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‘I can walk out and see what’s for dinner’

Grants Pass woman’s front yard serves as attractive food garden
Kimberly Kimball works in her front yard food garden during the spring at her Grants Pass house. [Vickie Aldous/Mail Tribune]

When Kimberly Kimball moved into her new house, she quickly went to work turning her front lawn into a food garden.

Her house in Grants Pass has a tiny backyard, plus the front yard is the area that receives the full light of the sun. Kimball had experience creating a front yard food garden at her previous home.

“I had done it before so I knew how to make it look not ugly. You don’t want to upset the neighbors,” she said.

To start, Kimball put thick cardboard down on patches of her front lawn, then built raised planting beds on top of the cardboard. She filled the planting beds with organic raised bed potting mix.

Fewer weeds grow in raised planting beds, and when they do, they’re easier to spot and pull out.

To keep the view attractive for neighbors, Kimball advises putting plants next to the sidewalk that will stay green all year. She has hardy kale plants that have flowered with yellow blooms.

“I try to have something that will still be there in the winter so it’s not barren,” she said. One planter bed near her front door is filled with a small bay leaf tree, thyme, parsley, scallions and chives. Chives help ward off pesky bugs.

“It’s easy to get to. I can walk out and see what’s for dinner,” Kimball said. She said mint tends to take over, so she grows the fresh-smelling herb in pots to keep it under control.

One side of her yard is separated from her neighbor’s yard by a peach tree, an apple tree and a plum tree trained to grow espalier-style on a trellis. The peach tree produced several peaches its first year, then a bumper crop of about 80 peaches last year despite its diminutive size.

“It’s amazing what you can get out of such a small space,” said Kimball, who turned some of the peaches into pies, froze others and served many to people she hosted at her house for get-togethers.

Strawberries, root vegetables, tomatoes, flowers for cutting and more round out the front yard garden.

Neighbors who walk by delight in seeing the garden as it grows and changes over the year. The plants attract bees and butterflies, adding to the color and liveliness of Kimball’s front yard.

Her shady side yard is devoted to lettuce greens, which would wilt if exposed to the full sun in summer.

Kimball gives her planter beds a slow, deep watering once a week, then ups the watering to twice a week when temperatures get above 90 degrees. She supplements the soil with egg shells, chemical-free fertilizer and, at the end of the season, chicken or cow manure.

Because she’s still carrying out big projects like building new planter beds, Kimball estimates she spends about four to eight hours working on her garden each week. But the time outside is a welcome hobby for Kimball, who works as an on-call hospice nurse for patients spread throughout Jackson and Josephine counties.

“Digging was always my stress relief. Being able to work in the dirt is absolutely critical to me,” she said.

Click here to read the 2022 edition of Our Valley.