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Sterile Front Yards

Sterile Front Yards The war for the great American Front Yard is being fought tooth and nail by homeowners associations across this great continent. It seems that grass, that most pervasive of weeds, is on the front line, and in some neighbourhoods, on the verge of disappearing. The desperate supporters of green grass, chemical fertilizers and herbicides such as Roundup are busy telling other people what to do, and not accepting anything less than a lush green lawn from their neighbours, claiming that the very foundation of society will crumble if the battle is not won – or at least that’s how it feels.

Next American City » Daily Report » The Wildflower Wars

In suburbia… the yard equation appears to be something akin to:

C + SL = HPV

Conformity + Sterile Landscaping = Higher Property Values
And that, apparently, equals happy homeowners.

I’ve got a big lawn and I don’t have any feelings for it. This year we’ve attempted to convert more of our lawn to vegetable or grain beds, figuring that the weeding is worth it if there’s some food involved.

Around here, little signs are popping up on everyone’s lawn, the real sign that Spring is finally here. And people, despite what the lawn care companies will tell you…

Tera Green Lawn Care, residential and Commercial Lansdscape Maintenance

A well maintained landscape around your office, business complex, or home projects an image of professionalism and respect, for you surroundings, to your customers, employees, and neighbors.

The true test in years to come will be whether or not you can eat it.

213455306_7a4ee7e9a6_m gardenlab / edible estates / text

Just the act of spending an extended period of time outside with our hands in the dirt is a profoundly deviant act today! There is no rational or practical reason to do it. We can get anything we need at the store, right? The mortgage company refers to the physical house we live in as one of the "improvements" to the property. Pretty landscaping may be considered another improvement. But as far as the bank is concerned, the actual fertility and health of the dirt in our front yards has no economic value.

Wouldn’t it be great if a chemically contaminated lawn made a property impossible to sell, while organic gardening and thirty years of composting would dramatically increase our property values? Alas, today you can chart the exact economic stratum of any residential street based exclusively on the state of its chemically dependent front lawns.

1206757301_4fa8547507_m What needs to change? The signs are already on the horizon – peak oil, higher food prices, global food shortages, climate change – in the future the land we own, if we still own it, may become the one thing that keeps us alive. A day may come when the supermarkets we rely on to keep providing fresh food to us will no longer have enough food on the shelves, it will be too late for many people if this occurred. Rather, communities and cities should consider encouraging cooperative use of all viable land, (or at least not discouraging it through bylaws!)

Edible Estates is an example of a direction that speaks well towards sustainability – the lush green lawn does not.

Edible Estates has no conventionally monumental intentions; it is a relatively small and modest intervention on our streets. The gardens are just beginning when they are planted and they continue to evolve. With just one season of neglect some gardens may disappear entirely. 

A small garden of very modest means, humble materials, and a little effort can have a radical effect on the life of a family, how they spend their time and relate to their environment, whom they see, and how they eat. This singular local response to global issues can become a model. It can be enacted by anyone in the world and can have a monumental impact.

What are you growing in your garden?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

One thought on “Sterile Front Yards

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