Front-yard kitchen garden as work of art


Did ya see the Time Magazine article about the Edibles Estates demonstration garden in Baltimore?  It’s one of five in the U.S. that Fritz Haeg’s group has created so far, but I bet it’s the only one commissioned by an art museum. 

Everyone’s telling me I have to get up there and see it, and this article might be the nudge I needed.  Stay tuned.


  1. Another front yard vegetable garden ! Yea !
    Give that homeowner the kudos that they deserve for all the positive things that a vegetable garden can provide.

    But please please please present the artist who designed and installed these well marketed gardens an in-depth education in horticulture , landscape design and sustainable design practices.

    We recently just bemoaned the use of poorly designed berms.
    Look what the poor homeowner got – implanted soil lumps of protruding eroding berms.

    We thought that Michele had a problem with her soil washing out onto the sidewalk every time it rained. Just take one look at these poorly bermed lumps adjacent to the driveway and public sidewalk. .. mud is the word.

    Another word that comes to mind is landscape architectural structure.
    There is none, except for the few remanding shrubs that was spared the wrath of the soil volcanoes.

    My thought is if you are going to rip out your suburban front yard and replace it with a thoughtful agricultural producing garden there are landscape design elements that can be incorporated so that your yard doesn’t look like a freshly tilled eroding compost heap.

    For instance, how about some landscape architectural structure, commonly called in layman’s’ terms : the bones of a garden’.
    Consider how a low border of hazel nuts, dwarf pineapple guavas or grapes located at the sidewalk would add structure , aid in erosion control and provide food at the same time.

    Instead of berming up soil above the adjacent finished concrete grade which will cause more than just mud washing out on the pavement, work with the grade so that you keep your muddy erosion and water on your own property.
    This is a basic sustainable technique called rain gardening .
    As this garden is currently designed, all the water goes to the paths, not to the gardening beds. This is not advantageous for sound ecology design and it increases the amount of weeding due to how the water is distributed. – bad design.

    I embrace the idea of more agriculturally designed gardens in the front yard but it would greatly benefit the spread of these types of gardens if they stood up to the test of time and looked great several years from the date that they were planted rather than looking good for its initial Kodak moment photo shoot.

    Consider what this garden is going to look like during all seasons of the year and what it is going to look like 2, 5 and or 15 years from now.

  2. I’m with Michelle. I think this guy gets WAY too much press for extremely uninteresting gardens. Plus, the House & Garden section of the Times just last week featured a butt-ugly house redesign he did.

  3. Interesting point Wilson Young in regards to historical native American agriculture.
    If you were to further investigate why some native Americans planted in mounds you will find that many were planned as on contour downward flow irrigation channels that used the land and the directional flow of water in an exceptionally efficient manner.

    Basically by planting in mounds across a slope ( called on contour planting ) you can slow down or speed up ( depending on slope and soil profile ) the efficiency of watering.

    Think of it for a moment. No hose bibs.
    There are many ways of designing and implementing an aqueduct, contouring ( berming/ mounding/ depressions/ bio swales/ ) the land is one way of routing water.

    The key is to get such a simple concept right.

  4. interesting….either way i think the project is a HORRIBLE idea too. i love the front lawns on my street and can’t imagine people replacing them with quick, ugly vegetable gardens. perhaps it would be ok if they were elaborate designs by professionals, with a full time staff to tend them….but who can do that? in the mean time we should keep our front lawns as they are and plant these sorts of crazy experiments in the backyard where they belong. much better than people going out willy nilly planting without professional help. and another thing…..why is that art anyway? i just don’t get it. this is the only one i approve of, since it seems to have been planted for a low-income housing project….which maybe makes a bit more sense, where people really need to grow their own food:

  5. Dear Mr. Young,
    I don’t believe that edible front yard gardens are horrible but I do agree with you that the design and implementation of Fritz Haegs most recent edible garden is pretty bad for all the reasons I stated in my previous post.

    As someone who has had a modest size front yard edible garden for the past 9 years I can attest that it doesn’t take a full time staff member to maintain it nor does it take any special design professional to design it.
    By simply using a few basic common sense layout strategies anyone can create, maintain and benefit from a front yard vegetable garden and have it look good during all four seasons whether it be 5, 10 or 20 years down the road.

    Whether you call it ‘art’ will always be a subject of debate.

  6. Hi Susan, I’d love it if you had the chance to pass by the Baltimore garden, and even give the Ridgely family any local gardening advice you could offer. That would be amazing! We had a very low budget on the garden, just donated plants, seeds and starts, and volunteer labor. We couldn’t afford retaining materials, so mounding seemed like a good option. We did get about 8″ of nice mulch though, which will prevent any run-off or erosion. We also received 20 cubic yards of fresh compost/dirt too. I liked the idea of a garden not dependant on any materials except good plants and dirt, as a challenge, and to see what was possible. It’s a team effort, so I always welcome any advice and suggestions from those that know more than me!

    Email me if you are interested in visiting the Ridgley family, and I will be happy to pass on their information.

    It’s still looking a pretty bare, but I’m hoping that our little seeds and starts will fill out by the end of the season:

    If you have time, you can also visit the presentation of images and videos from the other gardens here, I’d welcome any feedback:

    I believe in anything that gets more people outside and gardening. I love what you guys do and share the same manifesto! These are great:

    Convinced that gardening MATTERS.

    Bored with perfect magazine gardens.

    In love with real, rambling, chaotic, dirty, bug-ridden gardens.

    Suspicious of the “horticultural industry.”

    Delighted by people with a passion for plants.

    Appalled by chemical warfare in the garden.

    Turned off by any activities that involve “landscaping” with “plant materials.”

    Flabbergasted at the idea of a “no maintenance garden.”

    Gardening our asses off.

    Having a hell of a lot of fun.

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