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From Weeds to Edibles: A Front Yard Transformed



Steven Raymond and his twins, Russ and Nova, in their newly verdant yard.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

By Steven Raymond’s own account, the front yard of their Queen Anne home was initially “just a mess of weeds.” Raymond and his wife, Sasha Hall, wanted to turn it into a space they could enjoy with their 5-year-old twins, Russ and Nova. They also wanted to grow their dinner. 

The family started with container gardening in their backyard using 10-gallon buckets. But “we were more likely to neglect it when we weren’t [seeing] it,” Raymond says. By putting the garden in the front yard, the family was forced to look at it — and care for it. 

Their friend Scott Boetjer, a landscape architect and fellow dad of a kindergartener, designed the garden. “[Steven’s] idea was to maximize the productivity of the front yard while creating a space they could hang out in,” Boetjer says. He drew up a plan for an edible garden that was easy for kids to interact with. 

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

The family began with winter plantings and ate homegrown salads throughout the cold, wet season.

Work began last May and wrapped up in August. Boetjer designed raised beds that are low and narrow (18 inches high, 3½ feet wide) so that the twins are able to reach inside. He says he thought about LEGOs when designing the layout: Some are long, some are short and some wrap around each other. He included smaller 4-by-4 foot beds that belong to Russ and Nova. 

The ground is covered in smooth pea gravel so the kids are comfortable barefoot. A 6-foot-tall cedar fence offers privacy from the busy street. A computer-controlled hydroponic watering system allows the family to go on trips and not come home to parched plants.

Raymond took a winter gardening class at Seattle Tilth and put in a handful of plants suited to Seattle’s temperate cold months. They wanted to plant decoratively, but also edibly. Arugula, mizuna and salad greens did well and regenerated quickly. The family ate salads out of the garden through the winter and growing such a variety has prompted Russ and Nova to try new things (mizuna! Who’d have thought?). They also planted garlic, carrots, onions, fava beans, chard, Arctic cabbage, a dwarf fig tree, a dwarf olive tree and a guava bush. Nearly everything thrived without a lot of work. “That’s the amazing part,” Hall says. “We didn’t have to do much through the fall and winter except harvest. The arugula and the kale have been snowed on three times, and are still going.”

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

Landscape architect Scott Boetjer designed the beds with kids in mind.

The twins grew up picking blueberries in their neighbor’s yard across the street, and herbs from the house next door. Now they have their own blueberries and herbs. “My whole goal is not to have to buy any herbs, ever,” says Hall. Their elderly neighbor, known as the tomato king, gave them elephant garlic and tomato plants. The family uses their coffee grounds to fertilize the blueberries, and plans to use chicken waste from another neighbor to improve the compost.

“You’re not isolated,” Raymond says. “What you’re planting can create a connection to others.” 

Now that the basic footprint is in, they plan to start round two this spring. Some potential projects include installing a water collection system, weaving grapevines through the fence and adding hanging planters.

“It’s really a lab for us, and the kids too,” Raymond says. “I like that they are understanding food doesn’t just come from a store.”

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