Saturday, March 03, 2007

my front yard: to eat or not to eat

Days and weeks are flying by. I can't believe it's March already. I have so much to post about...but it seems as if the more there is to write, the less time there is to write it.

In the's starting to warm up, and it will be time to plant the vegetable garden again soon. Even though I'm still pretty much a novice when it comes to growing veggies, I am inordinately excited about the start of growing season. So much so that I'm beginning to feel like a greenthumb nerd. Lately I've been fascinated by this landscaping project called "Edible Estates." Architect Fritz Haeg has been designing front yard landscaping that gets rid of the lawn and instead incorporates indigenous and edible plants. Admittedly, some properties look better than others (and the website is rather clunky and hard to navigate)...but I'm captivated by the idea. The project adheres to the notion that the front lawn - a symbol of suburban Americana - is really a fairly useless waste of good earth. It looks nice, but it's high maintenance and relatively unhealthy for the environment. A good lawn requires chemical fertilizer and a lot of water, not to mention regular mowing with a two-cycle engine mower that releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. An ABC News article about the project points out that the front lawn is actually a British aesthetic, but "in England, constant drizzle keeps lawns green. In the United States, sprinklers and fertilizers do the job."

So the question becomes: why not make that space work for you and look nice at the same time? Who's to say that a plain, flat, green front lawn is the ideal (unless you have kids playing on it)? I never sit in my front yard and enjoy it - I only mow it. I do spend lots of time in my garden. Plus, I think it could look kind of cool if it's tastefully done. Here are three photos showing the progress of one of Fritz Haeg's "Edible Estates" - feel free to click on them to get larger views:

Here's the thing: I'm going to have a garden whether it's in the front yard or the back. But if it's in the front yard: my front lawn is two perfect-sized rectangles facing directly south (ideal for vegetable gardening); I wouldn't have to mow; Scout gets the whole back yard to herself; I wouldn't have to wrap each bed in chicken wire to protect it from Scout; and it's an opportunity to do some interesting, different (and edible) landscaping. Good stewardship of the land that I own and, hopefully, the environment in general.

A handful of you have been very supportive of this idea (each of you knows who you are - thank you!). The rest of you feel free to chime in and tell me that this is (a) sheer genius or (b) absolute neo-hippie insanity brought on by some premature midlife crisis.


Sarah K. said...

For the record, I think it is very cool. Scout gets her space to run around and poop wherever, and you have great light, yummy vegetables and a fun conversation piece. Everyone wins. AND when you're working with the garden, you can visit with your neighbors and passersby. Very festive.

Anonymous said...

Do it! Sarah is right -- the best part about a front yard garden is the opportunity it gives you get to interact with your neighbors and people walking down the street. I'll regularly hand out heads of lettuce, cucumbers, whatever to people who stop and chat. Kids love it, too. For many of them, it is the first time they've been able to pull a carrot out of the ground and eat it immediately! And planned well, you should have plenty of produce to share.

Things to think of: smaller beds where you can access the middle from all sides are easiest for weeding and maintenance (unless you do one huge bed with walking stones as a pathway throughout), you can buy tubing and sprinklers for an automatic watering system for not too much money and it is incredibly worth it, and include a couple of perennials in your garden (maybe some shrubs/grasses, to help keep some sort of vegetation in your yard during the winter) for a sort of permanent plant framework to base your garden design around.

Or maybe I could just go ahead and take over your edible estate! Seriously, it is a really great thing to do, and I can't recommend it enough. Let me know when to come over and help you push dirt around!


lauren said...

oh, to HAVE a lawn!