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Landscape Design

Front Yard Vegetable Garden Turns Heads

Edibles and ornamentals mingle in this Massachusetts front garden that challenges the norm with great success

Project Highlights:



Location: Wellesley, MA

Garden size: 900 square feet

Budget: $16,000

The owners of this home are a young couple with kids and pets. They lead busy lives and wanted something with minimal maintenance, which ruled out a lawn. However, they still desired something that would be interesting throughout the year. The new design does all this, plus provides fresh food for their family.

The whole neighborhood watched eagerly as the front yard of this home was transformed into a tidy garden with a mixture of edibles and ornamentals. The owners were originally told not to grow vegetables in their front yard, at least until they met Andrea Nilsen of Nilsen Landscape Design. Nilsen noticed that the site had the perfect southern exposure for growing edibles and suggested this to the couple. They loved the idea and ended up with two raised beds and a pair of espaliered apple trees that welcome visitors to their home. As it turns out, they aren’t the only ones who love their new front yard—neighbors, friends, family and even their mailman have expressed how much better it looks.

First, Nilsen had to address what she calls shrub monsters that were growing along the home’s foundation. “The shrubs must have been 20 years old and had completely outgrown their space, a few were even overlapping the front door and windows,” she explains. She had two options, aggressively prune them back or remove them and replant with something more suitable. Since pruning would only provide a temporary fix, Nilsen chose the latter. New plants were selected for the space that would provide a layer of evergreen color against the home’s façade without growing too large. “I used Winter Gem boxwood and Compact PJM rhododendrons because they don’t grow past four or five feet,” says Nilsen.

Cedar raised bed.

Espaliered apple trees.

With the overgrown shrubs gone, the cottage style of the home could once again be appreciated. The existing white picket fence was kept along with the brick path after a bit of reworking. Inside the perimeter of the fence, Nilsen created ornamental borders planted with a variety of perennials and the occasional edible, such as blueberry bushes. Centered on either side of the path are the raised beds atop a bed of gravel edged with cobblestones. The symmetry of the design echoes the front of the home and provides a strong form that is appealing even in winter when many of the plants have died back.

Brick path serves as line of symmetry.

Existing white picket fence encloses garden.

The raised beds were built using kits ordered from Naturalyards, a company specializing in raised beds, planter boxes and garden trellises. Made of cedar, the beds are an elongated octagon shape and measure 8 feet long by 3 ½ feet wide and are 16 ½ inches deep. “They are so easy to assemble that I did it myself,” says Nilsen, “the only tool I needed was a drill for attaching the top rail.” Each board interlocks with the others in a fashion similar to Lincoln Logs, the classic children’s toy; however, the raised beds come with pins and crossbars that hold everything together. The first crop planted in the raised beds included broccoli, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and zucchini.

With a bit of bravery and the help of a good designer, this yard went from overgrown and average to orderly and distinctive. “My favorite part of the project was the reaction of the homeowners. It is always nice to give your clients something they can be proud of,” concludes Nilsen.

Nilsen Landscape Design
Boston, MA

Contributing Author:

Sarah Hutchinson, contributing writer for Landscaping Network

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