Interview: Front-Yard Vegetable Gardening
Laura Fernandez shares some practical wisdom for getting started.
Front yard veggie gardening is definitely gaining traction, but a lot of people are still nervous about it—and HOAs can be intimidating, too. For lots of us, the front yard is the only space where we get enough sun to make vegetables thrive!
I got to interview our Greenville friend Laura Fernandez to get some insights into what makes it work well.
What are some of your tips for someone who is just getting started?
“Just start. Instead of being concerned about what others might think, use it as inspiration and an invitation for community! You would be shocked to know how many conversations my garden has started with my neighbors.
Some might find it easier to start small—plant a blueberry bush where you are wanting a new shrub or add greens or herbs to an existing flower bed. Adding edible flowers is a good place to start as well. And don't dismiss containers. They are a wonderful way to have a garden.
Growing food does not have to be all or nothing. Just adding plants around your existing yard can be fun and provide you with food!”
Here in the Foothills, many people have sloped front yards or backyards. Do you have any recommendations for raised bed gardening on a slope?
“My entire front yard is sloped. I built narrow beds and ran them lengthwise across the slope. I honestly have not had much trouble with water runoff. I think the narrow beds are important though. My longest beds are only 2 feet wide which makes the slope less dramatic.”
Keeping your garden looking tidy in the height of summer is tough, but it's important if you've got it out front. Do you have any tips for keeping the front yard garden looking beautiful and tidy?
“This one can be tough in the height of the season! I have found, though, that since my garden is front and center, I am in it more often. I give a little effort each day to stay on top of things.
It is easier to keep it clean if you have created a space you love. Grow things that excite you and that you find lovely. Give yourself a place to sit down to enjoy and observe your space and you will see what needs to be done before it becomes an out of control problem.”
What are you planting right now, for late summer or fall harvest?
“I am planting melons and sunflowers where my garlic and potatoes were planted. I am also starting my second round of edamame. This is the time for me to do seed inventory for fall crops and to start sowing seeds inside in the next couple weeks for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. In about a month or so I will sow carrots, peas, beets and rutabaga.”
What are your favorite perennial veggies to grow?
“The only perennial veggie I am growing is asparagus—which is absolutely delightful and delicious. I do have quite a few other perennial food plants though.
We grow blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, goji berries, lemons, limes, persimmons, figs, peaches, pears, currants, muscadines, pineapple guava, mulberries and olives. I have a number of perennial herbs and edible flowers too! My goal is to add artichoke in the very near future!”
What are some veggies people don't necessarily associate with our area that you have success with?
“Ground cherries in the spring and summer and rutabagas in the fall are two crops I grow that I seldom see others trying. Ground cherries are a delicious annual fruit and are great fun, especially if you have kids you are trying to get interested in the garden.
Many fruit bushes and trees take years to produce, but ground cherries produce right away! Rutabagas are delicious and versatile. They are easy to grow and hearty for winter meals.”
Any final thoughts or tips you want to share?
“Don't be afraid to fail! We can learn so much from our failures. Gardening is a practice in patience and has become my greatest teacher. Start small and gradually add each year. If you start off too big, you may find yourself overwhelmed instead of inspired. Find other gardeners and ask them what they are growing and how they have found success. Create a space you enjoy!”
Laura started gardening at about age 12 when she and her grandfather started one in her backyard. Unfortunately, he helped create the space, but then left taking his knowledge with him. The garden was an epic failure, but planted to seed in Laura and she has been growing food in some capacity just about ever since.
Laura came to Greenville in 1997 for Furman, fell in love with the city and stayed. She now lives here with her husband and 14 year old son. She and her husband are constantly working on their garden and trying to add in edible plants wherever possible. It is Laura's goal to help teach the community to grow food in whatever capacity best suits them and their needs.
She also teaches classes at her house (on sourdough baking, gardening, and preserving and cooking your harvest), and she hosts garden tours and Q&A sessions. I think it is crucial that people learn the full circle and are able to utilize their harvest. (From Laura:“So many people talk about gardening, but I am trying to make sure people are confident to USE what they grow!” )