I recently wrote for GeekMom about Julie Bass and her family’s fight with the City of Oak Park, Michigan over a front yard vegetable garden. The city wants the Bass family to remove the vegetable garden and put in lawn and shrubs like their neighbors. Obviously, I think this is ridiculous, but let me expand a little bit on why I think front yard vegetable gardens can be a better choice than lawns.
1. Water usage. Maintaining a lawn in dry, arid regions requires regular watering to keep it green and lush. Really the only way to irrigate a lawn is with overhead sprinkler systems that generate a fair amount of water waste via over spray and wind. But even if 100% of the water intended for the lawn actually benefited the lawn, does it make sense to use precious water to grow lush grass that provides essentially no value. I understand that this is the norm – and mind you, I’ve lived in houses with grassy front lawns – but knowing what we know now, isn’t it time to reconsider whether this is a smart use of our water?
An edible garden in the front yard can be watered with a drip irrigation system or by hand, putting the water right where it needs to go, eliminating water waste.
2. Poisons. Because a lush green lawn is a sort of status symbol in many American neighborhoods (what is up with that?), people will go to great lengths to keep their grass glowing. Nurseries sell products that promise nutrition, boosting, and building. That sure sounds good, but what they don’t say is that many (if not most) of these products boost and build with chemical fertilizers. Products like “weed and feed” take it a step further as they build up the grass and kill the broadleaf weeds in the lawn. Double the chemicals, double the fun? People, these are poisons, plain and simple. If you’re growing a lawn in order for your kids to have a play space, please consider that those bare little feet are coming in direct contact with anything you put on the lawn. (If you must have a lawn, either for the kids’ use or due to residential requirements, please, please consider skipping the poisons!)
Of course, people can and do grow vegetable gardens with chemical fertilizers, too. But since the end product will end up in our bodies, I think people are a little more wary of dousing edible plants with poisons.
3. Emissions. If you succeed in growing a lush lawn, the next step is to chop it off. Silly, yes? Every time the grass grows a few inches, homeowners fire up the gas mower, chop off all of that lush growth, and emit noxious fumes that contribute to global climate change.
A vegetable garden does not need to be mowed.
4. GMO. Because it’s not hard enough already to eliminate genetically engineered crops from our lives, a “Roundup ready” bluegrass seed has recently been exempted from federal regulation. So guess what? If you’re installing a new lawn from seed or sod and it has bluegrass in the mix, there’s potential for genetically modified grass in your lawn. Because grass seed is typically sold as a blend with bluegrass as part of the mix, it will be very hard for consumers to avoid this genetically engineered plant. The only way to be sure that you’re getting GMO-free grass is to buy organic seed or sod, something that’s certainly not common in retail outlets at this stage of the game.
Organic vegetable seeds, on the other hand, are readily available, so consumers can be assured that their plants are not genetically engineered.
5. Economy. These days, it seems like everyone has a tight budget and a tight schedule. Why spend time and money maintaining a lawn when with the same effort, you could be generating food for your table?