Gardens not Lawns

There are lots of encouraging signs these days that our food culture is transforming for the better.  One of them is the increasing number of people who are turning their lawns into gardens.

A particularly impressive example of it is HERE.

I read that as a result of the drought, Los Angeles is considering providing incentives for people to replace their lawns with astroturf. It would be a lot more sensible to encourage them to replace them with gardens instead. Raised bed drip irrigation wouldn’t require much water and the residents would get nutritious food to boot. It’s great to see that there is a proposal to give tax credits to owners of vacant lots in South L.A. who turn them into urban farms. That’s the kind of good sense that I hope we start seeing everywhere.

Manicured grass lawns are a recent invention, created as a feature of suburbs and in imitation of the lawns of the English aristocracy (and having been made possible for the middle class by the invention of the lawnmower). Lawns make no sense unless they’re grazed by sheep, and even then gardens are better.

Maybe our cultural love of lawns will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by a new-found appreciation of gardens.

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18 comments on “Gardens not Lawns

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I’ve heard that lawns are the biggest crop grown in the country. More money is spent on fertilizer, and other chemicals for lawns than any other crop grown. It’s sad that even the clippings from the lawn are useless as compost because of the six bathes a year of chemicals to make the lawns look magazine perfect. Fifty years ago clover was planted in the lawns. My neighbor, who’s a lawn service guy, mentioned how difficult it was to keep clover out of the lawns and wondered how it got there. I had to explain that originally clover was planted in the grass on purpose. Fifty years ago when folks mowed the grass they didn’t bag it and set it out for yard waste, they let it decompose on the lawn. Clover is a rich source of nitrogen and naturally fertilized the lawn. Not only that but clover has deep roots which is also a natural aeration. Today, clover is considered a bad thing and is eradicated from lawns. My lawn is filled with clover and the clippings aren’t left on the grass but used for composting in the garden. I also use the grass clipping from my newly acquired property for garden compost and next year a friend’s vacant lot grass clippings will be used for compost in my garden. I have made an agreement to mow the lot for the chemical free green compost material. Chemical free compost material is almost becoming more precious than what can be grown there. Especially in urban city USA.

    Have a great gardens not lawns day.

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    • Bill says:

      You are so right Dave (and thanks for being on the forefront of the urban gardening movement). Not long ago I heard someone complaining about how difficult it was to get clover out of their lawn (they called it a weed). I could only shake my head, thinking of how expensive clover seed is and how valuable it is as a plant. I paid a pretty penny to seed it in our pastures and I’m thrilled to see it in our lawn.

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  2. Cynthia says:

    Big fan of this movement, starting incorporating it myself.

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  3. Joanna says:

    Oh I do hope so. I got into so much trouble in America over the lawns, I couldn’t believe it.

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    • Bill says:

      Americans love our lawns. As Dave says above, lawn grass is the number one crop in America. It’s crazy really. During WWII the public was asked to grow vegetables as a contribution to the war effort and the resulting “victory gardens” produced 40% of the food Americans ate during the war. My recollection is that in the UK the percentage was even higher. Using that space to grow nothing but grass (and only as a monoculture of the preferred variety) and going down to the grocery store for food, makes no sense.

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  4. EllaDee says:

    My previous house I built on a native Australian bush block of land, and it was lovely big eucalypt trees, native grasses, natural rock, and I left it as it was despite urging to landscape and “beautify”. The other part of the garden dug up as part of the build was set to be productive but I had to sell. The new owners have immediately put in lawn and landscaping and have battled with it ever since. If you want to feel lawn under your feet, there are plenty of parks her that do it well. Our current house is old, built originally in the 1930’s on ridge gravel, and the lawn struggles. We’ll see if we can make productive gardens of it 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      You make a great observation. Often we battle against nature to try to maintain lush green lawns in places where they are completely unnatural (like most of the American west and southwest). All because we’re trying to imitate some ideal that originated among British aristocracy. I can’t think of a better word for it than crazy.

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  5. avwalters says:

    We have no intentions of putting in a lawn. The sweep of the meadow makes a nice view–though I may throw out some wildflower seeds for the bees. We’ll have a lavender field over the septic area and the garden will be fenced from the deer and raised or in buckets. Lawn? Too much work, water and waste.
    That was a wonderful photo journal of the garden yard, much like my old back yard in Oakland.

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  6. cindy knoke says:

    Informative post. We have no lawn at The Holler! I actually had no lawn at our prior home in suburbia either. It encourages one to get creative with planting~

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  7. Great informative article! 🙂

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  8. jubilare says:

    Even folks who don’t want to tend a food-garden can, and should, convert as much lawn as they don’t use into native plant gardens of one kind or another. In LA, that would be arid rocky gardens with some gorgeous succulents and drought-resistant grasses and flowers. No mowing, little, if any, extra watering, no expensive fertilizers or pesticides… and the birds, butterflies and critters would have more habitat, as well. It’s really a win-win, if people can just let go of their concept of what is “normal” and “nice.” 🙂
    I’m half-way in my “get-rid-of-front-lawn” project. I’m excited! And my neighbors seem to like the fact that my yard is full of flowers from early spring through the first frost.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, good point. Xeriscaping is preferable to a grass lawn. As you say, a win-win. Easier to tend and easier on the environment.

      As you’re showing your neighbors, there are more beautiful ways to landscape than just planting grass.

      Liked by 1 person

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