Lisa's Victory Garden

by Lisa Kiefert-Inzerillo
(Staten Island, NY)

Phlox, lettuce, sedum and daylillies (shoots and buds are edible) circle our magnolia tree.

Phlox, lettuce, sedum and daylillies (shoots and buds are edible) circle our magnolia tree.

Phlox, lettuce, sedum and daylillies (shoots and buds are edible) circle our magnolia tree.
Fennel, cabbage, chard, broccoli, lettuce, napa cabbage, grapes, herbs and tomatoes.
Our chive path, with grapes, rosemary and lavender in the background. The chive leaves disguise daffodils as they die back.
Sidewalk view. Golden oregano and thyme make attractive low growing shrubs.

Our home is on a 40' x 100' lot a stone's throw from NYC. For years, we had the typical postage-sized squares of lawn and a few bushes. An avid gardener, I'm inspired by WWII Victory gardens, potagers (French kitchen gardens), and edible front yard gardens in CA. A visit on my 30th birthday to a recreated medieval monk's garden had a profound effect on me. Every plant was either useful or medicinal, and the garden as a whole was breathtaking. The fantasy to create a similar garden simmered on the back-burner of my mind for many years.


In 2008, my husband decided to remove our old, cracked concrete and install pavers. I knew that this was my opportunity to create my dream garden. My backyard is shady, so I couldn't grow the herbs, tomatoes and sun-loving vegetables that I wanted. The front of my house gets blazing sun all day long. My husband didn't hesitate - he was thrilled about no longer having to cut the grass! Our contractors excavated the entire front of our property including cement, roots and grass. We installed the pavers in a gently curving path, rather than the straight line of concrete that previously led from the sidewalk to the door. We added new topsoil and amended our heavy, rocky clay soil with our own compost, peat moss and manure. Our plant budget was tight. I ordered roses, lavender and boxwood plants from Ebay. The 15 boxwoods were sticks when they arrived, but filled out to become a lush, thriving divider in less than a year. Friends gave me cuttings - thyme, lamb's ears, sage - which were divided as they grew, and planted in patterns. Everything else was started from seed. Lettuce, spinach, carrots and basil made for quick-growing and decorative early groundcovers. We're proud to say that we've replaced one species (grass) with over a hundred varieties of plants (I keep a list!) Some plants are permanent residents, but most are rotated to prevent soil diseases and maximize our harvest. I try not to plant the same type of plant (cabbage, tomatoes) in the same spot every season. Thus, the garden is always evolving and always a work in progress. Edible flowers like pansies, borage, sunflowers and marigolds fill in gaps and add color. Many of these return from seed every year. We're pleased to host this biodiversity in our area, and to provide a place for various insects and birds to stop and enjoy.

On any given night from March until December, you'll see me out with my colander gathering the ingredients for dinner. What's available in the garden dictates what we eat. Eggplants, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers are a few of our favorites. I add them to soups, pasta dishes and stir-fries. We use the long, fragrant stems of our rosemary bushes as skewers for shish kebabs. We have a fresh salad every evening while it's in season. My greatest luxury is to wander out on Thanksgiving morning and gather the herbs for our family meal. Sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano are still abundant and make a wonderful stuffing. It is a true gift of wealth and abundance, and for this I'm very grateful.

At first, our neighbors didn't 'get' the garden, since it's the only one like it in our area (as far as I know). A few told me that it was 'weird', and one said that she saw me 'out playing in the weeds' again. Now that it has matured, our neighbors are overwhelmingly positive! People leave secret gifts of seed-packs and baby plants on our steps. The most enthusiastic response was the donation of a magnolia tree from a very handsome and distinguished elderly man who lives around the corner. Always impeccably dressed in a suit, he stops by to chat every evening when he walks his dog. He was a friend of Jack LaLanne, and invites us to 'feel his muscles'. We recently removed an old, dying maple. He bought an extra tree, realized that he didn't have enough room for it, and wanted to gift it to us. I warned him not to carry that big tree over by himself! I told him to let my husband come and get it. Sure enough, the tree was in our driveway in the morning.

My husband is thrilled about the garden and the money it saves. He never hesitates to comment on how colorful it looks when we pull up to the house. We're glad that our 10 year-old daughter has had the experience of growing and harvesting her own food. She knows the names of all of the plants, and educates her friends too! She always chooses fruits and vegetables over junk foods, and wants to become a chef when she grows up.

The latest edition to our yard is an espalier - a two-level living fence. It supports grape vines and apple trees, which are trained to grow sideways along a wire. It has almost covered the wires completely in its second year, and we have a large harvest of grapes ripening. Wine making may be our next venture!


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Jun 21, 2014
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Very nice!
by: Anonymous

Keep up the good work!

Jan 26, 2014
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Design plans
by: Ruth Donoghue

Hi Lisa
I too wish to undertake an edible garden, starting with the front garden first. I have no idea where to begin. The more I read, the more confused I become. Can you share with me the design plans you used- where to plant what etc.


Aug 09, 2013
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Welcoming
by: Barb

Welcoming, full of wonder.

Aug 08, 2013
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Garden Goddess Lisa Lisa
by: Gina Battaglia

What a fabulous idea! I'm not surprised, Lisa Lisa, that you thought of this and brought it to fruition. Haven't seen it in person but can't wait to! And can't wait to taste some of it! Way to go and congrats again!!

Aug 08, 2013
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Stunning!
by: Suzanne Swierkowski

I wouldn't mind sitting on that bench. The colors are absolutely beautiful. I feel as though I'm about to step into a Thomas Kinkade painting. :)

Aug 07, 2013
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Love it!
by: Tara Erickson

I'm amazed!

Aug 06, 2013
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A beauty with an eye for beauty!!
by: Patti Pang

Lisa's garden is like Lisa! Beautiful, spectacular and vibrant. Lisa possesses nurturing and loving qualities in everything she touches. Her family, friends and her beautiful garden. She takes pride in everything she believes in and the proof is in her beautiful garden!

Aug 03, 2013
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Love it
by: Joyce

Simply gorgeous

Aug 02, 2013
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Outstanding Garden
by: Louie

Not only is this garden a feast to the eyes it is also candy to the nose. The scents of basil, thyme, rosemary,and a number of other herbs is absolutely wonderful.

Aug 02, 2013
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Artistically arranged
by: Ana Ravelo

As lovely as a painting, love your use of color in the arrangements.

Aug 02, 2013
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Most beautiful I've seen
by: Dee

Drove by and had to stop, the garden was so beautiful. I make an attempt to drive down at least once a week. Hoping to try this next year in my front garden.

Jul 31, 2013
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A True Victory Garden!
by: Erica Rualo

Lisa, your garden is amazing, even in pictures. I will strive to swing by soon and see it with my own eyes! Your garden is a victory in so many ways: for your bellies, your local relationships and most of all, your soul. So wonderful!

Jul 31, 2013
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Beautiful and inspiring!
by: Theresa Gredig

Nothing more to add than truly beautiful and inspiring.

Jul 30, 2013
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Inspirational!
by: theresa

I think this is amazing. Your garden has helped me realize that a raised flower bed in my yard has way more potential and I may have to rethink removing it entirely and trying to create your garden. I love it! Awesome work!

Jul 29, 2013
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Grateful neighbor
by: G massa

I am one of those lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of Lisa and Sophia's labor... In juice form.

Great neighbors, wonderful garden.

Jul 29, 2013
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Beautiful Garden!!
by: Diceman

Great front yard garden. Nice colors!

Jul 29, 2013
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Garden Goddess Lisa
by: dana pele

One of my favorite parts of living on the north shore was being walking distance to Lisa's garden. Thank goodness she gave me permission to harvest because I was always munching on something delicious. In the full moon her garden also has fairies. Lisa is my inspiration!

Jul 29, 2013
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AWESOME!
by: Al & Yolanda

Absolutely awesome. I can totally appreciate the work and talent it took to plant and maintain your garden because I too have a 40x100 lot. The fact that it is edible makes it all the more fantastic

Jul 29, 2013
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Amazed
by: Frank Inzerillo

It's awesome to see neighbors & strangers either walking or driving by slow down & stop to admire how truly awesome she turned a useless patch of grass into an incredible edible work of art, Love ya babe & love what you've created!

Jul 29, 2013
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Gorgeous and delicious!
by: Mary Beth Augustine

Totally jealous of Lisa's Victory Garden! I wish I lived next door. I'd raid the garden ay night. Actually, that's not very good environmental-edible-victory karma- rather, I'd barter for some luscious harvest.

Jul 29, 2013
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The Best!
by: Enter Your Name

So beautiful... and delicious! Proud to say that I have seen this garden grow from the very beginning stages. You've done an impressive job my friend!

Jul 29, 2013
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Treasure Chest of a Front Garden
by: Enter Your Name

I want to look; I want to eat; I want to copy this garden. And I want to look again! How clever and how beautiful and how practical. To grow your own food so beautifully where others can see it and be inspired is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Jul 29, 2013
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show stopper
by: martha Frankel

the first time I stumbled upon this garden i was struck speechless. such beauty. I make it a point to walk past there every chance I get

Jul 29, 2013
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Amazing
by: Dorothy Voigt

A beautiful display of colors!

Jul 29, 2013
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Awesome!
by: Don

This is probably the most beautiful garden I've ever seen. It's almost a shame to eat it. LOL

Jul 29, 2013
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Loving Lisa's Victory Garden!
by: Paula Nadeau

Always great to see what's growing in your garden. It looks beautiful, just like you!!! The Techo-Bloc pavers are the icing on the cake!!

Jul 29, 2013
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Awesome!
by: DB

I drive by Lisa's house on a regular basis and always admire her beautiful front yard. It really is the most beautiful yard in the neighborhood.

Jul 29, 2013
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Enjoyed it
by: Jamie

This garden is another fine example of what one can accomplish with a packet of seeds and some imagination. The colors are stunningly gorgeous in contrast to each other and the plants are vibrant with health. I really enjoyed taking a tour of this garden. :)


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