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Liberating Even More Front Lawn

June 2nd, 2011

In a 2003 study of the lawn-chemical industry, Paul Robbins and Julie Sharp, then of Ohio State University, drew a “fundamental lesson of the lawn” that “such self-evident and noncontroversial landscapes are the ones most configured by socioeconomic force relations.” Serving as familiar, marketable packaging for “homes,” front yards are best kept in a noncontroversial state because standardized commodities are the easiest to mass-market. Robbins and Sharp noted that “property values are clearly associated with high-input green lawn maintenance and use,” and “moreover, lawn-chemical uses typically associated moral character and social responsibility with the condition of the lawn.” To toss all that aside and grow food in the front yard is an announcement that one has bought a house in order to live in it, not to turn around and sell it at a profit in two years. In the housing economy, such an attitude qualifies as moral laxity.

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, 2nd Revised Edition

I started liberating portions of my front lawn a few years ago in order to grow vegetables. Our home is surrounded by woods and thus the back garden does not get enough sun. I can grow a few vegetables back there, but peppers, tomatoes and other sun loving crops languish. In order to fulfill my need for lots of tomatoes, I started slowly reducing the size of our front lawn and making the garden beds larger. These beds have been the home for a wide variety of vegetables like: peppers, onions, tomatoes, squash, leeks and many more. As I started growing food in my front yard my neighbors started coming over and asking questions. Soon they started adding vegetable gardens in their yards most of them in their front yards.

I’ve had this vision of how I wanted the edible borders to be since I started expanding them. With my limited time and budget, I only added a few extra feet each year. This year I’m finally going get the ones around the front yard to the size I’ve been dreaming of. Last week I laid out the new garden edge using a hose to figure out where the big sweeping curves would look best. Tuesday I spent the morning sweating it out digging out the sod in the new area. It’s probably 3-4 foot wide by about 60 feet long. I plan on installing a box hedge along the front edge and behind the box there will be a large asparagus bed, in which I’ll be growing four different kinds of asparagus. Behind the asparagus along the edge of the property there will be a mixed border of various fruit bearing shrubs, evergreens, and ornamental grasses.

When I liberate portions of lawn I usually dig up the sod, flip in over and then cover with shredded leaves. I’m fresh out of shredded leaves so I’ll probably buy some straw from a local farmer. I’ll amend the soil a bit by adding some greensand, gypsum and a few other things to help improve the soil. I think I’m to the point where I have reduced the lawn portion of our front yard by about 40%. With the areas that will be liberated next year for a walkway and a few more beds I’ll be up to about 50%. I’d much rather be harvesting heirloom tomatoes than mowing grass!

Do you grow any vegetables in your front yard? Have you noticed any in your area?

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?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.