By Catherine Somerville of Sustainable Wallingford

Front gardens can be spectacular, providing interest for you and passersby.

Or, they could be something more.

In Mat Coward's book, ‘Eat Your Front Garden: The Invisible Allotment’, he gives the following tips for edible plants for your front garden that won't look out of place but will provide you with delicious food.

Here are his suggestions of decorative and tasty plants:

1. Chinese yam: with large, nutritious tubers, it also produces scented flowers which give it the alternative common name of cinnamon vine.

2. Sunflower: the buds can be steamed and served with butter, like artichokes.

3. Bamboo: get a variety bred specially for production of bamboo shoots, as seen in Chinese takeaways, which are also amongst the most ornamental bamboos.

4. Caucasian spinach: used as an ornamental climber in the 19th century, now becoming better known for its edible greens and spring shoots.

5. Fuchsia: the epitome of front garden respectability but with juicy, sweet fruits and edible flowers.

Having made the decision to create your ‘invisible allotment’ by choosing appropriate plants, how do you improve on it? Here’s how.

1. Window boxes filled with strawberries can look pretty and a provide summer fruit on the cheap. Ask friends, neighbours and community gardens if they have plants to spare.

2. Create a kitchen garden by growing fruit and veg together in raised or stacked beds. Edible flowers like Calendula and Nasturtiums look pretty and are a natural pest deterrent.

3. Make a herb spiral - it's an efficient way to grow lots of herbs in a small space and it looks good too.

4. If you've got the space, fruit trees like plums are a great option. They combine good looks and lovely blooms with practicality.

5. Plant bee friendly flowers like lavender and buddleia to attract wildlife to your garden and help pollinate fruit.

Now you have an ‘invisible allotment’. It’s a very sustainable way to use your land. The increased planting will help absorb some of the excess rainwater that all the paved and concreted driveways now can’t absorb and which contribute to flooding.

The beauty of this allotment is that you don’t have to get in the car to get to it. Being in the front garden increases the opportunities to get to know more than just the next-door neighbours.