Local group promotes converting lawns to food production

Before "Food, Not Lawns" program.

The Food Not Lawns movement is both international and hyperlocal, dedicated to replacing lawns—or some portion of them—with edible gardens in the name of sufficiency and sustainability. Edible in this context broadly includes food for butterflies, birds and other wildlife as well as fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. The same plants often serve many functions, benefiting humans and other species alike. The nonnative grass varieties that make up most lawns feed no one, with the possible exception of the Japanese beetle larvae that thrive in their roots.

Last spring, my husband and I applied food-not-lawns principles and recently acquired permaculture skills to our Kingston Road front yard, converting about half of it to nicely shaped, sheet-mulched beds. It took two of us (not particularly athletic 50-somethings) one afternoon to make the beds, and another to do the initial planting. Ever conscious of aesthetics, we planted a mélange of native edible shrubs, perennial herbs and flowers, and annual vegetables that would produce food and seeds for later planting. We also were treated to a number of “volunteer” squash, tomatoes and even potatoes from the compost.

As the weeks progressed, our former yard became a lush, productive, beautiful and ever-changing garden. It inspired our neighbors to stop, comment, smell the flowers or help themselves to cherry tomatoes we intentionally planted at the sidewalk edge. Several told us that they loved coming by to see what was happening next. After gardening in the backyard for many years, it is a great joy to see the many ways this effort has grown a sense of community, as well as wonderful food.

Food Not Lawns, Cleveland, was established in Jan. 2011 with a seed swap, and the group plans a variety of workshops for 2012. Topics include seed saving, seed starting, organic gardening techniques, lawn conversion and tool maintenance, and the workshops are free and open to the public.

Food Not Lawns is a growing movement (pun definitely intended) and belief that replacing lawn with edible, native plants creates thriving and sustainable habitats for all creatures, reduces our carbon footprint (less pollution from lawn mowers, less toxic pesticide and fertilizer runoff), and supports rainwater catchment and reuse. Lawns require a huge input of energy and resources to maintain, return very little aesthetically, and reduce, by upwards of 45 million acres, the habitat of countless species of insects, birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

For more information about Food Not Lawns, Cleveland, including upcoming workshops and pictures of the recent lawn conversion and harvest, contact Mari Keating at beanpie55@att.net or go to foodnotlawnscleveland@yahoogroups.com


Mari Keating

Mari Keating is a lifelong resident of Cleveland Heights, and a facilitator of Food Not Lawns, Cleveland.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, Posted 4:55 PM, 01.16.2012