Who knew lawns would go from epitomizing the American dream to embodying all manner of evil? Blaming both human and natural failings, many homeowners have embraced the idea of lawn-eradication. Last week, it was the lawn-pavers; this week, it’s the lawn-eaters.
Edible Estates is the brainchild of Fritz Haeg, who has made it his mission to replace the water-guzzling, pesticide-drenched grasslands of American front yards with functional, fruitful plots filled with all things edible.
“The lawn devours resources while it pollutes. It is maniacally groomed with mowers and trimmers powered by the 2 stroke motors responsible for much of our greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrocarbons from mowers react with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight to produce ozone. To eradicate invading plants it is drugged with pesticides which are then washed into our water supply with sprinklers and hoses dumping our increasingly rare fresh drinking resource down the gutter. Of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater and 23 have the ability to leach into groundwater sources.
The lawn divides and isolates us. It is the buffer of anti-social no-mans-land that we wrap ourselves with, reinforcing the suburban alienation of our sprawling communities. The mono-culture of one plant species covering our neighborhoods from coast to coast celebrates puritanical homogeneity and mindless conformity.”
The first Edible Estates lawn revival took place in Salina, Kansas, where a family offered up their conventional front yard for transformation (it’s like reality TV for lawn makeovers!), and vowed to maintain the garden as a living, thriving edible installation. The process not only furnishes a family with a hearty supply of nourishing food, it also provides an education in seasonal cycles, organic gardening, and regional biodiversity.
Over the next three years, Haeg will install edible landscapes in nine front lawns across the country. For his next trick, he will eat up a Los Angeles lawn, the location of which has yet to be determined. Do you live in LA?
“We are currently seeking the skilled, eager and adventurous occupants of one conventional American house on a typical street of endless sprawling lawns. These L.A. citizens should be brave enough to break this toxic uniformity, by having their entire front lawn removed and replaced by an edible landscape. As role models they will then proudly devote themselves to the indefinite cultivation of fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs for all neighbors and car traffic to see.”
Even if you can’t volunteer your lawn, Edible Estates makes it easy to learn a thing or two about planting a delicious lawn. A free “how-to” is posted on their site. We’ve reprinted it here ? it’s pretty basic at this point, but they promise to update it as projects progress, so be sure to visit the Edible Estates site in the future if you really intend to get your hands in the compost and make your garden grow.
basic instructions to make your own edible landscape
what you will need:
- a rented sod-cutter (about $80/day)
- a rented roto-tiller (about $50/day)
- a truck load of compost, calculated to cover the size of your estate
- shovels, hand trowels and rakes
- friends and neighbors to help
- irrigation system, such as soaker hoses
- stakes and string
- fencing material to deter animals
- selected vegetables, herbs and fruits as seeds, starts, or trees for your region
some questions to think about when planning your edible estate:
- where is south? where are the shady and sunny areas
- where should tall trees or lower groundcover go? are there views to frame or obscure
- what do you want to eat from your estate? what can’t you get from the grocery store
- alot of fruits and vegetables grow on vines, do you have something for them to grow on
- how do you want to move through the edible estate? where should paths go
- what kind of mulch to use? straw, bark, compost, leaves will retain moisture, block weeds and decompose into the soil?- is there an area in your estate for people? a place to relax and enjoy the plants and food growing
basic instructions to create your own edible estate:
1. use sod-cutter to remove existing grass, roll it up, give it away, or find a new use for it
2. use roto-tiller to loosen compacted soil
3. spread around about 2-5 inches of compost
4. till the soil again to mix in the new compost
5. mark out a plan for your edible estate with stakes and string
6. plant your seedlings, starts, trees and seeds according to the planting calendar
7. water them in thoroughly with a garden hose
8. install an 18″ – 24″ fence to deter small local animals, like rabbits if you have problems
a GREAT article about the lawn phenomenon from Canadian Centre for Architecture: