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Liberating the Lawn

April 30th, 2010

Last year I dug up a section on one side of the front lawn. I desperately need some full-sun garden space and I finally decided that I’ll grow a few vegetables in the front yard. After all I think a tomato plant can be just as beautiful as any other ornamental plant. Last spring I spent a few hours each day for a few weeks digging up the many sapplings that grew in half of it and the sod that grew in the other half.

Last summer I grew a cover crop of crimson clover in this new garden area to amend the soil (which is really bad, lots of clay). It was both beautiful and beneficial, the bees loved it (as did the deer when they found it).

This spring we worked up the soil and were pleasantly surprised by the great job one crop of crimson clover did for the structure of the soil. I planted onions in one section and the other will be filled with tomatoes, basil and peppers when the weather warms enough. I have now gained about 120-140 sq ft of full sun garden space. My tomatoes and onions should do wonderfully this year in the new sunny are of the garden. This fall I plan on using a cover crop of winter rye in this area of the garden to further improve the soil.

I have another area about 5 ft wide and about 20 ft long covered with a tarp to kill the grass so I can liberate even more lawn into edible and beneficial garden space. Each year the lawn gets smaller and the gardens get bigger.

Have you expanded your garden space recently to accommodate more edible plants?

34 Comments to “Liberating the Lawn”
  1. Sense of Home on April 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Yes, we moved our shed this spring to provide full sun to the garden and expand it. Tomorrow we hope to put our garden fence around the whole thing to keep the neighbor dogs, etc. out, then I can start planting. I am so excited to have more space.

    Your photos are always so beautiful, what kind of camera do you use? I have been frustrated with my photos lately, I can’t zoom in without the picture becoming blurry.

    -Brenda
    .-= Sense of Home´s last blog ..An Egg-cellent Sandwich =-.

    Reply to Sense of Home's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 8:50 am

      In the old days I used a Sony Cyber-shot I used this until December of 2008 for my blog photos.

      I’m now using an older version (mine is a 30D) of this (I got from a photographer friend) Canon EOS 50D 15.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) Although a Canon Rebel would be good as well, and cheaper than a 50D.

      If you buy a DSLR you’ll have to get a lens (or more) but a good starter lens I would recommend would be this one: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens. Making the switch to a DSLR from a point & shoot is a big step, although you’ll never look back and always wonder how even took a photo before. It does take some getting used to and some practice, but soon enough you’ll learn what all the settings do and you’ll have your camera in manual and never use automatic settings again!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Sense of Home on April 30, 2010 at 8:59 am

        Thanks Susy, hopefully someday I will be able to replace my cheap digital.
        .-= Sense of Home´s last blog ..An Egg-cellent Sandwich =-.

        to Sense of Home's comment

      • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 9:05 am

        If you’re not in the market to spend lots of money on a camera I’d definitely recommend the Sony Point & Shoot. I am lucky in the fact that we have tons of friends that are photographers being in the business we’re in, so I was able to get one of their old used ones for a great price, I knew it was still in pretty good shape since I knew who had used it.

        The little Sony is a workhorse though, takes beautiful photos. The macro lens is fantastic and I always used that macro lens for closeup shots even after I got my DSLR (until Mr Chiots bought me a real macro lens for Christmas). Here’s one of the best macro shots from that little camera: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/3528789994/
        This was another one take with that camera: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/3529147725/in/photostream/

        They both made my calendar, so they were a few of my best.

        to Susy's comment

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mark mile, Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: Liberating the Lawn http://goo.gl/fb/YBKfT #edible #expandingthegarden #liberatingthelawn [...]

    Reply to Tweets that mention Liberating the Lawn | Chiot’s Run — Topsy.com's comment

  3. MAYBELLINE on April 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I thought of cover crops but was afraid the stuff would take over and be too difficult to remove or turn under. It’s simply amazing the amount of trees you have popping up.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Spectacular! =-.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

      I think the important thing with cover crops is to get them turned under before they go to seed. This clover was turned under right at blooming and I only had one or two plants spring up afterwards.

      Cover crops are something I’ve been looking into both for the blooms for the bees (like buckwheat & clover) and for improving the soil very inexpensively. We have terrible soil and it would cost me a fortune to buy amendments, but a bag of cover crop seed is inexpensive for the soil conditioning you get!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Chris on April 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Yes, we cleared a 10×10 square for a veggie garden in our front yard a couple of years back. I consider it my demonstration garden for how beautiful a veggie garden can be. Can’t say it’s always a good example, but it’s generated some conversation with my neighbors (all good).

    We also redid the foundation plantings with edibles (serviceberry, strawberries, fig, big hip roses, a wild cherry, black raspberries). I’m now looking to incorporate more edibles in the flower beds now, a patch of lettuce here, some sorrel there, perennial onions, etc. Hoping to use more perennials overall now that I’m getting into permaculture.
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..For the love of broccoli =-.

    Reply to Chris's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

      I LOVE seeing veggie gardens in other people’s front yards (don’t know why I’m so reluctant to add one to mine). I think vegetable gardens can be even more beautiful than ornamental, I think partly because they’re very useful and you know that someone is cultivating not only plants but their own food as well!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Paula on April 30, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I don’t have to dig up my front yard as we have plenty of sun. I do have to admit though, that I put in new beds and I’m realizing a bit too late that the live oak has grown quite a bit and it’s shading the tomatoes in the new bed. I’m thinking that this may be a good thing since it doesn’t get shady till around 4:00pm and I live in SW LA, so shade in the late afternoon will help, I hope.

    I want to plant crimson clover, but not in the beds, but around them, to bring in the bees. This spring, I let the white clover just grow, but the cows busted out of the field and ate it all up. Then my citrus bloomed and I could smell it in the house, 100 yards away. I hardly saw any bees at all. My lugustrums are in full bloom now, I saw one bumblebee yesterday, no honey bees and I have 10+ in my yard, plus the wild ones are growing in the woods. I’m really freaking out about lack of bees.
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..117/365 Cowboy? =-.

    Reply to Paula's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 9:42 am

      The shade might do them some good.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Jeff on April 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I have actually been in conversation with my wife to convert half of our garage into a greenhouse. I tried to push to get more of our backyard into edible garden space but she wouldn’t go for it citing that we still need room for the dog to run around (isn’t that why we live in a village and by a lake)?

    Your blog has inspired me to mix more veggies with flowers. We have tons of room to do this and we are starting to plant this weekend.

    Reply to Jeff's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

      I’ve been trying to figure out where I can build a greenhouse as well.

      I love mixing veggies in with edibles. Cabbages are especially lovely when mixed into perennial borders! Here are some I grew in the front foundation bed last season. This year there are strawberries and beets in this space. http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/3619937602/

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Ashley W. on April 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

    We’re all about getting rid of the lawn. We’re renting, so maybe we should have asked our landlord first, but we can always just throw down grass seed when we leave! We just cut up more lawn for this year’s garden:

    http://teaberries.typepad.com/teaberries/2010/04/photo-friday-garden-expansion.html

    Reply to Ashley W.'s comment

  8. Missus@ Escape to the Farm on April 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

    You have obviously done a lot of work on your yard, and it is such a blessing to be able to harvest your own fresh veggies.

    We are always amazed by how much water and money people are willing to spend on their lawns and flower gardens, instead of growing vegetables or buying organic produce.

    Good luck to you! I think you will be so happy you did this.

    Reply to Missus@ Escape to the Farm's comment

  9. Lisa on April 30, 2010 at 10:50 am

    We’ve been removing the lawn bit by bit for the past two years. Here in California’s Central Valley water is a precious resource, and it seems such a waste to use it on a patch of grass. We have only a small, urban yard, so our vegetable gardens are compact but intense. We’re experimenting with the square-foot-garden method in four 4×4′ beds where the back lawn used to be. The rest of the back yard is now a decorative dry creek and lots of drought tolerant plants. Someday the front lawn will go, too. Whatever will the neighbors say? Thanks for all the inspiration!

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  10. Morgan G on April 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Because we live in a housing tract with zero property line, we’re actually thinking of going vertical and trying out a living wall. We have a few areas that would be suitable for an herb wall, plus they would add a little insulation to the house as well! Just starting to research now, so far it seems highly possible!
    .-= Morgan G´s last blog ..So Right, So Smart =-.

    Reply to Morgan G's comment

  11. Mrs. Mac on April 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    We have lots of sunny grass lawn in the front that one day will transformed in areas with some well designed (HOA friendly) beds. I’ve seen a good example in our neighborhood … so have great hope. Currently, we are on our third year of our backyard gardens .. good soil .. but not full sun … but enough. When I think about all the water used for the lawn … makes me cringe! Slowly .. but surely .. one area at a time … a little more each year. I discovered a great area for loads of blueberry bushes in the front … so will start there.

    Reply to Mrs. Mac's comment

  12. Paula on April 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I’m always amazed that people actually water their lawns! I love it when our grass dies due to hot temps/no rain. It means less for me to mow!

    Honestly though, we live on 2 acres of land. Can you imagine how much water it would take to keep that looking gold course green?
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..117/365 Cowboy? =-.

    Reply to Paula's comment

  13. Meredith on April 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Cover crops make all the difference; don’t they? I’m so glad you’ve liberated another lawn. One down now — only how many more million to go? ;)
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..one reason to grow your own =-.

    Reply to Meredith's comment

  14. mamaraby on April 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    That clover is gorgeous!
    .-= mamaraby´s last blog ..Folk Music Fridays – “From the Tongues of Kings” =-.

    Reply to mamaraby's comment

  15. Linda on April 30, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Great blog Susy – thank you for all of your super information and photos!
    I too am making more room for fruit & veggies – in amongst the landscaped beds; columnar apple trees, blueberries, rhubarb, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, etc. – they look as lovely as the shrubs and perennials and I feel wonderful knowing they are there! Herbs have a whole bed almost to themselves though!

    Reply to Linda's comment

  16. R&V on April 30, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks for the great blog!! I read it nearly every day! We have decided that we don’t want any thing in our yard unless we can eat it (well almost, we still want a few flowers). To that end this year we have replaced two 10×10 flower beds with Strawberries, dug out shrubs along a large section of our yard to add a raspberry bed and a 40 x 10 section of garden space. And we have added 4- 4×8 raised beds to a section of the yard that was all lawn. We are also planning on adding vegetables to nearly all our regular flower beds this year. We are hoping these will double the 400 lbs of veggies we grew last year.

    Reply to R&V's comment

    • Susy on April 30, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      Good for you. We’re replacing decorative trees with fruit trees and added blueberry bushes to our front foundation bed instead of regular shrubs. It’s so exciting when you realize that you can do this and they’re just as nice as the non-food producing options.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. Sarah on May 1, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Absolutely! We’ve got pumpkins, peas, and lettuce growing in between ornamental grasses and sunflowers in beds around our place. I love the way the pumpkin vine has spread out and claimed the space!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..May Day =-.

    Reply to Sarah's comment

  18. Teresa/Safira on May 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    We have two more 4×16 raised beds in progress; this year they’ll be totally tomatoes and basil. (I should be filling them with topsoil RIGHT THIS MINUTE instead of sitting at the ‘puter, but I overdid during the heat of the day and am enjoying sitting on my butt.)

    Reply to Teresa/Safira's comment

  19. Kelly on May 3, 2010 at 9:10 am

    We did all the landscaping on the house (we built) and we wanted a big yard for the boys to play in. Since then I’ve been pestering the hubby to let me plant “a little something” here and there in the lawn because it’s such a pain to upkeep and I’d rather plant things I can eat. He’s starting to realize how much work it is, but still won’t let me have any (yet!). I’ve expanded the veg garden about as much as I can, now, so maybe he’ll let me have some next year. This year wasn’t so much about expansion as firming up boundaries for what we have now and figuring out how to incorporate winter gardening into our lives.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Victor’s Leg and Ethan’s Brain =-.

    Reply to Kelly's comment

  20. roxanne on May 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Hi ! First time poster here. I enjoy reading your blog, thanks for taking the time to do it. I dug up the front lawn on the right side of the front walkway years ago, before it was vogue. The neighbors raised their eyebrows, but not when they got free veggies.now I have started on the left side .I’m trying Lasagne gardening there . I also garden any where in the back yard ,where there is sunlight. also ,there really isn’t much lawn left , I could cut it with my scissors.The children are grown, and mostly married off, so who needs a lawn,especially after my sister just paid $3.99 for a head of cauliflower and $4.00 for a bag of onions.I live in a suburban/urban area, and more people are doing this.I’m also looking into Winter gardening on the front lawn. best wishes roxanne

    Reply to roxanne's comment

    • Susy on May 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks for commenting, I always love reading your comments and to hear about what you’re doing in your own gardens!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  21. Katie on May 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I just bought a house and am working on a garden plan. My small front yard on a busy street frequented by cars and walkers gets the most sun. A mixed ornamental/edible bed in the front would be great but what about keeping all of the critters out?

    Reply to Katie's comment

    • Susy on May 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      I actually have fewer critter problems in my mixed borders than in my dedicated edible beds. I also have fewer problems with insect damage, especially on cabbages/broccoli.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  22. the inadvertent farmer on May 3, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I am slowly converting over all the fenced garden area to actually planting area. I knew when I fenced it that it would take a long time to convert it all from pasture to garden, but two more years should do it!
    .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Garden Update the new Tomato Patch =-.

    Reply to the inadvertent farmer's comment

  23. Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog on May 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Oh, lovely and how exciting to turn plot after plot into usable space. We recently “re-assigned” some space and are now growing artichokes and sunflowers there. Pretty and useful!
    .-= Blake @ Salt, Teak & Fog´s last blog ..first rose of 2010 =-.

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  24. [...] chiotsrun.com/2010/04/30/liberating-th&#1077-lawn/ [...]

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