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The neighborhood buzz: Killing the front yard

August 24th, 2009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that it will become increasingly fashionable, practical and accepted to do away with your perfectly coiffed green velvet, water-sucking, chemically dependent lawn…and replace it with…a vegetable garden!

I’m not saying the neighbors will rush into your newly composted, tomato and potato plot with tambourines or anything, just that they might not file a homeowner’s association complaint.

There are just too many trendsetters in this arena for the concept of literally laying down roots to not take hold.

Remember the Eat the View campaign? A modest kitchen gardener in Maine and his like-minded buddies pushed through a petition with some 100,000 signers convincing the Obamas to convert some turf to veggie gardening at the White House. The presidential garden, although still surrounded by fields of grass, has been warmly watched by veggie gardeners and struck just the right note in this year of economic hardship.

Even before that eco-event, artist and free-thinker Fritz Haeg, author of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn was lapping the country, setting up demonstration projects and appealing to everyone to consider growing food instead of ornamental grasses that drink up valuable water.

Haeg is putting out a new edition of his book, by the way, and is seeking food-growing pioneers in Zones 3,4,5, and 9. Contact him and your garden may be featured in the 2010 edition of “Edible Estates.” Contact his assistant, Claire Zitzow, in Los Angeles (323-255-5998 or go through his website.)

For more on Haeg, who’s an artist who advocates “confrontations” with the status quo via gardening (as opposed to a gardener who sees artistry in plants), see our story about him during an appearance in Austin last year.

The lawn-seizing movement isn’t all about food. Many front yards, such as those with hot Western exposures or those with Northern orientations that lack the light for growing veggies, are better appointed with native shrubs and flowers. Native gardens not only conserve water, they lure pollinators, provide shelter for wildlife and can be sustained without chemicals.

The majority of landscapers are still wedded to installing ornamental non-native grasses and exotic blooming shrubs. (And no wonder, many homeowner’s associations require certain types of turf; not to mention our own entrenchment). But some designers are stepping out of the mold.

California landscaper Rama Nayeri, who has a degree in landscape architecture from California Polytechnic State University at Pomona, has been blogging about how to kill the grass. It ain’t easy. The blog features pictures of a project in Irvine by Nayeri’s Creations Landscape Design that shows less can be more when it comes to sacking the green carpet and going native. The result (see right) is lovely. No mowing required.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


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