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Converting lawn to garden

A couple of years ago a friend mentioned the book Food Not Lawns: How to Turn your Yard into a Garden and your Neighborhood into a Community, by Eugene author H.C. Flores, and I remember saying something vague like: "Yes. Un-huh. How very nice for you." And inwardly thinking "I'll keep my lawn, thank you very much!"

Lawntogarden Change doesn't some quickly. Some ideas take a long time to flower. Last year, we had modest success with a few edible plants. But we grew food, instead of flowers, not for the first time -- but intentionally. This year, we've done better. Some garden spaces that had been reserved for roses and perennials and annuals were inter-planted with tomatoes and strawberries. Better yet, we're thinking ahead. We've saved and dried seeds for next spring's planting. We canned some of summer's bounty for winter: we made two big pots of sauce from the tomatoes and oregano growing in our front yard. Now we have plans for expansion. We've discussed and agreed upon a front patch of grass that can be removed and replaced with edibles. It's a bit scary but exciting. Why scary? Because a front lawn seems sacred -- part of the American dream, along with the two kids and the picket fence. We want more edibles, but we do still want our yard to look pleasing from the street.

Here's a few shocking stats from Food not Lawns, which was written in 2006:

  • 58 million Americans spend $30 billion per year to maintain 23 million acres of lawn, or on average over a third of an acre and $517 apiece
  • US lawns consume 270 billions gallons of water a week
  • Each acre of lawn uses the same amount of fertilizer as 10 acres of individual farmland
  • Running a power lawn mower for one hour produces as much air pollution as driving a car for 350 miles

With all that in mind, we took out some grass over the weekend (not all of it mind you, but it's a start). Rarely wasteful, we transplanted our home-made sod to bare places in back. But the raspberry cane got a friend and they scored a primo sunny spot up front. Baby strawberries were planted in a row at the base of the raspberries. We even went shopping for some dwarf fruit trees over the weekend, but sadly we seem to have waited too long on that. The nursery we visited was shopped out -- they only had fig and persimmon left (Tiggers say, eeee-yuck!)

Food not lawns. Several years ago this idea sounded like blasphemy. Now it fits in our life. What do you think? Is lawn sacred -- the holiest of holies? Been there done that? Still finding that perfect balance between a small patch of lawn where your kids can kick a soccer ball around and productive edible gardens?


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