Was the Garden of Eden Grass?

The NYT recently reported on a new front in the war against sod, a project called “Edible Estates.” The project is run by an architect, Fritz Haeg. The Times puts it thus:

Mr. Haeg regards the Edible Estates project as something of a manifesto. He fantasizes about setting off a “chain reaction” among gardeners that would challenge Americans to rethink their lawns — which he insists on calling “pre-edible” landscapes — though he knows the chances are slim.

Though the Times finds safety in denigrating the possibility of change, my experience suggests that there are plenty of folks rejecting the traditional suburban landscape, and a heck of a lot of ’em are blogging about it. It’s enough to make me feel optimistic! The title of this post comes from a persuasive argument written by a 7th grader for school. Her family is the second to participate in the project, and has had their family lawn reclaimed for productive purposes—it’s not just the landscape that is changed by these shifts we make. You can read the essay, and also Haeg’s manifesto on his web site (scroll past the list of recent news to get to the manifesto). Thanks to Antonia for the link. A teaser:

Edible Estates proposes the replacement of the American lawn with a highly productive domestic edible landscape. Food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth and our neighbors. The banal lifeless space of uniform grass in front of the house will be replaced with the chaotic abundance of bio-diversity. In becoming gardeners we will reconsider our connection to the land, what we take from it and what we put in it. Each yard will be a unique expression of its location and of the inhabitant and their desires. Valuable land will be put to work.

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7 Responses to Was the Garden of Eden Grass?

  1. mrs D says:

    When Dave & I move back to Portland, one of the first things I want to address in our old yard is getting rid of at least 80-90% of what little lawn we have left, and planting more herbs. Lawn is so useless. We’re not going to have a picnic next to the street, and I certainly don’t want to have to mow the damn thing every two weeks, yet again.

  2. lauren says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Edible Estates. We just purchased around two acres in the rural burbs after living in urban Boston for ten years. One of our major goals is to convert the lawn into a beautiful, productive lanscape with food plants, fruit trees and native perennial floewing bushes and plants for the insects and wildlife.

  3. Martina says:

    We limited the grass space in our new garden to a 4 x 4 feet spot on top of the earth patio. We found some grass that need only mowing once a season.
    Otherwise ediables happily intermingle with not ediables in our garden — salad greens look great next to cala lillys!

  4. Holly says:

    The funny thing is, we’ve got much more lawn here than we did in Oakland—well, not much of a challenge, since we didn’t have any lawn there. The front yard was already mostly not lawn here, however, with the bulk of the space planted with perennials or with raised beds. The back is mostly lawn, however, which we mow, probably not often enough, with the sweet little push mower that came with the house. But we committed to not overcommit our energies to turning this rental into a farm. Not this year at least. I will say that we’ve enjoyed having a place to pitch a tent, or toss down a sheet for a picnic. Though we’ve started free-ranging the girls every morning, so the chicken poop factor is rising. Also, the filberts are being raided by teh squirrels, who delight in taking just the tip off the unripe nuts. Why? I don’t know. To see if they are done? But the ground beneath the tree is littered with sharp-edged little shells.

    Here in Portland though, there are so many parks that having a lawn just seems silly. If you want to flop on one, go to a park. The city does the work of maintaining it.

  5. Molly says:

    We were just looking out over our back yard last evening, contemplating the lawn that we reclaimed into a raised-bed edible garden, and wondered what percentage of potential buyers (when we decide to sell our house) will be excited about it – and for how many it will be a turn-off. In Portland, we think many more would see it as an asset. We laughed though thinking about the potential buyer who would tear out the beds and reinstate the lawn!

    (We did keep a narrow swath of lawn, mostly for the dog, who delights in cooling her belly in the grass. She has also learned to “use” the lawn only, keeping her and her business out of the raised beds – a great compromise in our estimation.)

    Power to the edible estates!

  6. Jacque Authier says:

    I’m usually leery about plopping down on other people’s lawn (public or private) if I don’t know what’s been sprayed there. If plenty of broadleaf weeds are growing, it’s a pretty good sign that things are OK, but I usually ask.
    Here are some positive things about having a moderately sized lawn…
    It only take one season to establish, after that it never needs watering again (in Portland). Wildflowers and “weeds” look ok intermingled with the grass, and many of them are edible or useful in other ways. The birds in the garden like an open fly space between perches, and lawn provides a low maintenance ground cover- a quick go over with the push mower, leaving the cuttings in place is SO much easier than weeding, pruning, hauling debris to the compost, and spreading mulch! Ask my back. Lawn IS food, ask any chicken.

  7. Antonia says:

    I’d love it if he’d do an edible estate project here in Richmond. We don’t have a year-round growing season, and I’d love to see how that is managed. Baltimore is on the list of planned edible estates — the climate is similar and we hope to pick up some good tips.

    Our own home-made edible estate is looking (and tasting) lovely. We’ve got pictures up at flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/89511782@N00/. They’re from earlier this spring. Right now the tomatoes are just getting ripe, and the cucumbers and squash are beginning to take over. The neighbors have been very nice about it — helps to share produce!

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