Serious Green: Turn Your Lawn Into an Edible Garden


Photograph by Ed Morris & Curtis Hamilton from Edible Estates

By now it's pretty obvious that pesticides have a negative impact on our environment and a negative impact on our bodies. Maybe you already make an effort to buy organic food and cosmetics without chemicals, but have you thought about the impact of chemicals that you are applying to your lawn?

There's no denying that Americans have a love affair with their lawns. Houses, each with their own plot of green, green grass, are an indelible image of American suburbia. However, by demanding that our lawns stay green and spot-free year round, we are collectively doing some serious damage.

When we put pesticides onto our lawns they run off into sewers, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Consequently, we end up drinking pesticides in our water, breathing them in our air, or (if you're a kid or a fun-loving adult) rolling around in pesticides when you take a spin down a hill and then maybe getting a rash. Trust me—it happened at my college when the university got a little over-enthusiastic about keeping the center of campus green. Besides the negative impact of pesticides, more water is used on household lawns every year in the US than on corn or wheat crops. With widespread water shortages in many cities around the US, our idea about what constitutes a lawn is going to have to change.

A great, 27-minute long documentary Gimme Green goes into these issues in more depth. You can watch the trailer here.

To reduce pesticides you can learn to love dandelions or instead, rip up that turf and plant some veggies in its place. Of course, there are fake lawn alternatives and options such as native grasses, groundcover, or clover. But doesn't covering your lawn in a different type of green just perpetuate the idea that a flat green plane is what we as Americans must have in our front yards? By planting edibles, you'll having something in your front yard that is beautiful, does not require mowing, and that you can munch on!

If you're not ready to chuck your turf for a full-on edible landscape, you can start with small changes. Think about replacing a flowering bush with a blueberry bush or a small corner patch of grass with some herbs. Two great resources to get you started are Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community and Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn.

If you're worried that your neighbors might be offended by the sight of your newly bountiful lawn, I'm sure they'll be won over with a gift of the most local tomatoes (or blueberries or squash or cucumbers) of all: the ones that come from your own front yard.