Keep off the Grass: Parenting at the Crossroads

As a relatively new homeowner, I have grown to hate my lawn. And as we know, hatred quickly turns to neglect as neglect turns into an expanse of dirt where there once was a verdant carpet of grass.

Yes, I unintentionally killed my lawn (for the record, it was a weedy, crab grass, shag of a lawn to begin with). Many of my neighbors likely think I should hang my head in shame, as I am obviously bringing disgrace to my neighborhood with this cocoa-colored slate, where a shabby lawn once stood. But really, I feel liberated by, what I view as, a clean slate and an opportunity to break the lawn addiction.

I have been slowly making my way through an excellent book entitled Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by artist, activist and architect Fritz Haeg. The entire conceit of the book, as you may be able to guess, is that the traditional front lawn functions as a highly inefficient, water-thirsty, dead zone of grass (as I like to call it “nature on a leash”) where nature should prevail. The book is part of a larger Edible Estates project that encourages homeowners to tear out their front lawn in favor of an edible landscape, therefore your time, energy and resources will produce the fruits and vegetables of your labor.

Now, this idea is not exactly breaking new ground, as many other authors and activists have previously championed cutting our addiction to grass, but the book itself is so artful, and encouraging that you would be remiss if you didn’t give this one a look.

As for me, I think I am going to devote a portion of my former lawn to a modest vegetable garden (snap peas, mint, tomatoes, etc) and the rest I might blanket with a low-maintenance ground cover, or possibly a field of clover where my son could frolic. If anyone has suggestions, I am open.

Other similar titles and Web sites:

Gaia’s Garden

Fallen Fruit

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


Ioan Pop
Ioan Pop7 years ago

Any green space should be restricted to private property admittance announcement!. Obviously it is a sinister joke! But if truth in time?

Penelope Curtis
Penelope Curtis9 years ago

Congratulations on loosing the lawn. It is a total waste of time and energy...and in the west, H20. Companion planting is a good way to encourage good bugs and discourage the nasties. A mandala design can provide artistic interest as well as decorative ceramic pots (preferably by local potters). Make a pool for gold fish your son can enjoy and the birds can drink or bath in. A combination of herbs, flowers and veggies will bring the bees, birds and butterflies...a garden of wonder in which you and your son will spend many hours filled with joy.

Marykay L.
Marykay L9 years ago

Thanks for the link to the Fallen Fruit website. I love it . .. its community farming by accident! Everyone should check it out.
In the meantime, I'm totally in favor of rethinking the front lawn as a resource rather something that robs us of time and energy.

Lillian Kestone-Fazzi

We planted a mixture of trees in our large front lawn we have 2 olive, 2 apricot, 2 peach, 2 grapefruit plus a vegetable garden with tomatoes, basil, parsley, onion, garlic, artichokes, potatoes, squash. My son loves collecting the vegies, helping wash, chop and cook them. He eats all of them and truely has enjoyed picking them from the yard rather than the market. We put a small picket fence around our vegetable garden to make the yard look neat, and allow our son to play ball without destroying the vegies. Good luck!!!

Leisa D.
Leisa D9 years ago

thyme- it tastes & smells wonderful, doesn't require a lot of water, and at least some of the varieties can handle being walked on.

Cathy W.
Cathy W.9 years ago

I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog posts - this is a great one.
As for ideas - maybe moss? There's an interesting photo here: