A bright green healthy lawn was historically presented as a message from the ultra-rich people exclaiming to their minions that they had so much money that they could use their land for lawn instead of using it to grow food. Times have changed – thankfully – and today’s lawn is ubiquitous with life in the suburbs. Running in the sprinklers and playing catch with the family dog reflects a lifestyle of ease, comfort and simplicity. However…there is the other side of lawn ownership and that is the abundance of water it takes to keep it lush and the variety of fertilizers that must be used to keep it green, resulting in these chemicals ending up in our water supplies – upsetting the delicate balance in our oceans. A lawn isn’t necessary or cost efficient and homeowners across the nation have woken up to the idea of getting rid of their lawns altogether and joining a movement of turning their front yards into beautiful edible gardens.
We removed our lawn four years ago and planted a Mediterranean garden that grows beautiful in our arid California climate. Then last year I began growing vegetables beginning with lettuce last winter. In the spring I added parsley, basil, thyme and mint and then a potted pepper plant. My neighbors stop by out of curiosity and to remark on how beautiful it is. I have begun evangelizing the pluses of removing your lawn and growing food. And…it’s much easier then you think. Follow these tips and in a year’s time you will have fresh food growing in your garden.
• To begin with you will need to remove the lawn. You can simply rip it out as we did…or peel it up and have it taken away. You can rent a machine that will assist in peeling it away – or you can kill off the lawn by covering the lawn in the fall with a layer of newspaper. Cover the newspaper with mulch, leaves and dirt. This top layer will break down the newspaper and the lawn will die off and by spring you have a dirt patch ready to plant. Do not use any kind of weed or plant killer – you will end up destroying the dirt and its healthy growing properties.
• Draw out a garden design and divide the lot up into sections; include walkways with gravel, decomposed granite (DG) or flagstone. When adding the walkways be sure to plan so that you can easily reach over to pick up plants without have to tramp over the dirt, possibly crushing your veggies. Not all of the sections need to be planted with vegetables, especially if the lot is very large. Instead add lavender or other drought tolerant plants that will attract butterflies and bees.
• Decide what to plant in each section and keep like items together. For example use one section for winter greens, another for herbs and another for squash or tomatoes. When your summer vegetables are over plant colorful annuals until the next planting season-which could be winter or early spring.
• Some vegetables are simply beautiful to look at as well as eating such as red peppers or cherry tomatoes and nasturtiums. Make sure your garden is as visually appealing as it is delicious.
• Many vegetable varieties are best grown in colder climates such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts; unless your garden will be covered with snow don’t give up on a winter harvest.
• If you plant too much don’t worry – many food banks and churches will take your excess and you can also share with neighbors. My herb garden has become to the go-to place in our cul de sac for the last minute basil request. And when the mint took over I have became a mint pusher by never letting a guest leave without taking a bag of this fragrant herb.
• Be sure to have a compost bin and take the composted dirt and use it as fertilizer, sprinkling it around the base of the plants and then watering it in.
Encourage your neighbors, by your example, to join in this gardening revolution.