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Every plant has its place
No matter the size of your yard, it is possible to turn it into a little vegetable garden
Some of the gardens are lined with bricks and run to the edge of the property. - photo by Tom Reed

From purple runner beans to bright flowers and an array of herbs, Steve Thomas and wife Jinx Scogin have created an old-fashioned cottage garden in their front yard.

According to Thomas, a cottage garden in England during the 1800s included function and ornamentation.

"From the founding of this country, people had gardens in their front yard, and in the backyard you had the kitchen garden," he said. "Then when they started building suburbia after World War II for all of the returning soldiers, basically that was when the green grass lawn took over."

The goal of the cottage garden for Thomas and Scogin is to not only produce vegetables and fruit, but to also inspire members of the community to grow their own gardens.

"You have three different elements and they are your vegetables, your herbs and then the flowers," said Thomas, a Gainesville resident. "Some flowers are purely decorative and some, like the butterfly bush, bring in butterflies and bees, which pollinate the vegetables.

"So everything really has a purpose and most of the purposes are either to grow something to eat or to bring in insects."

And the duo loves the concept because a front yard garden does away with the manicured lawn.

"A lawn takes massive amounts of water and fertilizer ... maintenance and time, and what you get out of it is a lawn," Thomas said. "As things change and things turn around again, the current trend is getting back to people growing their own food. But mostly what they are doing is putting in a raised bed in the back or growing vegetables in containers."

Thomas and Scogin planted everything from lavender and tarragon to tomatoes and three kinds of beans in the first year of their front yard garden. All the couple have to say now is that it was a success.

"The beans have been great, and we've got cow peas, too," Scogin said. "I think everything so far has done real well; a lot of things are on their way out this time of year, but we did try to ... do from seed."

The couple said if anyone wanted to create the cottage garden at their own home, it's not too late.

"There's a lot of people because of the economic situation in the past year ... getting into it, mostly young people," Thomas said. "It's not quite time for lettuce yet but there are still some things that can be planted."

For example, Thomas said he just planted some tomatoes last weekend.

And the feeling that people get from preparing their own beans or cutting into that ripe cantaloupe is one Thomas and Scogin said can't be replaced.

"It is so much fun, even if you are just using the herbs," Thomas said. "If I'm making a chicken dish and I walk out here and just get some rosemary or some basil and walk into the kitchen."