Jennica Taylor is helping turn some virtually unused Red Deer front yards into plentiful food forests.
Instead of caring for grass that has to be mowed, weeded and watered, Taylor is introducing homeowners to a “beautiful jungle” of perennials, fruit trees and vegetable beds in front of their homes.
By “farming” their little-used front yards, residents are reducing their food bills, enriching the soil and encouraging biodiversity, by attracting a greater variety of butterflies and birds, said Taylor.
“I love growing my own food, knowing where it comes from and how it’s grown,” added the entrepreneur, who launched her Daisy and Dill urban farming business this spring.
The former nurse now has seven gardens to care for — including the front yards of five city homes that are now sprouting broccoli, lettuce, asters, bee balm and squash.
So far, all of her business has been by word-of- mouth, said Taylor, who must first assess the yards of interested homeowners to see whether they get enough sun, or if they are too sloped to retain water.
If a yard checks out, she spreads cardboard over the grass and then distributes a layer of soil on top. The grass dies when deprived of sunlight and the cardboard eventually decomposes while flower and vegetable gardens grow on top. This is known as lasagna gardening.
Taylor said homeowners can decide if they want her to do all of their planting, yard care, and veggie picking (in that case she will deliver them one produce basket a week through the summer as “rent” for their land). Or they might want to help with regular maintenance, which would make a difference to her initial fee.
As part of her business, which can be found on Facebook, Taylor plans to sell surplus produce that’s grown in these gardens to customers throughout the city.
In the summer, buyers will be able to order and pick up weekly produce-boxes through her daisyanddillreddeer.ca website that’s expected to be up by the end of June.
One of the front yards converted into a garden within city limits was her own.
“It’s neat to see how many new species of bugs and birds this attracts,” said Taylor, who spotted yellow warblers in her yard for the first time this spring, as well as the hummingbirds and butterflies that were attracted to the bee balm.
”It’s amazing how easy it is to create a habitat. It’s a case of if you plant it, they will come.”
Not all wildlife is welcome to graze, however. Taylor has interspersed some garden rows with fragrant dill and marigolds, which reduces rabbit encroachment. She can also planted a “squash wall” around the garden’s perimeter, with climbing butternut squash, or zucchini or pumpkin plant tendrils helping keep out deer.
Monica Robinson, who lives on Springbett Drive, asked Taylor to turn her front lawn into a garden this spring. “I mowed my lawn and could see the kind of pollution I was creating. And it was a waste of space. We didn’t use that front yard for any purpose,” she reflected.
Since Robinson had been involved in community-supported agriculture when she lived in B.C. she loved what her friend was trying to achieve — to make Red Deerians more aware of the growing potential in their own yards.
The aesthetic mixture of flowers and veggies that’s been springing up has left Robinson feeling “tickled pink” by the result. “I love my garden, it’s beautiful.”
Besides feeling like a more environmental citizen, she said she’s never met as many neighbours as this spring when people have stopped to chat about the new garden in her front yard.
“I would stay it’s a real community-builder,” as well as helping reduce food costs during this inflationary time, added Robinson.