A lack of backyard space has not hindered a pair of avid Modesto gardeners from planting a cornucopia of herbs, vegetables, fruits and more to harvest with each changing season.
Laurie and Dave Willoughby simply moved what’s normally backyard fodder to the front of their home, creating not just a bounty of fresh foods but also a beautiful front-yard landscape.
Their labors have earned the couple the Modesto Garden Club’s December Garden of the Month honors for their yard at 3404 Norton Ave.
Because a pool in the back of their home left little room for a garden, the couple shifted their focus to the front, working to make it not just a welcoming landscape, but a highly functional one, as well. Nine raised planter beds pepper the front yard, made of stone with smooth paver tops. The raised planters are ideal for weeding and planting – or just for sitting and enjoying the garden.
Varying heights enhance the visual appeal, with four of the beds on the outside edges taller than the five in the middle. Each planter bed has its own drip system and microclimate, with compatible plants that change to meet the seasons.
Over the course of the year, at least 75 different herbs and vegetables will be planted, harvested and replanted as the seasons change, the Willoughbys told the garden club. Pictured here is the yard in fall as they prepared to switch out the planters with winter plantings of chard, kale, violas, pansies and lettuces.
Almost everything they plant is edible, including some of the flowers, such as nasturtium, marigolds and violas. Still, some nonedible flowers and shrubs are added simply for their color, Laurie Willoughby told the garden club.
Small trees also are in the beds, including both spring and winter fig, lemon, lime, persimmon and more. One of the planters features lemongrass, which the couple uses in Thai cooking. Laurie Willoughby also puts together her own herbes de Provence from their savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram and fennel plants.
Because she also loves Mexican cooking, they grow specifically for that, such as epazote, Seville orange and cilantro.
Over the summer and early fall, the garden had tomatoes, tomatillos, lettuces, late chard, chives, parsley, pumpkins, sage, ginger, horseradish, rhubarb, patty pan and crookneck squash, as well as several varieties of basil, lemon balm and lemon verbena.
Another small section of the yard has been dedicated to plants that attract and nourish butterflies and hummingbirds. Several blueberry bushes provide berries for the couple while also feeding a neighborhood bird flock.
Decomposed granite makes up some of the pathways between the planter beds. A flagpole with an American and a Marine flag create a focal point, raised to honor members of both Laurie and Dave’s families who have had long histories in the Marines.
A small front patio provides a place to sit, visit and enjoy the garden, with some privacy added from two avocado trees – one spring, one winter variety – which are in the process of becoming an espalier privacy fence.
The Willoughbys’ garden has become a neighborhood conversation piece, with neighbors dropping by to ask planting advice or simply to comment on its beauty. Over fall, pumpkins growing between the beds regularly attracted one neighbor child who visited often to check on the growth of a plump specimen, promised to him when it reached its prime picking point.