Book Review: The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler

Posted on May 5, 2011 | 10 comments

The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler

Our first garden book giveaway starts today and it is The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler.  (How to win this book is at the end of this post.)

For those who have been snoozing since 2007: Edible is In. Whether it’s food prices, the appalling state of commercial food systems, or some deep instinctive turn toward self-sufficiency skills that we may need soon given the state of the world and the climate, lots of folks are starting to grow their own food. More urban dwellers in particular are venturing into growing edibles and there’s a bunch of new books on the particular challenges of growing food in the city, often in a very small space.

Usually, the next challenge is sunlight. Now why is it that more front yards are in full sun than backyards? Go figure. Since I compulsively assess the garden potential of any neighborhood I happen to be driving through, I can tell you it’s true. Home buyers take note: If you want to garden in your back yard, you are looking for a house with a front door facing North…and no neighbors who love shade trees.  For everyone else, Ivette Soler is going to show you what your front yard could be!

Front yard gardens do face additional challenges beyond the usual soil, critter and plant-based varieties. These may include neighbors, neighborhood associations, and the opinions of your family on having your dinner out there for everyone to see. The usual delight of harvesting your produce may also produce a big blank spot in your yard. What about passing children, dogs, or someone with boundary issues who feels free to harvest when you aren’t home? All this and more is covered quite handily in The Edible Front Yard, published by Timber Press.

Now let me say that many garden books by California authors are not that useful to those of us everywhere else. The plants and garden techniques that work great in the climate-of-paradise-to-most-fruits-and-vegetables are often a no-go if you deal with humidity, abundant/erratic rainfall, particular plant diseases & pests, high/low temp extremes, etc that pretty much the rest of the country faces.  I’m delighted to report that I found many ideas and tips in Soler’s book that are transferrable to most every gardening situation, even my own large, backyard and countryside spread in the Ozark hills.  Actually, the “removing concrete” how-to box rang some bells regarding bed prep on this rocky ground of mine!

I immediately loved the luscious photography and book design. The colors and textures make the book seem nearly edible. Luckily, the content is great too. I was pleased with how many she lists that will also grow in most regions. Soler brought my attention to several plants that I’ve neglected to explore, like passionflower and mints. Passionflowers grow wild in portions of the Ozarks, is beautiful, edible and beneficial to butterflies and I haven’t planted one yet!  This is soon to be remedied. I already fixed the mint shortage at the Fayetteville Farmers Market last weekend…

Soler  is generous with suggested plants and their profiles. I particularly like the ‘how to use’ sections on herbs. Some plants I have for wildlife-gardening reasons but hadn’t really thought of as edible to me—like juniper—were pleasant surprises.  There are also many how-to boxes, handy techniques for hardscaping & hellstrips, advice on dealing with neighbors and neighborhood associations (Really, just show them the pics in this book…), transforming a yard to garden, and maintaining your now productive and edible plot. I think new gardeners will find good advice and more advanced gardeners will find some very clever tips and ideas.

Finally, like Rosalind Creasy and several other edible pioneers, Soler goes a step further in breaking down the myth that edible gardens and beautiful gardens can’t be one and the same.  The photographs are the proof.  Readers of this blog will know I believe if you combine edibles with beauty, add some permaculture ideas, then cross it with generous wildlife & pollinator pantings then you have created one truly LARRAPIN Garden! Soler’s book is going to help more front yards get bountiful. And I like that a lot.

So, wanna win this gorgeous book? First, check out some of the wonderful titles at Timber Press. Then  tell me why you would like to win “The Edible Front Yard” in a comment below or on the Larrapin Garden Facebook Page. (Ok, ok, you can do it via twitter too. Just mention @LarrapinGarden in your tweet so I can find your entry. Follows are great, ‘natch, but not required.)  You can enter once by each method if you want to triple your chances to win this book! I’ll compile the entries then do the and announce the winner in the blog post next Wed, 5/11/11. Winner will have a week to claim the book or I’ll pick another lucky gardener.

P.S. About Larrapin Garden book reviews & giveaways:  I love to read garden books—particularly on edible landscapes, local food, cooking from the garden, permaculture, homesteading, chickens & backyard barnyards and other organic topics. I welcome titles to review. If I love it, I’ll write about it here on the garden blog. Disclaimer for readers: I receive no compensation for any endorsement I give in the posts on this blog, just so ya know if you read it here then I think it’s fab.

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  1. I am hooked…what a concept both for food for our neighborhoods and a political statement as well! A public park exists across the street from me, and I would love to spread such a visual message to the public who pass by my yard by such new thoughts as rainbow swiss chard and dill planted amongst amongst my zinnias!
    Thank you for such a chance to do so by offering this book gift!

  2. I would love to win a copy of “The Edible Front Yard” because I’m planning on having more of one this year. I’ve already put parsley in my front flower bed so that I can watch the “parsley worms” come and turn into black swallowtail butterflies. I plant nasturtiums because I like the flowers, but even more, I like the seeds (like capers, only free). I’m about to plant my okra, and I have a very bare spot about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide on the southern side of my house (in full sun) so… I think okra would look great growing there! It’ll fill a very annoyingly empty spot, and garden gods willing, give me enough okra to share, freeze, and preserve by canning! I need more inspiration, though, and this book looks very, very good. Please enter me in the contest!

  3. I have been dying to read this book but have yet to purchase it. Would love to win a copy. I want to have the second house on the block with something other than grass & shrubs – especially edibles!

  4. I do love Timber Press books. I’d love the Edible Front Yard because I need inspiration for putting in more than a lonely little row of blueberries and a dogwood in my front yard! Would like to make a lovely and edible border. And get rid of more grass, who wants to mow when you can graze instead? 😉

  5. I would be thrilled to have this book because my husband and I are making an edible front yard! Aaaaaand we want to make sure that it’s a success. We can tell you from our first-hand experience that it can be a scary step to take in a suburban neighborhood! We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we have a lot more to do, and of course we’ve made some mistakes along the way. How I would love to have some guidance to see us through!!

  6. This book looks wonderful! My sweetie and I have lived on our property for 4 years now. We plant more edibles every year and have a goal of living solely off this land. We still have way too much yard to mow and feel our next step needs to be some sort of edible ground cover or herb. Thank you so much for your blog and for sharing your natural lifestyle with the community.

  7. This book looks absolutely divine! Thank you for your review on it. I want to check it out due to the overwhelming, selfish demand that a front yard requires! If the front yard was planted with edibles, it would atleast also give back! Besides, I am running out of room in the backyard 🙂

    • Great to hear from you Sara! Here’s to front yards that give back, here here! 🙂

  8. I’d love to win a copy of “The Edible Front Yard.” We bought a house with established foundation shrubs, some pine trees and azaleas in lawn islands, and too much lawn! “The Edible Front Yard” woulkd give me more motivation and techniques for changing its old-fashioned subdivision yard into an attractive, edible garden.

    • Hi Happy! Thanks for stopping by. I like to imagine subdivisions where everyone’s front yards are full of veggies and fruit trees.