October 18, 2012
Rebekah Shardy’s front yard changes dramatically with the seasons.
In the spring it was full of sprouts and buds and brimming with new growth.
The summer brought an explosion of green leafy plants, towering sunflowers of yellow, orange and red and huge flowers amid the zucchini and squash. Beautiful yellow swallowtail butterflies and assorted birds and critters added accent to the yard.
Now, as fall gives way to winter cold, her Madison Street yard north of the Patty Jewett Golf Course is winding down, too. It’s a mix of dying vines and barren stalks and dirt. It’s not as pretty, but it’s interesting to see the transformation into a pumpkin patch with a unique assortment of traditional decorative orange pumpkins and less-colorful pumpkins grown for food.
I think Rebekah has the most interesting front yard in the neighborhood. (I’d love to here your nominations for the most interesting front yards in the region!)
And it certainly beats the sun-scorched ugly grass Rebekah tried to keep alive year after year in the south-facing lawn.
“I was struggling with watering my front yard,” she said. “Every year it has gotten drier and hotter. And every summer it burns up.”
So last winter she explored xeriscape alternatives and even got estimates of $2,300 and more to transform her small lot into a grass-free assortment of low-water shrubs, drought-tolerant plants, mulch and rock.
Then she remembered what she had seen from the window of train as she toured Germany.
“A lot of people have gardens in the front yards,” she said. “I thought they were so charming.”
She was inspired and approached her landlord about the idea.
She got the green light to indulge her green thumb.
Near the street, Rebekah did put in some rocks, mulch and shrubbery. But the bulk of the yard became a garden.
For a fraction of the landscapers’ estimates, Rebekah hired help to strip off the topsoil. Then she installed landscape netting and mulch, paid about $25 for seed and got busy planting.
“Everything I planted was very successful and big,” she said. “It was a great growing year.”
She found her vegetables needed far less water than grass.
And her neighbors were happy to share the bounty of her organic garden — she used no fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides.
“I had people driving by and stopping to talk,” Rebekah said. “I struck up a lot of friendships.”
I wondered if any neighbors complained about the non-traditional front yard. In many Pikes Peak-area neighborhoods, folks can’t even have potted flowers on their porches without violating covenants governing life in the community. The homeowners association would have a fit at a yard full of veggies.
“Luckily, I live with pretty cool people,” she said.
In fact, another nearby neighbor planted the parkway in front of their house with vegetables.
Rebekah plans to keep her garden through the Halloween season before composting the remnants and getting ready for winter.
“It was really pretty,” she said. “Only at the end is it getting gnarly. But for months it was so bushy and green. Very floral.”
She’s already making plans for next summer. Her list includes more sunflowers and maybe some corn stalks.
Rebekah hopes others will follow her lead, again referring to Europe and the origin of grass lawns.
“Lawns were a statement of aristocracy and of supremacy,” she said. “They didn’t need to grow food. They had servants to bring them food.
“I think that attitude is archaic today. Anything we can do to be more sustainable is really smart.”
I completely agree. Maybe if more people planted and shared food, they’d get along better and we wouldn’t need covenants and homeowners associations. Imagine that!