Monday, November 27, 2006

Food not Lawns #1

So, I have decided to start Edible Landscaping aka "Food not lawns" (thanks Burdockboy). Okay, it may not be a movement, however I have decided to do this for my family. Perhaps my community may become interested. I also told some of my students about this idea. These students are working on a public service announcement campaign about living responsibly (climate change/peak oil/water issues/consumerism). I do know that a few of them are interested in the idea -- they asked me about it after class. :)

A clerk at a local grocery store is a horticulture student at the local college. I have asked her if she had heard of edible landscaping. She had not. I told her about what I want to do. She is going to make a list of great plants to grow along with the fruits and veggies. She does know a lot of medicinal herbs. So, this will help a lot!

Thus far I have looked through a catalog of heirloom seeds. Seed savers is an organization that focuses on saving heirloom seeds. I am very interested in heirloom veggies (not genetically modified). Seed savers is located near Des Moines, Iowa. This means that their sucessful seeds (in that area) would be fairly similar to mine. I am going to look closely at seeds which fulfill our needs (cold weather, long storage, etc).

I have also been reading Seed To Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. It is an excellent resource for not only the how-tos of saving seeds but also the growing of and additional information.

I think it will be important to grow a mixture of veggies, fruits, herbs, and flowers. I need to determine what will keep away the bunnies. OR - do I plant extras just for the bunnies?

This is the time of year to start the planning of the garden. I have some grid paper and am planning the layout of our garden. I have to keep in mind that this will be a multi-year effort.

The next step will be the plans. I will post those as soon as I come up with something! I will also talk to one of the local organic farmers about doing this. I am one of her "regulars" at the Farmer's Market. Perhaps she will even allow me to "shadow" her or help on her farm.


Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

I think it is a movement, or the start of a movement. Dan and I have been interested in this concept since we first heard of it a couple of years ago. It makes so much sense to have a functional yard instead of just some grass! We totally intend to set up a functional yard when we get into a house for the first time.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when people in snotty subdivisions try this out, though. I bet some HOAs' rules forbid what would be a functional yard.

Sara said...

You're an inspiration...I seriously despise lawn obsession. I have always wanted a huge flower garden in my front yard instead of grass. But food sounds like more fun. Can't wait to see it develop...

BurdockBoy said...

The food not lawns movement was pretty big out in Oregon. Permaculture resources are wonderful for this idea. I hope this plays out well for you. Keep posting about it, it's very exciting.

On a similar note I read somewhere recently (I wish I could remember where or what book), about couple maintaining a bunch of neighborhood gardens (mostly older people who could no longer garden), and growng so much they were able to sell it at market as well as feed themselves and give some to the owners. Just think about all of the wasted land that could be used to feed neighborhoods.

tracey said...

I am excited to read about your plans for your yard. I think it is an excellent decision.

Also, on Friday I heard a segment on NPR about the food we consume and the connection to corn. It was really almost scary our dependance on corn. The book that was being promoted was The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. He writes about how our food is grown -- what it is, in fact, that we are eating. I am requesting it from the library. I think it will be an interesting read.

Wendy said...

Looking forward to following your progress.

We're working on an edible landscape here, too. I hate mowing the lawn (what a waste of energy!), and I can't think of a better way to avoid it, than to have fresh herbs, fruits and veggies instead of grass :).

Chelee said...

I'm very interested in this. Excited to see what you come up with. We're having a garden for the first time this summer and I love the idea of food not lawn.

AnnMarie said...

I'm so excited to hear of your interest! It's one of mine as well. I'm moving pretty slowly, as my DH isn't into gardening, so I have to be sure what I do I can continue to handle. (But *he* was the one to offer 1/3rd of a our lawn to me for a veggie garden!) Since you have kids, I'd like to recommend some books about getting kids into gardening that I've just fallen totally in love with: Sharon Lovejoy, Sunflower Houses and Roots, Shoots, Buckets, & Boots (see her books at Amazon at They are inspiring me to move away from my neat, orderly rows and into other things to interest my growing daughter (and me!). I'm a fan of Seed Savers as well; bought seeds for the first time last year and am drooling over the catalogue for next summer. One of my favorite things is unusually colored veggies. My daughter will believe carrots are red, potatoes are purple, and beans are anything but green!

SimplyTim said...


I love the idea and the graphic at the top of the entry.

When I see my neighbor putting down herbicides, etc., I just casually say that I am in favor of biodiversity. It slows the conversation a tad but I'm glad I found a way to talk about it.

In a previous post you talked about how your neighbor was upset with your plan for vegetables in the front of your home, she said that it would lower the resale of her home. When she's thinking about that, she's thinking about her house not her home.

I would also love to see pictures of vegetable gardens in the front of people's homes to see how others have done it.

wil said...

Ooo! I love the idea of a fruit + vegetable + herb garden. My wife and I live in the high desert of New Mexico, so we don't have a traditional yard, but we don't have a garden either. We have been interested in gardening for years, tried-and-failed to get started a couple of times, but we're going to try again this spring!

e4 said...

I've been having fun sticking herbs and things in our flower beds. I'm thinking of planting "Bright Lights" swiss chard in front of our house next spring, 'cause it just looks cool. Lemon balm is taking over one section already, and the sage is happy. The currant and gooseberries are struggling a little though.

A treasure trove of great book recommendations here! The Omnivore's Dilemma is an excellent book, as is Seed to Seed, though in very different ways. Of course you might already have some edible landscaping and not realize it! Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants is another recent favorite from the library... Just got Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots too, though I haven't read much of that one yet.

Good luck with your plans!

Phelan said...

We have an orchard in our "yard" we will be doing more after the house is built. I always loved the idea. Good luck to you!

Evan said...

Way good for you. I hope you inspire your entire neighborhood. If we still lived in a subdivision, I would definitely do this. As it is, we don't have a yard. We have a really native landscape and plans for an organic garden behind the house. I really appreciate all of your efforts, and your willingness to share your experiences. Thanks for being an inspiration to me and to others. I have only one child and don't know how I will find the time to bake our own bread and do some canning, but if you can do it with five children and your job, I can find a way to do it, too. Thanks for the motivation.

Palimpster said...

The short phrase that changed the way I look at grass front yards was "bio-pavement."

We're gradually expanding our gardens, but it's a slow learning curve process. My wife and I joked that last year we could survive a good day or two on our garden produce. This year we might have lasted a week or so.

One philosopher of technology called gardening and those kind of things "focal activities" in contrast to commoditized activities where you just push the button and pay the bill. [e.g. firewood heat vs. gas heat]

Beo said...

Fantastic to see all the awsome energy on this!

If you haven't seen it already-H.C Flores just released a book by this title "Food, not Lawns". Looks to be very interesting.