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Edible Estates


I finished reading Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, by Fritz Haeg today. It's a quick read, being a series of essays about the origin and state of front yards of grass lawns in the United States, followed by a series of impressions from the households who have broken away from said grass lawns and planted food producing gardens in the their front yards. The book isn't a how-to guide on how to replant a front yard with an edible garden, though it does include a general outline on how one might do so near the front. It is an entertaining read for those who have a desire to do more with a front yard than mow it week after week.

Some interesting facts from the book include:

Lawns are pretty much a monoculture of two or so species of grasses. Given biodiversity is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, the lawn monoculture is a sure sign of a systemic problem.

The expanse of green grass in the United States has its origins in English aristocracy, where lawns were a symbol of wealth. Similar to the way pale skin was a sign of wealth in that a tan was a "lower class" sign of needing to work outdoors, lawns were a show of wealth stating we have land that doesn't need to be planted for food production.

Of course, even the English lawns were still USED for something (lawn bowling, lawn tennis, etc.), unlike the American lawn, which provides a "demilitarized zone" between the public and the private home, one that most people won't cross.

Lawn grass happens to be the biggest crop in the United States, covering over 30 million acres, costing people over $25 billion a year. More pesticides are used on grass lawns than on farms. More pollution is produced from an hour of a gas-powered lawn mower than a 300 mile drive in a car.

I'm already a convert to the idea of planting a front yard with edible plants (or yellow ones!), so my like of the book is unsurprising. The when-to-plant guides in the back of the book, as well as the resource sections is fabulous, but not enough of a reason to keep the book. So, I've decided to send the book on its merry way via the Book Crossing philosophy. I'll wait to see if friend wants it first. Otherwise, it's off to a community garden for flight.

I hope to finish up the front yard some time over the next few months, with the birthday present from Kris. I'm still torn between a California meadow and a front yard garden, with Kris wanting the former and quite leery of the latter.