Over the winter, when the days were short, the temperatures were low, and Kevin and I often looked to Netflix for an evening’s entertainment, we watched all four season of a 1970’s British television series called “Good Neighbors.” (It was called “The Good Life” in the UK.) It features Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal as Tom and Barbara Good, who decide they’re going to exit the rat race and live off the land – in their case, what looks to be about a half-acre in a tony London suburb.
The pigs in the back yard caused problems with the couple next door, but it was the front yard that galvanized the neighborhood. It was unsightly – unseemly, almost – to put anything but ornamentals between the front door and the curb. (Is that the ornamentality?)
It still is. Even with gardening all the rage, vegetables are relegated almost exclusively to the back yard. Some planned communities specifically prohibit front-yard gardens, and there’s a deep-seated reluctance, even among the practical, food-centric, gardening-minded, to dig up the front yard and plant tomatoes. Even Michelle Obama put the garden in the back.
I never understood it. For starters, I think vegetable gardens are lovely. Besides, what’s usually in a front yard is a lawn, and I get the sense (not that I pretend to have my finger on the societal pulse) that lawns are beginning to look like Hummers – resource-guzzling status symbols. Why wouldn’t you want to grow things to eat, conveniently, right out your front door?
But that was other people’s front yards. I only figured out how near-universal the front-garden aversion was when I realized that, when it came to my own front yard, I had it, too.
Followers of this space know that we’re sun-challenged. We’ve carved about 600 square feet of garden out of our two acres, and we periodically pace around the property looking for other spots that might get enough sun to support life beyond the oak, pine, and pricker bushes that grow wild.
We bought the house two years ago, and it took until yesterday for me to realize we had a usable, sunny spot right outside our front door.
It’s hard for me to explain how weird this is. I’ve never been particularly attached to that spot. It’s not really a front yard, it’s just the area in front of the house. Nobody can see it from the street because our house is on the opposite end of the property. We decorated it with a couple of benches and a low table, but we seldom sat there. We certainly never had a lawn – it’s just mulched-over dirt.
It’s not that I thought about using it and rejected the idea because I wanted to keep my front yard. It’s that it simply didn’t occur to me. That’s what’s so disturbing. I like to think I’m reasonably bright (don’t we all!), and I’ve certainly spent a lot of time looking for gardenable territory on our land, but it took me two years to even consider putting raised beds in front of the house!
And then, when I thought of it, I balked. Not out loud, but viscerally. When I talked to Kevin about it, I was all enthusiasm, but I recognized the gulping sensation that we have when we take a step that we’re not sure about.
Me! No-lawn, all-food, live-off-the-land me!
There was only one thing to do. We had to get those raised beds in there right away. A trip to Home Depot and an afternoon later, there they were.
In a postal feat of perfect timing, our strawberry plants came in the mail today. I was going to put them in the raised bed we put up a few days ago in front of the shed, but I think I’ll put the asparagus there instead. I’ll put the strawberries in front of the house. They’re prettier.