Cash for Grass: Turn Your Lawn into an Investment in Food
EDIBLE LANDSCAPING is primal with me. I grew up on a farm where my grandmother’s favorite time of year was early spring when the fiddleheads emerged next to the stream and the dandelions popped out of the lawn. I foraged for wild strawberries on the lawn in June and sucked on the petals of the Johnny jump ups that had leaped from my grandmother’s garden all season long.
On my own yard out back these days I have consciously let the areas with wild strawberries grow freely until June because of the joy my daughter, Aimee, gets from picking and eating them. She knows, too, that it’s OK to pop the white flowers of the Dutch clover in her mouth, or that chickweed is a perfectly fine snack. She’s 4 now, and I know that by introducing these concepts to her at such a young age, lawn foraging will be primal with her one day, too.
As will vegetable gardening. Only we don’t plant a rectangular vegetable garden like the one Gram planted. We tuck vegetables into the landscape, with tomatoes in front of the azaleas and clusters of potatoes — that put out gorgeous white blossoms each year for about the same length of time that most perennials bloom — next to the back steps. Most of our edible landscape, in fact, is within several strides of the back door. At that distance I know I’ll be less likely to forget about it and I can also watch what my daughters and other critters are eating when they shouldn’t be.
I encourage anyone to inspect their own landscapes to see what areas of lawn or flower garden can be utilized to grow food. Edible landscaping is all the rage now and entire books are being written about the subject. But that seems a bit like over thinking it, to me. Just cut out some turf and put some plants in the ground that produce food. Simple as that.
Well, maybe not as simple as that, but it’s not that complicated, either. And the rewards can be amazing.
The nonprofit National Gardening Association recently found that the average family with a vegetable garden spends just $70 a year and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables, or about $1 worth of food for every square foot of garden. The Burpee seed company touts that $1 of seed will generate $75 value in crops. That an exaggeration for some crops; the value return on potatoes, for example, is about $5 for $1 worth of seed potatoes.
Of course, the above equations aren’t valuing your time, or your fertilizer and other inputs. If you don’t have any gardening tools, those can be an initial expense. And if you don’t have any knowledge, then a used copy of the second edition of Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer will run you another $5.23 plus shipping on Amazon.
The real point is that you’ll do well, on so many levels, when you convert some of that lawn to food production. The food you grow without synthetic chemical pesticides will be better and safer; your family’s connection to your landscape will be dynamically enhanced. And just maybe you’ll save a few bucks at the grocery store.
Why not give edible landscaping a try this year? Begin by ordering a few free seed catalogues — I’m biased, but Johnny’s Selected Seeds here in Maine is the best one on the planet — and let the fun begin.