Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

The concept of the beloved front lawn is as American as apple pie, right? Most of us have memories of our fathers mowing and edging and reseeding and sodding and applying a variety of chemical stimulants to get the grass as smooth perfectly green as possible. But the soft, sloping expanse is about as natural to the United States as palm trees are to California, which is to say not at all. The idea of the lawn originated in England where it rains so much a sprinkler system is not required. But in the US not only is it necessary to install sprinklers, but most people use gas-powered lawn mowers and pesticides to maintain their lawns. The list of criticisms continue. Aside from being energy inefficient (and often times downright wasteful – how many times were those sprinklers turned on and forgotten?), most lawns are comprised of but one species of plant and work to decrease local biodiversity.

The alternative is the vegetable garden. A far cry from your grandma’s victory garden, the growing popularity of the front lawn turned home garden is not only better looking than a stretch of freshly clipped green grass, but it’s useful too. Yes, it’s better for the environment, but it will also transform your dinners with fresh and delicious herbs and veggies. People looking for a little inspiration to get their own garden growing should pick up “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn,” out now in its expanded new edition that features 10 new completed gardens across the country. Contributors include landscape and urban designers, foodie Michael Pollan (“The Omnivores Dilemma”) and Eric Sanderson, author of the seminal text “Manhatta.”

“This is not a comprehensive how-to book or a showcase of impossibly perfect gardens. The examples and stories presented here are intended to inspire you to plant your own version of an Edible Estate and to reveal something about how we are living today. When we see that the typical grassy front lawn can be a beautiful food garden instead, perhaps we will look at the city around us with new eyes. Our private land can be a public model for the world in which we would like to live.”

There’s no singular model for these gardens. Each can and should be tailor-made to suit the tastes of the gardeners themselves. The White House garden, for example, ”will include tomatillos and cilantro but no beets because the Obamas love Mexican food but the President doesn’t like beets.”

The book’s release kicks off with a conversation moderated by Leonard Lopate at WYNC’s Greene Space, April 8th at 7pm.