Tuesday, March 11, 2008
This crazy architect, Fritz Haeg, just might be onto something. He's going around the country replacing front lawns with edible gardens. Not edible in an unusual I've-never-seen-this-in-a-supermarket way, like Miner's Lettuce and Nasturtium...really edible, like tomatoes and zucchini. I've been a fan of water-wise lawns (ie: Buffalo Grass or Thyme) ever since we moved to Colorado. But, this seems like a better use of space (provided you don't have herds of deer trekking through your yard a few times a day like we do). If there is currently a lawn, there's probably automatic irrigation in place already. I suppose one could use the existing sprinklers or change them out for a more earth-friendly drip system to keep the veggies growing. And, if grass used to be growing there then the soil must be pretty decent. Turn some of the grass under, add manure and compost, and start planting...? There are probably chemicals like synthetic fertilizer and crabgrass killer in the soil, but over time with lots of care the soil will come back and veggies will eventually reach their full potential.
Maybe I'm just having garden envy because our little veggie plot is SO small. Is that why this "attack on the front lawn" idea is so attractive to me? Or is it because it just makes sense? Somewhere back in my ancestral memories I know that my old Sicilian relatives were planting gardens in their tiny yards and growing bright red tomatoes bursting with flavor. And I know for sure that my great grandmother Gelardi had a productive garden in her tiny yard on Pfeiffer Street in the North Beach area of San Francisco. In fact, according to my mom, my great grandmother used to make the milkman park his horse-drawn milk cart in front of her house so that she could collect the horse poop to use in her little city garden (from which she fed her ten children). And on my dad's side, the old estate near Philadelphia from which his great great great grandmother came became a seed farm shortly after being sold by our family. The estate was called "Bloomsdale" and it produced one of the most famous home garden varieties of spinach, Bloomsdale Spinach, which is still sold and grown by gardeners today.
So, maybe it's because of my roots. Maybe it's just common sense. Maybe it's because I'm realizing that we don't throw the football or kick the soccer ball on our lawn as much as I thought we would. Or that we have plenty of lawn up the street at the elementary school for when we need flat open spaces for play. Whatever it is that attracts me to this idea of abandoning the typical American lawn in favor of a garden, it seems like a great idea to me. I thought I was a little nutty when I planted thirteen tomato plants last summer and ended up with most of them mixed among my perennials that surround our hot tub. As it turns out, I might have been on to something good!