Down on the Foti Farm


Foti_garden The New York Times brings us this story of the Foti family and their participation in the Edible Estates project, a self-described "attack on the American front lawn and everything it has come to represent" (oh, how those words quicken our pulse.  We have yet to see a photo of founder Fritz Haeg, but we may just nominate him for Sexiest Gardener on the strength of his prose alone.)

But back to the Foti family. They agreed to participate in the project and turn their southern California lawn into an overflowing vegetable garden, much to the consternation of their neighbors, who came up with gems like this when asked to provide a quote for the Times:

“What happens in the backyard is their business,” said a 40-year-old high-voltage lineman who lives down the street and would give only his initials, Z.V. “But this doesn’t seem to me to be a front yard kind of a deal.”

(and notice, by the way, how nicely designed and well-behaved this garden is.  Oval beds, paths in between–it’s hardly a bunch of row crops, after all.)

The Foti family’s blog chronicles their growing garden and also provides a place to mediate on the meaning of that public-private space that is the front yard.  Michael Foti wrote a great post on June 19 about the many people who drove by his home after the LA Times printed the address in a story about the garden.  He says:

I guess that in person, one of the things that is most striking about the garden when you first see it is how open and close to the sidewalk it is. How vulnerable it seems. There’s no fences or anything to keep anybody out. It really makes you aware of how most lawns function as kind of buffer between public and private space. In a way, it sort of illuminates the value of a lawn to most people – not worth stealing, and useful only to the extent that it keeps people away, or doesn’t need to be worried about.Foti_veg

Fotis, we’re cheering you on.  Anybody who grows zukes in the front yard and raises chickens in the back yard is one of us.  Rock on, guys.



  1. Regarding the high voltage lineman–I hate to be a misanthrope, but people are morons, especially in the homogeneous-minded suburbs! Vegetable gardens are BEAUTIFUL!!! Much more beautiful than lawn plus boring evergreen shrubs.

    I’m going to post about some of my friends’ gardens and prove it.

  2. This is the reason my blog is named as it is. In my city, they have actually made it illegal to grow veggies in the front yard.

    My personal opinion is that when they start paying my mortgage, they can tell me what I can grow where in MY YARD.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly — to me, the front lawn is just a big green invitation card for grubs that turn into beetles that eat everything, day and night — but I have to admit I haven’t touched anything in front of the house. At all.

    It’s a dead-end street and only a couple of houses have dared to breach The Code. (One planted the front slope down to the sidewalk with orange daylilies; the other replaced what would be a postage-stamp lawn with a really beautiful perennial garden that always has something in bloom.) Everybody else’s yard is lawn, foundation plantings, house.

    Boooooorrring … ! But I kind of have the same instinct about the front/back yard thing as the lineman, in a ‘what will the neighbors think?’ sort of way. Front yard, public face; back yard, yippee! Mine, all mine!

  4. I think we have a common cause here – just look at the energy around the lawn issue. I’ve been working on a column about lawn replacement and with the Edible Estates coming to Baltimore, the time has come to write it. I missed this in the NYT so thanks, Amy.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement everybody. For what it’s worth, “Z.V.” has a lot of other issues besides his apparent dislike for our garden. Most of the neighborhood really seems to like it.

    Hey, we’ve been reading GardenRant since the beginning, and we’re rooting for you too. So keep ranting!

  6. Keep on keepin’ on, Fotis! Your front yard garden is beautiful, actually. The two circles, the crushed gravel (I assume) paths… if you had clematis growing on those arbors instead of pole beans, people wouldn’t even think twice about it!

    A guy on a busy street near me did a whole veggie garden–ROWS of veggies within a 20×20 square–in his front yard last year. I walked past it often, and complimented him on how beautiful it was a few times. Shiny red serrano peppers, big zucchini leaves snaking through rows of yellow tomatoes… even without the landscaping, it was very interesting to watch grow. Beat the heck out of the overgrown yews next door in terms of interest–and even looked rather appropriate in a landscape sense in front of his simple 90-year-old house.

  7. This project is so inspiring. My old house in San Diego had a gravel and shrub front “garden”. Low maintenance, but UGLY. Now I live in Virginia, and have much more land, and a ton of lawn. I had no idea how much maintenance, and care was needed. It seems like such a waste of gardening space to me. I can’t possible need that much grass. My neighbors are obsessed, some mow 3 times a week. Maybe next spring I can fire the lawn service and spend that money on my own edible estate. They already think we are the crazy Californians.

  8. Hee, hee… My husband and I replaced a flower bed along the side of our house with a little veggie patch last year. I’m sure the neighbor whose home it faces hates it, but everybody else thinks it’s cool. While I’m not equipped for a full-scale vegetable garden in my front yard, I’m going to start spotting in a few herbs in my flower beds this fall. I think it will look nice. Isn’t it interesting that so many people nowadays find grass more esthetically pleasing than flowers or vegetables?

  9. Hello:

    I’m a reporter with the Star-Ledger in New Jersey and I’m doing a story about people who re-purpose their front lawns as vegetable gardens in an act of “radical gardening.” If you live in NJ and turned your front lawn into a veggie garden (or know someone who has), I’d love to talk to you. E-mail me at [email protected]

  10. I find it hilarious that replacing a lawn with a vegetable garden is considered “radical.”

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