Growing your veggies back to front

Use front gardens for food production

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Back to front gardening, aka edible front yards,seems to have just arrived in Britain after it has been going in the USA for some years by now already.

In Britain it is called “Back to Front” and touted as an inspirational project that encourages the use of front gardens for food production. While it is true that it this is a very novel idea here and also inspirational it is not new; far from it. Whole neighborhoods in the States have been in the process of turning over their front gardens, or front yards, as they call them, to food production, aided and abetted very much by the Great Recession.

Having said that however, it is good to see this trend now catching on in Britain and about time too.

The biggest problem is that British councils, and UK culture per se, do not take kindly to the transformation of front gardens to allotments, but why not. What is wrong with growing spinach, cucumbers, pumpkins, peas, runner beans, potatoes, in the front garden. Some of those do also make for attractive flowers.

The way things are going – I said going not growing – we need to get back down to growing our own food and for to that end we must employ all available space. Food security is no longer guaranteed for Britain. In fact we have not been self-sufficient in basic foods for years and years and have been rather relying of imports.

The eggheads still say that we don't have to be self-sufficient as we have the money, as a country, to import all our foods. Oh, we do, do we? But what happens when we can't get the food from abroad for whatever reason, and one of them being the possible lack of fuel for transportation? What then?

Bangledeshi households in Leeds and Bradford often grow spinach, beans, pumpkins or coriander in the front gardens of of their back to back terrace houses, with the front yard being the only land available for them at home. Productive those gardens are indeed they certainly lacked ‘the looks’ and UK culture, as said, does not take kindly to the transformation of front gardens to allotments. But, the thing is that good designs can incorporate productivity, good looks and practical uses.

It is possible, and also often very advantageous, to combine vegetable growing with flowering plants, as means of biological pest control. Companion planting this is called and can be done with different vegetables that like growing together and help each other and also with, as said, bedding plant. Marigolds, for instance, can deflect slugs and snails from other plants.

A family that grows their own food can save a bit of cash and the children can discover where food comes from, learn about composting and wildlife and share in gardening activities.

Growing our own food for reasons of food security – personal as well as national – will become more and more important over the next years and every piece of available space at our homes – and elsewhere – will need to be utilized in that way. Thus, front gardens cannot and should not be exempt.

Your front garden vegetable plot would encourage passing neighbours who might stop to admire the garden, to say 'Hello', to begin to grow their own too and this way an entire neighborhood could become a real community though working together, swapping seeds and exchanging surplus food.

Those gardens are good for butterflies, birds, etc. and help soak up water and when it rains, stopping the street from flooding.

For more information on the British project visit:

© 2011