Grow Your Own

Who needs a farm to become a farmer.

Who needs a farm to become a farmer?

By Jennifer Shapira


Jennifer Horn's design of homes in Clifton and Potomac /Courtesy of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture

Washington, D.C.-based landscape architect Jennifer G. Horn says one of the most significant changes she has seen in how people react to their outdoor spaces, is a real interest in grow-your-own vegetable gardening. For a recent large-scale design in McLean, Horn folded in a cheerful mix of pick-your-own blossoms and edibles, creating a patch in the landscape that serves just that purpose: the backyard-to-table gardening where the fruits of your labors end up in that night’s salad, the blossoms tidily arranged in a vase.

The landscape can include “a vegetable garden, as well as a cut-flower and herb garden. And they can be beautiful,” Horn says. “If you really want to spend some money, you can do a raised bed with masonry walls, and pea gravel path” that meanders through a garden, says Horn.

I wouldn’t suggest [a kitchen garden] for a client who wasn’t serious about it…”

A novice green thumb might start out with a couple of small-scale pots or containers for growing summer’s bounty, to evaluate your home’s sun and shade, as well as your own levels of skill and dedication. Experts caution that there is a fair amount of work involved, and that while a kitchen garden may sound romantic, the commitment is clearly not for everyone.

“We’ll certainly ask if a client wants an edible garden,” she says. “Most of the time the client wants to do it. I wouldn’t suggest it for a client who wasn’t serious about it, because it’s a lot of work. And if you have deer, you have to think about how you’re going to keep the deer away from it. That’s another potential limitation for a vegetable garden.”

Keeping deer from munching on local landscapes is a challenge in this area, says Harley, adding there’s not much they don’t eat. His best suggestion is to put in plants that they absolutely do not like, such as boxwoods.

“They don’t care for things with fragrances, like lavender, rosemary—all the herbs. They tend to not like those because their sense of smell is much stronger and it’s just too much for them,” he says. “The ones that they do like in particular are: hostas and daylilies. Those two they’ll seek out.”

But Harley cautions that there’s no hard-and-fast solution because their diets have changed; if they’re hungry, they’ll eat just about anything. “You just put in the ones you know they don’t eat now,” he says, “and cross your fingers.”


(may 2013)