It’s taken almost exactly three years (closed escrow on this place on May 18th 2010) but I finally got rid of all the lawn.
Something that most folks don’t know is that lawn is bad for the environment, just like street and sidewalk, a well manicured lawn on compacted soil is an impervious surface, meaning that water won’t filter through the earth and percolate down to recharge aquifers, it just overwhelms the storm drain system carrying fertilizer, pesticides and dog poop (along with gas/oil/antifreeze and whatever else is on the street) with it out to the Puget Sound via Commencement Bay.
Over the years I’ve been in this house, I’ve been slowly converting lawn in to more useful area; a nice pervious gravel bed under my grape arbor, a fairy garden, adjacent to a small orchard of mixed fruit and one hazelnut tree, and a huge garden area. The only place out back where I now allow grass to grow is in the chicken area so that they can eat fresh greens when free ranging.
I converted the (very small) front yard slope into flower garden the first year I was here, but was left with a huge parking strip full of the offending green stuff. This parking strip is 15 feet deep (measured from the sidewalk to the street) and runs the length of the property.
A neighbor, one bock over on the other side of the street has a wonderful little guerrilla urban farm that I have been admiring since I moved here. It’s hilarious at peak squash season, as the vines go insane and sometimes encroach in to the street. Since the legality of taking over what is essentially city property (but we are required to maintain) for urban farming/gardening in the front, where people can actually [gasp] see it is somewhat questionable, I like the slightly “naughty” feeling… [raises dirt covered fist in the air and yells]…”POWER TO THE PEOPLE! SQUASH IN THE STREET!”
THIS is what I am aspiring to… (you can see my house in the background)
But first, I had to get rid of the stupid lawn…
I was pretty happy to have this be my LAST mow.
I didn’t want to dig out the sod or rent a sod cutter (sod this old doesn’t come out easily anyway) and really didn’t want to have to mass apply herbicide, so I decided to use the same technique I used for my actual front yard and garden beds out back, which has worked fabulously.
I raided my basement, then the Safeway down the street for cardboard boxes which I laid out over the lawn. Once weighted down with topsoil, mulch, or in my case Tagro, it will kill the grass with no cutting, digging or chemicals and then the cardboard and grass will decompose and amend the soil, no tilling required.
That big pile there is 3 cubic yards (that’s 4,800 pounds, over two tons) of Tagro
as it turns out, 3 cubic yards wasn’t quite enough to do it as thick as I wanted…
so I got another 3 cubic yards…
over the course of one afternoon and the following morning, I shoveled 9,600 pounds (oh so close to five tons) of Tagro, thus re-confirming my status as “crazy lady no one wants to mess with” on my block.
It sure felt good when it was all done. (Ibuprofen was my friend that night)
So just like that, I reclaimed 535 square feet of prime, sun filled garden space…
As I was shoveling and shoveling, I fielded a lot of questions from neighbors young and old. “Are you crazy?” and “Can I feel your biceps?” comments aside, they were interested in the process, my reasons for it and what I was going to put there.
I have been thinking about putting up some signs talking about urban farming and what is growing there due to all the interest the project has received thus far.
Anyone who knows me, figures out pretty quickly that I am a very serious and dedicated anti-Monsanto/Big Agra and pro local, healthy, sustainable, non-GMO food activist.
Of course, it was going to be food.
“What!? You’re going to grow food out here where people could steal it?”
If someone is hungry and wants fresh vegetables, they are welcome to them. I have way more than I need from my huge garden out back.
Last summer, my friend Jack, like many in this area had a bumper crop of plums. He harvested all of them, laid them out on a sheet with a sign that said “free”. He even provided plastic bags to carry them home in.
What if everyone who could, grew some of their own food. What if they made the excess available to neighbors who didn’t have the land/skill to do so? What if we taught people how and shared our plant starts and seeds with them, and they in turn did so as well?
Can you imagine how much healthier, happier and more connected our communities would be?
While I’m happy to share food, vandalism and waste would make me very sad , so I am keeping “high temptation” things that could be vandalized out back, such as red tomatoes and corn (the neighbors down the street had some issues with kids picking their corn and throwing it some time back) A neighbor grows his really weird looking, off color tomatoes such as yellow and green zebra out front with no trouble.
I didn’t get my seeds started in time this year, so it was off to my farmers’ market and Gardensphere for as many organic/non gmo starts as I could get…
What I can’t grow from organic starts, will at least be heirloom and open pollinated (those are non-GMO) so that I can save seed.
One of the many scary things about Monsanto’s monopoly and GMO is the loss of genetic diversity. At the rate we are going, the only way to save these wonderful, much tastier and safe heirloom fruits and veggies is to save uncontaminated seed from season to season (you know, like farmers used to be able to do)
Seed saving is vital to the future of our food supply.
I have planted the front garden with broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots (from seed), radishes (from seed), red onions, walla walla onions, artichokes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, butternut squash, kentucky wonder pole beans and snap peas
I roped the area off in order to keep the tender young plants from being tromped on and just to make it pretty, planted double knockout roses in two whiskey barrels I recently acquired. If all goes well, I will be picking up some landscape timbers in the next few days which will help keep the neighbor’s grass out, and keep the dirt in the bed and off the street/sidewalk.
Now I just need everything to grow baby grow…
Of course, the back yard is getting some new plant action as well…
As a matter of fact, I’m sure that yesterday’s wind and freezing rain storm, and today’s hailstorm are directly related to the fact that I planted tomatoes on Friday. (well, the crappy weather on Saturday is mostly due to the law of nature that says it has to be cold and nasty on Daffodil Parade day)
and don’t forget…
The apples, cherries, plum, peaches, pears and blueberries are blooming.
It’s so amazing out there that I don’t even mind the copious amounts of pollen attacking my sinuses.
More photos of this year’s garden work and things in bloom can be seen by clicking on this link new photos will be added to this set as they are taken.