Julie Bass was inspired to install a vegetable garden in the front yard after the lawn was dug through for sewerage pipes. Her garden shown here is 5 neatly laid out beds, where she grows a mix of veggies including squashes, corn, tomatoes, and flowers. The City of Oak Park (Michigan) is prosecuting Julie Bass for noncompliance with a city ordinance that states that only “suitable” plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences.
Lets consider how suitable grass is as plant for urban landscapes:
- A lawn like any other monoculture is unsustainable requiring multiple inputs in order to maintain it-water, pesticides, fertilizers and fossil fuels. What if these resources were utilised to grow food? That would conserve resources as food crops require far less resources than lawns. 10 ha of lawns use more fossil fuels and labour hours than a 50 ha mixed farm (Energy audit by Orange Agricultural College, NSW, Australia)
- The lawn clippings then present a waste disposal problem for the council, usually going to a landfill. (Never feed lawn clippings to an animal due to pesticide and fuel contamination)
- Lawns are the culprit in pollution of urban waterways due to run-off of pesticides and excess fertilisers.
- Lawns are water guzzlers. 44% of domestic water consumption in California is used for lawns. Is it suitable to water lawns in water scarce areas, where ground water levels are falling?
While the insanity of using precious water on lawns is recognised in many dry areas of Australia so it has been made illegal, how about making lawns illegal instead of veggie gardens? Alternatively tax them out of existence. What will replace the lawn?
Here’s some sustainable alternatives:
- A herbaceous lawn of low growing perennials like dwarf camomile which don’t require mowing
- Mow your lawn with a hand mower and manage it organically
- Use productive animals to graze the lawn- use a rabbit or guinea pig tractoring system (movable pen)
- Or how about a tethered goat rotated about the neighbourhood lawns?
- A pond and wet land area
- Rock garden utilising herbs
- Shrubbery of small fruits like berries, or pepino
- Flowering meadow of wild flowers, bulbs and perennials
- And of course a vegetable garden
Petition to support Julies veggie garden (Julie goes to trial on July 26th 2011)