Where the $@*% is the Army of Gardeners? Get Off Your Duffs and Make A Difference!


Shawnas Front Garden 08-09

Guest Rant by Shawna Coronado

You know what ticks me off royally?

Churches, synagogues, temples, and businesses of every
sort! Shocking, isn’t it? And let’s make this clear they tick me off because in
every community across the United States you can find these organizations AND
MORE displaying acre after acre after expansive acre of grass with no real
gardeners doing a thing about it. Where’s an Army of Gardeners when we need

Lousy, useless, non-sustainable grass is pretty much good
for nothing. Grass is the enemy. Face it: grass sucks! No literally, grass
sucks a tremendous amount of chemicals which are bad for our water aquifers and
sucks good old-fashioned water which is good for… well… staying alive.

I mean, c’mon people use your common sense. Let me spell
it out. With the nation's population projected to increase to 392 million by
2050 combined with a down global economy where many cities across the United
States alone are seeing over 11% unemployment rates – we are in trouble.

It is not the responsibility of the government to solve
every problem we have. Get off your duffs and build your community. No one else
is going to do it for you. Here’s how you get started – first, get rid of all
that useless grass that’s sucking our most precious resource. Encourage your
businesses, churches, neighborhoods, non-profits – and most importantly – your
family to start planting vegetables like they are going out of style.

Here’s a real shocker – vegetables are going out of style. Food around the world is being rationed.
With the Global Warming Crisis causing weather changes and crops to fail around
the world, this is no longer something we should be ignoring.

It’s difficult to conquer all the grass in the world.
However, I have chosen to set the example for my Army comrades. Without a
regret, I have ripped out my front lawn and planted the damndest little veggie
garden you have ever seen (in part-shade no less). Guess what? It’s growing
just fine and so far I have donated over a hundred pounds of veggies to the
local food pantry.

If you cannot plant vegetables, plant a Therapeutic
Garden. Cancer, diabetes, and heart-disease rates are skyrocketing. Why not
plant a useful garden which might encourage your community to be healthier? By
planting more gardens you are also preventing crime in your neighborhoods.
Let’s see… hmmm… what are the benefits? Stronger mental and physical health, reduced
crime, and fresh organic veggies for your neighborhood. Seems like a win-win to

Never has the world needed an army of gardeners like it
does now. Come to attention! Build a neighborhood garden, grow extra veggies to
share, help your community now because without your help some of your neighbors
might not be able to weather these difficult economic times.

Grab your pitchforks, hoes, and rotted manure! It is time
we made a difference!

Lee Coronado is an author, locally syndicated newspaper columnist,
blogger and greening expert focused on teaching and living a green
lifestyle. Visit Shawna's prime website for more information on her book and
other media – The Casual Gardener.com.  Also visit Shawna’s gardening blog, The Casual Gardener
her greening blog, Gardening Nude. Photo by Shawna of her front-yard veg garden.


  1. Good post Shawna. We can’t depend upon big government to do everything for us. But even the government is doing something when you see that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has named August 23-29, 2009, National Community Gardening Week. As an ongoing commitment to encourage community gardening, the USDA is installing “People’s Gardens” at USDA facilities around the world. These community gardens are places people can grow their own food and donate extra to local food shelves. This summer the People’s Garden at the USDA headquarters on the National Mall in Washington, DC, has donated more than 170 pounds of produce to The DC Central Kitchen. The DC Central Kitchen offers job training in culinary and food service skills to DC’s homeless.

    The Bible lessons of being “good stewards of the land” would ring much truer if our churches would set a good example. The church-based community gardens could do so much good right in their own neighborhoods.

    I’m hopeful…

  2. Kudos to you for again making point that vanity gardens and turf for what they are. My neighbor and I both took out all the remaining turf this summer.

    You would have thought we were torturing puppies the way the neighborhood reacted. Oh well they will get over it or not.

    Thanks for making this important point again.

  3. Thanks! Making a difference is possible if we have the resources – and with all the expansive, useless grass out there – we have a wonderful resource to tap into: land.

    My dream is for more people to really try to make a difference!

  4. Ha Ha Ha, This is brilliant. It is so true about all these large expanses of land just lying fallow, for no good reason. Half the time they don’t even look nice. To think there are millions of people going hungry right now, and all we are doing is growing not food, but useless acres of grass that even Daisy the cow would turn up her nose at. Why do we allow this? Perhaps a credit crunch was needed for us to wake up and do something about all this waste. Funny that decades of eco-campaigning produced limited results, but the second the banks lost all our money …. Oh well, that’s the end of my garden rant…for now LOL

  5. @Busyellebee: Bullseye! I didn’t make that connection between the banks and the sudden interest in being “green” – I just cynically said that it wouldn’t happen until Hollywood made it fashionable.

    Thanks for this rant. I’m forwarding it to my email pals.

  6. Cheers to lawn reduction! In addition to vegetables, we have lots of native plants in our yard. Besides being relatively low-maintenance, they support a variety of wildlife–lovely to look at but also essential to our own well-being. The Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org) explains one of the most important reasons why (though certainly there are other benefits to conserving biodiversity):

    “At least 80% of our world’s crop plant species require pollination. Estimates as high as 1 out of every 3rd bite of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators. Birds, bees, butterflies, and also bats, beetles and even mosquitos are among the myriad creatures which transfer pollen between seed plants.  This function is vital for plant reproduction and food production.”

  7. This is exactly how I feel too Shawna! Excellent post. I’ve followed your garden’s progress since Spring Fling and think you’ve set a great example with your front garden.

    We are hoping to tear out our front lawn this coming winter and replace it with a patio and garden. We hope the patio (and beer!) will invite people to come and chat, and we can share produce and good karma with all. I want to be the change agent that creates community in my neighborhood. Grow where you’re planted, I say.

  8. I’m so proud – you grow gardeners! Get out there and make a difference for your communities.

    World hunger is a concern, however, with the economy the way it is right now, there are people in the U.S. and Canada who are starving. Literally.

    This is such an obvious solution. Businesses have miles of open lawn just waiting to help their communities. I so wish they’d take the next step.


  9. Another Nazi lawn hater that fails to understand the larger picture.
    What this Ranting lawn hater fails to miss is that there is common ground in the use of lawns as well as some social economic issues that come into play.

    You want an army of gardeners to rip out the lawns of churches, public parks and businesses and replant them with vegetable gardens ?

    Sure this can easily happen if you get community acceptance and involvement at a pro bono level but don’t expect private businesses to increase their already stretched monthly garden maintenance bill just because you think a private organization should subsidized your point of perspective and install a farm on their property.

    That church or business may find their lawn a positive point of cash flow in the form of rental space for functions, weddings and community events.

    It takes a hell of a lot less man hours to maintain a lawn then to maintain a vegetable garden.
    If there is not a community consensus to start and maintain a vegetable garden then it will fall upon the private business to pay for garden maintenance services.

    Your rant sound nice and warm and fuzzy but there is a lot more economics involved in it when you look at the bigger picture of ripping out lawns in public spaces.

    A more realistic approach would be to educate the homeowner to plant a vegetable patch in their own back yards or to support their local farmers who make their living growing vegetables.

  10. While I agree with Michelle D. I sure wish we could all quit using Nazi references. Ditto for Hitler references and fascist references. Gives the language a bit of punch, I guess, but in the wrong mouths (Mr. Limbaugh take a bow) it’s not at all constructive.

  11. Nice post – I think one point I would make is that there are two issues here. The first is that big lawns maintained in towns by quasipublic organisations like churches, synagogues, community centres could and perhaps should be viewed as wasted space that could be better used doing the things mentioned above; veg, gardens or whatever. However these organisations are, rightly, under no obligation to address this. The second is that they could be persuaded to address this if either a) convinced someone (volunteers?) would do the work and cover any cost (ie veg etc) or b) they could be shown there would be a cost & labour saving (eg xerothytic or wild type gardens as a replacement for lawn). We need to do a) or b) before we can expect them to shift. A good example is this thing:

    If there isn’t a US version of this, perhaps there should be….

  12. Michelle, well said! I am sure the churches and synagogues in my neighbourhood have lawns around them because they don’t necessarily have the volunteer or paid labour necessary to maintain extensive flower and vegetable gardens. Grass doesn’t grow particularly well in my part of the world, but it grows well enough with minimal care and twice-monthly mowing that it is the least labour-intensive option for grounds, although admittedly weedy and somewhat spotty. And just where would my church have the Easter egg hunt if there weren’t a lawn? And where would the summer garden party be held? Among the cabbages?

    I am so tired of the preaching against lawns. Get rid of the grass! Move up to ….. what? Perennials? Vegetables? Annuals? Shrubs? Wall to wall mulch?Anyone out there who feels that maintaining any of the above is less work than spreading some chickenpoop in the fall and mowing through the warm season? If so, please come visit me and help me with my third of an acre of trees, perennials, shrubs, groundcovers, vegetable garden, and two patios with potted tropicals.

    Pleasepleaseplease — we don’t all have to move to the same music, we don’t all have to subscribe to the latest garden wisdom. Damnit — it’s not easy to keep a flower or vegetable garden looking good all the time, any more than it’s easy to keep a lawn looking good all the time.

  13. I’d love to se your zealous and charming rant focused and energized by some rock hard statistics. We get some here in a few comments others have made. I agree with you 100%, but posts like these always seem too focused at the choir. Of course it’s for the choir, but the choir needs to be made new, to think new, we need theholy texts redelivered.

  14. Oh my. Call me what you will – Nazi, Zealous-Nut, Grass Maligner!

    However, my point is not to deride grass itself – it’s the chemicals used and the carbon footprint made to mow the suckers that is a negative.

    More importantly, my real point is this: Many in the United States are starving because of our current economic situation. Surprisingly, it’s not just lower class, it’s extending to the middle-class as well.

    Shall we gaze stupidly at acres of wasted beautiful lawn delighting in it’s perfection? Or shall we use our common sense and work together as caring communities to bring food to the people in need?

    If motivating more people to care for their communities means I will be called “nazi”, “zealous”, or worse, then call me whatever you’d like. I will not be a coveter of perfect lawns when thousands are starving!

    I will do whatever I can to help!

    What are you doing to help your neighbor?

    Perhaps that’s a question everyone should be asking ourselves. Although not perfect, I am definitely doing my best to help the ones I can. 🙂


  15. Although Michelle D. I do not agree with you….love your website. Landscape Designer..did notice in your portfolio some very nice xeriscape.

    Saved you in my favorites because your work is lovely.

  16. Lots of feelings here! That’s why whenever I write about lawn replacement I include a link to my standard disclaimer, in which I explain why I’m not ANTI-lawn: http://www.sustainable-gardening.com/lawn/disclaimer.html.

    Also people raise good points; e.g., that veg gardens take lots more work to maintain than lawns. In my town good intentions without a plan in place for on-going maintenance are evident at several schools and churches. It’s a sad reality.

  17. Shawna and other anti-grass extremists, you’re going overboard, in a way that seems blind, trendy and harmful to everyone’s aim of encouraging all to enjoy and appreciate nature.
    Think about when u were a very little kid – weren’t flower and vegetable gardens about sticky summer heat, bugs, weeding and adult-given chores?
    And lawns when u were a kid – if you’re like me, lawns were about hours of playing tag and swinging statues, lying face up to look at clouds, or face down to look at bugs.
    You can tell ur kids to do that on some bouncy manmade material instead, but is that what u want to teach them about outside world?
    The truth is, only gardeners go out in the gardens, while grass is for everybody. It doesn’t have to be all fertilizer and chemicals . Attack that, not lawns.

  18. I should know better than get into this fray, no doubt easy target for high rant comments.

    The home lawn is the product of hundreds of years of aristocratic pastoral idealism emulated by the poor and the middle class. Its an abstraction, easily retired should some other symbolic landscape satisfy our dreams. Historically, “Western” culture has only one alternative, that’s the peasant’s landscape, a landscape of work and need, farm and potager, medicinal herbs and shit-house flowers.

    It is clear to me why you would find resistance amongst ordinary people. Your not only knocking the symbol of their family progress, your asking them to now also build a landscape that symbolizes work and actually requires work. A lawn says no work, it says I’ve come along way, despite the work that goes into keeping it.

    Today we are proposing “natural” landscapes and potagers as an alternative to lawns. Its an interesting dichotomy -almost like Gothic (Romantic) versus Classical. The verdancy of the Gothic versus the desert restraint of the Classical. Isn’t it odd how the lawn has become the desert of the northern temperate climate?

    And as Lawrence of Arabia said when asked why he liked the desert: “Its clean.”

    I’d like to add to that, its easily maintained, so much so that sheep could do it. Afterward I can sit on it, lay on it and make love on it. The pastoral ideal is very powerful.

    If you are to truly overcome a nation of lawns, your solutions cannot be just words. You must present powerful images that speak of progress, of betterment to the ordinary citizen. Remember that a lawn is not just a water sucking chemical bath. Its much much more than that to a person. Its the cloak of a king, one so big it surrounds his castle.

  19. So….vulgarity in the post title in the form of “%$#^^& **&^@#” along with a self righteous outcry as to where the
    anti lawn-istas are!!!!

    How Barrack (it’s not about me)! Give the militant anti-lawn crowd time and they show their true brown shirt colors. You along with Hillary-care part II will fail under your own weight.

    The TROLL

  20. I’ve gotta chime in here, because this is one topic that does irritate the heck out of me – too many people are jumping on the “I Hate Lawns Bandwagon’ which so quickly turns into “You’re Lame if you have a Lawn Bandwagon’…(and I, too, have written a post about it)…


    I think the basic message of her rant is a great one – ‘what are you doing to help your neighbors’….and shouldn’t be confused with ‘you’re a horrible human being if you have a lawn’….there’s a big difference between the two.

  21. Lois Henrichs wrote to tell me she couldn’t post this comment for some reason, so here it is:

    On another grassy note, check out Nancy Gift’s “A Weed by Any Other Name: The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don’t Plant” (ISBN 9780807085523). Dr. Gift is a weed scientist who teaches environmental studies and is acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University, Pittsburgh. Her book is not an instruction manual, rather a rambling collection of personal essays. A good read. There’s a review at https://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-9780807085523-2

  22. According to permaculturist David Blume, the #1 ‘crop’ in the US, in terms of gross tonnage is (wait for it….) – GRASS CLIPPINGS!

    This should not be suprising when you consider that there is at least as much land in the US devoted to lawns as to productive crop land (which is also abused by our current agriculture practices, but that’s another rant).

    While I generally agree with Shawna, about the environmental costs, grass clippings can serve some useful purposes. For example, they make up a significant portion of the yard waste compost produced in this country – a valuable albeit underused resource. Blume also advocates that clippings could be used to produce biofuels, such as ethanol, without to much technical difficulty, thus freeing up cropland for something other than growing corn for that purpose (a huge wastew if ever there was one).

  23. Great disclaimer! I love it!

    What would be awesome is if someone created a website people could go to which might have a calendar for general on-going maintenance, etc.

    Hmmmm…. something to think on.

    Thanks again Susan!


  24. I work quite a bit in Chicago and farther out suburbs doing garden maintenance.

    Maybe it’s just me but I’ve observed that urbanites and those in the near collar suburbs where lots are tiny seem to value gardening (flowers/vegetables/herbs) far more then those in the outlying suburbs. The tiny pieces of ground or in some cases, only balconies seem more dear to them.

    Now, I’ve seen some awesome gardens in suburbs of those fortunate enough to garden on large expanses but it doesn’t seem to be the rule of thumb but more the exception.

    Actually, the trend I’d like to see is for urban planning to drastically reduce the size of private lots and create more open spaces for the production of food, wildlife and general public enjoyment.

    Michelle brings up a good point, of resources – the amount labor and money that goes into maintaining a garden – either ornamental or otherwise can be quite large – I have the invoices to prove it.

    And I work for quite a number of folks who really have no clue how expensive and much work it is to keep up a large yard. They just thought it would cool to live in a big house on a big lot. We need to get out of this mentality that bigger is better.

  25. Some of the most beautiful gardens around here are surrounding churches, planted and maintained by a “gardening ministry.” My parish even rents a farm field to grow food for the food pantry. I hope this is the start of a growing trend. As my mom calls it, it’s “gardening for God.”

  26. Remember — this blog was not about grass hating so much as it was about growing food for those who are struggling due to our current economic times.

    Again – my point – GRASS VERSUS HUNGER. If communities are willing to come together and help feed their hungry, then there is a perfectly great place available and ready to grow the food.

    It works for my front lawn – I pulled out 100 lbs of veggies for my local food shelter.

    I know that others can do this too.


    Thanks for all the great commentary – I love it!

    Happy Gardening!


  27. The moment Nathalie Lussier {and anyone else} used the word Nazi, whatever they said became totally pointless and … well, compost.
    That’s just total ignorance showing there.

    As for the lawns, I say turn them into gardens. Yeah, grass can look nice, but it’s really just a waste of space. I’d rather walk through a garden or trees than a plain grass lawn. And if people can be fed using by turning that wasted space into a veggie garden, then more power to those that are willing to do the work.

  28. Shawna is right about this. Lawn gardeners — whether they care to admit it or not — are anti-sustainability misanthropes.

    By creating what amount to ornamental monocultures, Lawners show their distain for both the environment and their fellow humans. Lawn gardening is the ultimate gentrification of suburbia: turning productive ground into useless monuments to growable fashion.

    Fortunately, pending HB-225 (a community control bill), gives citizens in low-income areas adjacent to certain “garden district” subdivisions recourse in the appropriation of private property for community gardening. It provides up to $135.5 million/year in Federal compensation for homeowners whose ornamental gardens are repurposed by ad-hoc urban farming groups for local food production, subject to exemptions for various properties deemed of significant cultural or historic value by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

    It’s progressive programs like this which can help reverse the massive water waste, fertilizer runoff, and wasted food production potential which have been a feature of idealized suburbia since the 1950s.

    If you feel strongly about this, urge your House representative to support HB-225 when Congress returns to session in a few weeks.

  29. From a simple farmer- Grass is not meant to be mowed but grazed!

    I consistently stand back watching subdivision communities compete for the most manicured lawn for “yard of the month!” It is blatant ridiculousness! Golf courses and Churches have the prime land today while farmers are selling out to developers every day.

    Here in Texas we have been under severe drought conditions for 3 months many of the subdivision Communities have only allowed for watering twice a week. This will not sustain St. Augustine when you scalp it to 1/4″ inch. For those that may not know “your roots are only as deep as the grass blades are tall.”

    Therefore, while I’m growing on veggies on lease land for I’m not a church or developer to afford current land prices in the area I would encourage you “grass lovers” to learn to stir-fry your lawn! It won’t be that long before that is all you have to eat.


    P.S. Research Permaculture, you might be enlightened

  30. lt wasn’t Nathalie Lussier who used the descriptive term ‘Nazi’ it was I, Michelle D.
    It was used as an analogy to reflect the militant anti-lawn narrow point of perspective that Shawna is espousing.
    Just like Seinfeld has his ego centric dictatorial Soup Nazi , we have our share of environ-’mental’ Lawn Nazi’s,
    They’re usually related to Home Owner Association Nazi’s who are inbred cousins of your local planning and building department Nazi’s who insist that you pay a $ 500 dollar permit fee in order to install a $ 75.00 replacement window.

    Shawna if your intended Rant was to feed the hungry with community built gardens then your message was lost after proclaiming “Grass is the Enemy”.


  31. Hello all,

    I see there have been a few more comments. Just to add, in the right context a lawn can be nice. But in so many cases it looks so awful. Why spend all that time, energy and money on what is essentially a waste of space?

    During WW2 in the UK, the government encouraged everyone to “Dig for victory” – every scrap of land that was capable of growing food was used. The luxury of keeping a lawn was not an option. This resulted in country that up until WW2 only grew 20% of the nations food, uping that to 50% in just a few years. Thinking about the wider context, it saved lives because fewer merchant ships carrying food supplies had to run the risk of being blown out of the sea. The nation became fitter and healthier as they were working in the gardens, producing and then eating non-chemically treated food.

    I add another point if I may – as much as I adore Tiger Woods, I hate the fact that so much land is given over to the sport of golf. I don’t wish to attack the all the golf courses in the world, especially as golf does provide some with a form of exercise, but just the ones which are located in the most unsuitable, in my humble option, places.

    A few years ago I was very lucky to spend my summer holiday in Barbados. As you know it is a very small island (167 sq miles), but you may be surprised to know that there are 7 golf courses in Barbados. Yet when you visit the supermarkets or the food markets, the quality of the food is sub-standard at best, not fresh and often not safe for consumption. If you want to eat anything good you have to pay a fortune at the many established resturants, to eat mostly imported food. Surely this good arable land could be put to better use?

    A country is only as strong as the food it produces. As I said before, a lawn can be lovely in the right setting, but if your citizens are malnourished, having a perfectly manicured lawn does not seem right.

    Everything nowadays is becoming increasing expensive. I am aware it is possible to get cheap food in the US, but how long is that going to continue? Here in the UK, we all thought that the banking industry could not be broken. Well sorry folks, but we all need to wake up. The environment is shot to pieces, our jobs are no longer safe and institutions which were once thought unbreakable are collapsing around us. If we are then unable to feed ourselves adquately, then there is little hope for the future. I am in no way self sufficient, I even admit to having a small lawn, but it means the world of difference that I can pick sweetcorn from my garden and pop it in a cooking pot within 3 mins and know exactly how it was grown and that it tastes sweet because of hard work, love and care and not because it had chemicals sprayed all over it.

    And what did it cost me? A packet of seeds and a couple of fun hours in my garden.

    End of another rant – I promise to be more cheerful next time 😉


  32. Good post!
    I have to disagree with many of the comments, though. A lawn requires more care and resources than a native plant garden or lawn alternative garden. The misconception that a lawn is less work and less expensive is really a problem and keeps people in the “must have a lawn” cycle. Although native plant gardens, for example, do require some maintenance (see my guest rant), they do not require nearly as much or as much regularly than a lawn- even in a public setting. For example, my wife and I installed a small native plant garden in 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/l6x5tu), and this year, we have not watered it once and only weeded it for a couple of hours with some neighbors. Contrast that with watering 3-4 times/ week, mowing at least once/ week, weeding, etc.. that a maintenance free lawn rewards you with and you can easily figure how much you will save (time and money, not to mention resources), with a lawn alternative. Lawn alternative gardens do take planning, and site preparation, but they are not necessarily more expensive or more work than a lawn.

  33. “pending HB-225 (a community control bill), gives citizens in low-income areas adjacent to certain “garden district” subdivisions recourse in the appropriation of private property for community gardening….”


    This proposes a new use of emminant domain, always a touchy area. You think there has been whooping and holloring about the health care issuse? The reaction to taking of property rights will be even louder.

  34. Great point, Great article.

    Do you know what the biggest crop is, in the United States? Grass. Yes, it’s a crop. It’s seeds are sold to people who plant them and maintain them. There are more acres of grass in this country than any other crop. More than corn, more than soy beans, more than anything.

    If we all became gardening soldiers and planted food on our acres instead of grass, hunger in this country would all but disappear.

    Can you imagine neighborhood farmers markets? I can!

    Adam Shake

  35. Adam, that is such a wonderful thought.

    I pick lots of veggies and take a few minutes to go door to door to see if anyone needs them on my block. It takes just a few minutes and we have a few people who are unemployed, so it might be quite helpful for their families.

    Life is short – you gotta do good for others.


  36. Shawna, great post. I strongly commend your desire to feed the hungry!

    There is another environmental insult that is mostly due to lawns, and that is the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico which is caused by fertilizer and chemical run-off, mostly from golf courses and lawns.

    This dead zone is larger than the state of New Jersey, and is called a dead zone because it kills all of the fish, shrimp, and crustaceans on which residents of this area depend to make their living.

    No matter what your feelings for lawns are, we all need to learn that our actions have consequences. We can choose actions that have positive consequences, instead of choosing to continue to cause harm to the environment.

  37. Carole, Excellent point you made regarding the chemical and fertilizer run-off. We really do all need to look at how we garden.

    Grass, if left alone and given an occasional trim, can look after itself. Yet the majority of gardeners – in the UK at least – spend most of their time, money and effort on having the perfect lawn, just to have something to look at. This must be a false economy. I suspect most people’s idea of gardening is mowing the lawn.

    I’m not anti-grass, as it does have it’s place, all plants do. But how about planting more flowering shrubs, which will not only bring more colour to our lives, but more importantly encourage bees and other beneficial insects whose population are falling, partly due to the chemicals used to maintain lawns. Believe me if the bees disappear, we will all have a lot more to worry about than having a weed free lawn.

    As we are approaching the end of the growing season, I am going to calculate the amount spent on growing my plants, veg, fruit etc and compare to the costs of keeping my small lawn.

    If my lawn becomes a new vegetable patch next year, don’t be surprised! If nothing else I will be able to send a bigger fresh food basket to my local church for harvest festival.


  38. In response to Busyellebee’s comments on fertilizer run-off —

    Indeed – on a recent eco-blogging trip to Mexico I met a man who is monitoring the coral and water systems in the Yucatan Peninsula. We gardeners and farmers truly touch his country in a shocking way. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about it – http://bit.ly/woj7M.

    I also got to dive in the Yucatan’s cenote system – this is the only fresh water supply for the local Mexican’s and they are very concerned about chemicals touching this aquifer. We should be too in our own country. Here’s another link addressing that particular experience – http://bit.ly/fbWwI.

    Water aquifers. Ocean systems. Lawns. Chemicals. We were uneducated 50 years ago, but now we know that our intrinsic involvement in nature is definitely touching the earth; sometimes in a negative way.

    Focusing on ways to feed the hungry as well as perfect a more sustainable way of gardening which will help the environment instead of hurting it is definitely our future.

    Thanks for all the great comments!


  39. This is a great rant.

    I do believe that lawns have a place, but there is an obsession that goes along with these “beautifully manicured” lawns that I do not believe in. It is not just an anti-lawn movement here in the US, but an observation made world-wide.

    “Sayyid Qutb, who is one of the intellectual heroes of the Islamic extremists, toured America between 1948 and 1950. He found a world of jazz, football, movies, cars, and people obsessed with lawn maintenance. It was a land, he wrote, “hollow and full of contradictions, defects and evils.”” (the weekly Standard,2002).

    Additionally, Osama BinLaden has also made reference to the obsession of Americans towards their lawns, and he despised the US soley for this fact.

    In Europe (yes, this includes the UK) and the mid-east, we are seen as the commercial bourgeoisie- and still, through all of our means of production, tools, wares and capital– we cannot feed our own people.

    There is hunger in this country, and not due to the recent economic downturn, but a problem that has existed for decades. Community based gardens are a wonderful idea.

    Get rid of those chemically enhanced and water intensive manicured lawns, and plant something that will yield a positive economic return– veggies are a good starting point. Let’s show the world that we are not the shallow stereotypes we are made to be, but rather a country that is compassionate and concerned for its people and environment.

    And to those who claim that gardens are more work that lawns, I say this — are you afraid of a little more work?

  40. Ketn,
    You quoted an “intellectual Islamic extremist,” Osama Bin Laden and European and Middle Eastern countries who see us as “commercial bourgeoisie.”

    Too bad you used examples of people who represent oppression and intolerance for any one who holds “Freedom” as a value…including the freedom to do with their land as they please.

    Is there hunger in America? I’m sure there is, but there are also many more countries around the world that are a little less hungry today because of America, as well.

    Did Sayid Qutb, Osama Bin laden, European or Middle Eastern with their “superior morality” ever concern themselves with feeding America’s hungry?

    Respect the freedom we have to choose to have a lawn or feed the community with a garden, we may lose it one day.

  41. @Michele D. How carefully did you read Shawna’s post? She’s specifically says she’s not asking for others or the government to address this issue but for each of us to take personal responsibility to form communities which will change wasteful land use practices.

    I’m lucky to live in Austin, where there are lots of successful volunteer groups who help others start gardens, maintain community gardens, volunteer hours in public gardens to do what the city budget can’t cover, and work in educational school gardens.

    And, yes, part of this effort begins in our own back yards–or front yards. What Shawna is saying is let’s expand our efforts. Let’s work together. Let’s figure out how we as individuals can contribute to a solution rather than simply complain about the problems that face us.

    Personally, I think a lot of the problem is that institutions tend to plant boring landscapes because they haven’t considered alternatives. I’m lucky to live in a community with lots of active gardening organizations. But I realize that Austin is a rare and lovely place.

    Good for Shawna for trying to get people thinking about the land and landscapes around them.

  42. Zanthan Gardens, Austin is indeed beautiful. I went down this summer to keynote speak in Austin and was thrilled with how gorgeous the gardens there were. I got to tour Ladybird Johnson’s Wildflower Garden with my host and it was simply breathtaking!!

    It was also 110 degrees in the shade. Talk about a challenge for veggie gardens – WOW!

    The mindset there was very centered towards community and community building – – I was inspired. Thank you for your comment Zanthan Gardens, I wish I had met you while I was in Austin.

  43. Your article doesn’t rally troups to your cause. Targeting community properties that don’t landscape their grounds to suit your personal agendy indicates that you are either a fool or need theropy. You want to change the World? Put your money where your mouth is: BUY IT!

  44. Thanks for your support Steph. Yes – my point is not about getting rid of lawns as much as it is about feeding the hungry and seeing that acres and acres and acres of grass is not really helping anyone from a feed-the-hungry standpoint.

    It’s not about personal agenda – it’s about communities caring for each other.

    Having more people in the community make a difference for the hungry seems like a positive way to help keep Americans united – and able to survive during a difficult economic time.


  45. As a follow up to demonstrate what a few gardeners have done to help feed their community through vegetable donation, here’s a link to a blog which gives an example of a community garden and contact information for Ample Harvest –

    Happy Fall All!


  46. Hi Shawna, loved your post. I have no grass and have pushed xeriscaping every since my early days as a landscape designer. I think that vegetable gardens in public spaces might be a hard sell especially when you get “volunteers” to maintain it… Iove the thoughts of bonding with your neighbors in friends…can I feature you and your rant on my blog?

  47. I commend you on getting so many thoughtful responses! The Christ Church at 91st and Nall in OP has done a lovely job of utilizing their vast greenspace. God bless ’em.
    Nice rant!
    @AlexisCeule @Johnnystavernpv

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