Experiments in the Front Garden Bed

In front of our house there is an area of maybe 300 sq feet in between the driveway and shrubs that has always been bare. It was like that when we bought the house and we never did anything with it. There is only some plantain lilies that lined the driveway, and the rest I just covered it with mulch. Boring.

The house faces south, though, and when I started to really think seriously about gardening and homesteading, I realized that this was the ideal place to plant. It always gets the best sun. I would rather have my front and back yards reversed actually! So, back in October 2014, when I was expanding the garden in the back, I also tilled up the front and decided to make some beds to grow some things.

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I had already built a little brick enclosure for my daughter to grow flowers at the corner. I kept that, but formed 2 rows for planting. I added some kale, chard, beets, rutabaga, and eventually some squash. My wife didn’t want a farm out front, though… so I did plant some flowers. We got some good vegetables from it, but it wasn’t too pretty. The soil, too, got eroded away with the rain. I wanted to build some kind of raised bed, but I really did not have the budget for it.

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Last winter I was again (yes, it is true) expanding and building up the back garden a friend told me he had a pallet and a half of nice landscaping bricks that he would give me. For Free. Oh Yeah!! All I had to do was come and get them!

Below you can see how I used the bricks to line the front by the driveway. To make it a true raised bed, I added landscaping timber to the back. I eventually filled it in with compost and soil. The back of the bed is staggered so that I could walk in and reach into the bed easier. Looking back, I think I could have just made the back straight and walked out into the soil, but I still like it as it is.

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I tasked one of my daughters with designing the flowers out front. She really did not know what to do, so I said just try something. If it looks good, great! If not, we would learn something new. My wife and I wanted it to be primarily flowers and herbs, but I would still try to see where any vegetables would fit in. Below is a picture taken last week.

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We primarily used Baker’s Creek Seeds for this, and spent a lot of time browsing their nice color catalog. My daughter liked the Nasturtium she saw, so we direct seeded that in the very front. I was a little concerned that it may not handle the heat well, but this is all experimentation. We planted two kinds: Alaska Red and Jewel Peach Melba.

Behind that are some Bright Lights Cosmos, and fennel plants to the right. The few in back grew from a root that didn’t die, and are bolting. The fennel in front are from seed and will form a nice bulb for us to eat.

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Down the line, more Nasturtium, Cosmos, with some Calendula and Zinnia behind them. The cosmos were scatter seeded, and so they sprouted randomly and there are some bare spots. They are a moderate self-seeder, meaning it will drop seeds that may sprout later in the season, but will definitely lie dormant over winter and sprout in the spring. So they will come back next year (and every year after, if I want it) fuller and will fill in the bare spots. These cosmos are definitely taller than what we expected, though. I think we will make a decision in the fall on what we liked and what we didn’t.

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I had some Dahlia bulbs that I dug up and preserved from last year, and buried them along the back. In front of them we direct seeded some Red Flax. You can also see behind all of them some spring onions! I thought it might make a nice green backdrop to the flowers and get some veg at the same time. The onions are all starting to flop over and will need to be harvested and dried soon.

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Below is my small fennel forest with some sage right in the middle. This is at the end of the bed, by the garage. Once we harvest the fennel, I want to build up this area with herbs. It is close to the kitchen, and I would like to have a lot of herbs within reach!

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After I finished the bed, I wanted to put something there right away that was vibrant and colorful. My daughter had chosen the seeds for direct seeding, but I was going to do this part. I bought some pink Dianthus from Lowes, as well as a white bush plant that I thought might look good as contrast. I actually don’t know what it is called. Behind are some yellow snap dragons, and then some lily bulbs that I planted. There is also some leftover kale and chard to the left and in back. I also started some chamomile from seed and transplanted it is behind the white plants.

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The picture below shows the onions behind one of the young Dahlia plants. Floppy! You can also see a soaker hose that have been using, but we have been getting so much rain, I rarely use it.

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So, that is the front. It turned out really well and was well worth the effort!

 

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