Dave Whitinger CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Under the large plum tree, I planted oregano as a ground cover and grew mints in hanging baskets. In larger pots around the tree, I grew peppers and lettuces. I mixed the ornamental peppers in with sweet peppers to disguise them. Under the cherry tree, I planted colorful lettuces, leaf greens and sweet potatoes.

Food in Containers

I had large terra-cotta pots along my sidewalk planted with what appeared to be ornamental plants but were really edibles. In one pot I grew Hibiscus acetosella, whose striking maroon leaves add a tangy taste to salads. Around the bottom, I planted flowering purslane. In another pot I grew a large lemon grass and in another I grew Joseph's Coat, which is an ornamental edible amaranth.

Hibiscus acetosella By Mokkie CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
 Hedges of Millet and Elephant Ears
Purple millet is one of the most beautiful grain plants you've ever seen. I grew a long row of it down the side of my yard. It was so ornamental, no one who didn't know would have ever guessed it was edible.

A hedge of Colocasia escuelenta elephant ear plants grew down the other side of the front yard, which have edible roots called taro, eddoe or malanga.

Colocasia esculenta elephant ear by Bouba CCSA 2.5 Generic
via Wikimedia Commons

 I never got one complaint or one citation from the city. I harvested many pounds of food from my front lawn garden, and you can too. You just have to be creative in what and how you plant, and you must keep it tidy and not let it get scraggly or unsightly. Study your city ordinances and find ways to grow what you need to eat while still staying within the law.

What edible ornamentals have you planted in your yard? Were you even aware that some of these plants were edible? Will this help you plan your front yard garden for next year? Please feel free to add a comment and tell us your thoughts on edible ornamentals.


LawnbeGONE said...

Monstera deliciosa is a beautiful ornamental with edible fruit!!! They'll never know!!!! Bwa ha ha ha Bwa ha ha ha ha