Suburban Front Yard Landscaping Ideas
As edible landscapes go, the Schoenherr family’s new front yard in Woodbury is a work of art. The once flat, turf-covered ground is now a rich, rolling tapestry of raised beds filled with a farm-worthy array of vegetable plants.
The grass is gone — but there are fruit trees and berry bushes and a brick bread oven, flanked by a circle of log seats ready for hungry visitors.
“It’s way more beautiful than I had ever imagined, ” said Catherine Schoenherr on the day of the installation when an army of volunteers, led by California artist Fritz Haeg, converged on her lawn. Now the Schoenherrs’ yard is prototype garden No. 15, part of a worldwide project that Haeg calls “Edible Estates.”
To Haeg, the yard’s transformation represents much more than a garden; it’s a challenge to the status quo. By putting “visible food production” in residential communities, he’s trying to shift perceptions about what constitutes an attractive, acceptable front yard. A traditional suburban lawn — like the Schoenherrs used to have, and their neighbors still do — hogs resources yet contributes very little, Haeg said. An edible landscape not only produces food but promotes human interaction.
The Schoenherrs’ makeover was commissioned by the Walker Art Center, where Haeg is doing an artistic residency, and will be featured in an exhibition there later this summer. Haeg put out a casting call in the spring, seeking just the right lawn and owner, someone who was willing and able to maintain the garden, plus keep a journal.
From about 100 applicants, he chose the Schoenherrs because they had everything he was looking for: “a big, open, sunny spot, a neighborhood where no one else would likely do it and a family completely prepared for this scale of gardening. The family energy was already pent up, ” he said.
The Schoenherrs had dabbled at gardening in the past, but got serious about it last year, inspired by their son Aaron’s senior project at the University of Minnesota — a statistical analysis of plant germination and growth rates. Catherine and her husband, John, rented a 35-by-80-foot plot in Lakeland (their back yard is filled by a swimming pool), which they tended with Aaron, 24, and his sister, Andrea, 22.
“We had a ton of fun last year, spending time together, getting our hands dirty, ” said Catherine. When she read about Haeg’s project, she decided to offer up their front yard. Her family and many of her neighbors were soon on board.
“When I was younger, I liked playing sports in the front yard, but now it’s nice to see it transformed into something more useful than just a yard, ” said Aaron, who lives in St. Paul but is committed to helping tend his parents’ garden.
“Having vegetables close by will be awesome, ” said John. “Last year, our garden was 15 miles away, and we couldn’t see our neighbors.”
Andrea, who recently bought her first home in Woodbury, also plans to spend a lot of time in her parents’ garden. “I’m most excited about my family getting together, ” she said.
Shaking up the block
Haeg’s project is all about breaking neighborhood norms, but so far, the Schoenherrs’ neighbors seem wildly enthusiastic about the outlier in their midst.