Garden Photo of the Day

Karen’s No-lawn Front Yard in Irvine

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

Today’s photos are from Karen Taylor in Irvine, California. She says, “I have enjoyed looking at the gardens you display in the GPOD and I am envious of their large yards. Here in Orange County, California, we don’t have that luxury. We can literally “pass the Grey Poupon” from one house to another.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

“I live in a simple tract house in Irvine, and I decided to ditch the lawn over two years ago. I was inspired by Ivette Soler and her book The Edible Front Yard. That is what got me started on my journey. My neighbors thought I was crazy when I let the grass die in order to dig it up. It has been a work in progress, but so much fun (and therapy).

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

“Behind my little white picket fence is five raised beds that are planted with vegetables, flowers, and herbs. And yes, those are pumpkins still hanging in there from Halloween. I took these photos on March 12th, but will plant all my spring/summer crops this month when I know the weather will cooperate. This will be the first year for the front part of my yard, and I can’t wait to see it all in bloom.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

“Your viewers may look at the photos and ask “why this?” or “why that?” or “I would have done this”…and I would have to say that I have no training in gardening. I am not a master gardener or landscape architect, I am a total garden rookie, just experimenting as I go about and having fun as I do it. But I have to say that as I look at my neighbors’ front yards with their grass and simple landscape, I am so glad I did what I did. I have had people walk by and comment on how they like my yard and say, “What is going on here? What is that? I love that flower.” To me, that makes it all worth while. It’s as simple as that.

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

“The reason I planted all of this out front is that I don’t get any full sun in my back yard and the front does get full sun. April is here and in Zone 10 like I am, it’s time to get planting and that is exactly what I have planned for the days ahead. In the next weeks, the yard, especially the raised beds, will take on a new look with the new veggies and herbs I will plant. I love this time of year. Thank you for allowing me to share my little spot of happiness!”

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

Thank YOU, Karen! Your neighbors might have thought you were crazy at first, but I’ll bet they’ve changed their minds by now. What a great space!

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Karen Taylor

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View Comments


  1. user-1020932 04/08/2013

    great job! so much nicer than grass and a foundation planting. you are not a rookie you are a natural

  2. wGardens 04/08/2013

    Good for you! This posting just calls out for an up-date as you progress. Best wishes with your projects! Maybe you will start a trend....

  3. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/08/2013

    Doesn't look like a rookie garden to me!

  4. Ginnyde 04/08/2013

    Great job. It looks like you hired a professional. Can't wait to see the vegetables growing. Keep up the creative work and have FUN!!!!!

  5. tractor1 04/08/2013

    In my book any gardener who grows vegetables is not a rookie. It's refreshing to see a garden that's more about depth of soul than the superficial shallowness of raiding the big box plant nursery. Good job, Karen.

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/08/2013

    Your space might be small but it has a big personality full of charm and interest. If I were walking through your neighborhood, your yard/garden would make me want to stop and have a chat with its owner and say, "great job". What is the large multi-trunked tree that serves as such an effective anchor for your plantings. Since the photos seem to show it to have white bark, my guess would be a mature birch but I can't quite tell.

  7. siesperanza 04/08/2013

    You've got spirit and your garden shows it. Bet you enjoy eating those veggies.
    Just think, thanks to FG all of us garden lovers are connected.

  8. wittyone 04/08/2013

    Wow, this is adorable. Don't apologize for being a rookie gardner. I often think that rookies come up with the most interesting combinations and layouts simply because they aren't bound by all the rules and regulations that get written in stone by all the landscapers and master gardeners. It gives you a lot of freedom to just pick and choose and do it your own way. Not only that, a person gets a lot of satisfaction by figuring things out on their own and going with the flow.

  9. pattyspencer 04/08/2013

    Love your garden! I love the pumpkins - mine would have to have been trown away by January. I especially like your grasses in the front yard.

  10. GrnThum 04/08/2013

    You've done a wonderful job with such a great concept. When my sister in Talent, Oregon bought her house, she had a postage-stamp front garden with a clump of grass and a few overgrown bushes. Instead of spending money on a mower, blower, edger, etc., we decided to tear it out and plant a no-grass front garden. It took about two years of planting, but today it's a masterpiece of gentle pathways and low-water perennials with a few annuals thrown in for good color. She told me the local TV station was filming in her front garden the other day. More folks just need to 'brave-up' and do the same. These gardens have so much more interest than a little patch of water-needy grass!

  11. bee1nine 04/08/2013

    Pointing this out- I'm with you Karen, some of us(my self
    included) don't HAVE the luxury of large yards or property
    and so make-do with sun exposure, where it's best!
    Who says you can't have it 'all' in your front yard and be
    sociable too!! Uniquely different from your neighbors I'm
    just loving this!!!
    Yes, continue to enjoy those fresh, homegrown veggie's and
    creating your most functional gardens!
    By all means, it's the FUN and HAPPINESS that counts! :)

  12. sheila_schultz 04/08/2013

    Your gardens have so much personality... no need for grass in this yard! Enjoy each and every adventure in gardening!

  13. tractor1 04/08/2013

    meander1: At first I thought that was a birch tree too but then I noticed some sprouting with leaves on the trunk, I don't think those are birch leaves, then I thought cottonwood, could be but I'm not sure. Being in Southern California I'm thinking it could be a type of eucalyptus tree. It would be a big plus if folks would identify the less obvious plants in their photos; I don't think we need labels for tulips, daffodils, marigolds, etc. but it would be helpful to ID the more obscure plantings.

  14. sunterra7 04/08/2013

    Love your front yard garden Karen! When I walk my dog these are the types of front yards that make my walk interesting...wish more people did what you are doing. I also think you have a natural green thumb!

  15. Germi 04/08/2013

    Karen, you made me jump up and down with excitement! I'm Ivette Soler, who wrote "The Edible Front Yard", and YOU THRILL ME!!! What you've done is amazing, and you should be very very proud! You are who I created this book is for, someone who is eager and willing to play and experiment, no previous experience required. And the loveliness of the result is a testament to your talent and commitment. I'm sure your neighbors are now so happy (I remember the sidelong glances when I killed my grass! Hahaha - they weren't so pleased with me for a while!) that your front yard is a beautiful and productive space. You are an inspiration to me and to others - keep on doing exactly what you are doing, and thank you for the mention! I love your "little spot of happiness" - and I guarantee you that is makes everyone who walks by it happy as well!
    All the very best,
    Ivette Soler (aka Germi)

  16. user-7006902 04/08/2013

    My goal is to get rid of ALL my lawn. I think I'm about 2 years away now. I LOVE what you've done!

  17. tractor1 04/08/2013

    I think whether or not one has a lawn depends on several factors, mostly determined by climate and property size. If I lived in the arid southwest like say New Mexico the lawn question is moot. If one is on a typical city lot a lawn really serves no purpose other than to cause extra work caring for the lawn and the mower (it'd take longer to clean the mower than to mow), if all one can have is like 1,000 sq ft of lawn why bother, may as well put down some Astroturf or patio pavers. But in the case of larger properties it's not easy to landscape every sq ft with plantings so that they will stand out, too many over plant and in effect create what may as well be brush. I mow ten acres, I can replace my lawn with farm crops but mowing is a lot less work, and I think a large well tended lawn looks nicer than crops, mainly because for much of the year there'd be just dirt. I thought seriously about putting in a fruit orchard but I'm too old to wait for trees to mature, and I'm retired, I don't want to run a business. Mowing while in an air conditiond cab is relaxing. And a lot of folks pay a lot of money just to spend a few hours on a large well tended lawn, they're called golfers.

  18. cwheat000 04/08/2013

    It is so cool that the author of Karen's inspiration is a GPOD'er too. Karen, you have done pretty darn good for a rookie. I love that Mexican feather grass. I have one tuft that has survived here in CT. I think I need to try more.

  19. sheila_schultz 04/08/2013

    Karen, you are a smart woman... Ivette is the Diva when it comes to Edible Gardens! Keep having fun with your space... that's what gardening should be about.

  20. Happygardengirl 04/09/2013

    First I want to thank all of you that posted a comment about my garden! It literally brought me to "happy tears"! And, oh my gosh!! A big thank you to Ivette Soler for your comments! That was amazing and made it all worthwhile! For those that wondered...the tree is a melaleuca. Thanks again :-)

  21. mauritian_host 04/09/2013

    wonderful garden karen keep it up

  22. passwords 04/11/2013

    Karen, I wish I could do something more like that in my front yard. Unfortunately, my association feels that grass is what belongs in front of our homes. You are off to a wonderful start and I like what I see. I, too, am a rookie gardener and know that trial and error is how we learn. Great job.

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