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Is it time to turn your lawn into a food garden?

Food Not Lawns

Bermudians are not as passionate about lawns as Americans are known to be, but to suggest replacing their lawn with food is likely to meet with resistance. People are attached to their lawns and they do have their place but when the front lawn is occupying the space suitable for a food garden it may be time to let it go.

Some people may be able to let go of their love affair with their lawn all at once but for others it may be an emotional experience, and traumatic for those who have always believed the front yard is not a place for growing food. Not to worry, there’s plenty of support for the transition.

Online help

A gradualist approach is okay and even desirable as one develops skills. It helps to have a vision of what the property could look like before taking the plunge. There are endless images online of suburban front yards brimming with beautifully laid out vegetables to suit all tastes: from neat raised beds and artistic trellises occupying every inch of space to mini forests of fruit trees, herbs, flowers and vegetables intermingling in natural designs.

The topography, size of the property, and existing vegetation will determine what is possible. Many photos seen online are of urban areas where the land is flat. What appeals must be adapted to the local situation. Search “Grow Food Not Lawns” or “Food Not Lawns” to see the many options, and how widespread this idea has become.

Lawn history

How did lawn attachment come about?

Apparently, lawns are a medieval European invention initially created for a clear view from castles for guards to see who was approaching. In the 16th Century lawns were planted with various herbs and kept low by servants with scythes, and grazing animals.

Since only the rich could afford them lawns became a status symbol. Lawn games such as bowls, tennis and golf played a significant role in elevating the status of lawns but the invention of lawnmowers in 1830 paved the way for the masses to have them. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), considered by many to be the father of American landscape architecture, may have influenced how American landscapes look today more than anyone else. He was one of the designers of Central Park and designed and popularised suburbs with a lawn for each residence.

Unrelenting advertising for lawn and lawn products has over the years spawned a billion dollar industry and a culture identified with lawns.

Perhaps Bermuda has been spared some lawn madness due to our limited water resource and native St Augustine or crabgrass. Adapted to our climatic and soil conditions crabgrass requires little care. However, the thrust to beautify the Island for tourism in the last century has helped cultivate lawn pride.

Changing ideal

The ideal for home landscapes is evolving. Most people are now aware of the risks associated with chemically grown food and the trend toward locally grown food. If the “Grow Food Not Lawns” movement takes effect future landscapes will look less like Olmsted’s ideal and more like food forests.

Cost/Benefit

How much do you spend on lawns each year? $600? $1,000? Why not invest that money in durable garden tools, materials and workshops and get tangible returns on your money?

Benefits include abundant fresh healthy food, exercise, garden wisdom, and quiet. No more fossil fuel consuming, noise generating, air polluting lawnmowers and weed eaters, no nagging for hubby to mow the lawn. Shake the lawn habit; it is better for health, the environment, the future, your pocket book, and your peace of mind.

Support

Breaking a habit often requires a supportive environment. If it is too much to contemplate alone landscape designers can help out. The company Edible Landscapes is one that specialises in landscaping with food producing plants and trees.

Take advantage of local gardening workshops, seminars, courses and advice offered by various groups including Transition Bermuda, Permaculture Bermuda, the Bermuda National Trust, and Grow Biointensive Bermuda, all of which are on Facebook.

Note that only Grow Biointensive Bermuda and Edible Landscapes focus exclusively on food, the other groups have wider objectives.

Growing a food garden instead of a lawn allows you to produce your own fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables.

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Published June 06, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 06, 2013 at 11:12 am)

Is it time to turn your lawn into a food garden?

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