Another great post from Garden Rant. As part of a project called "Edible Estates" the Foti family in Southern California has planted a vegetable garden on their front lawn. It kind of reminds me of my neighbors here in Lawrence that I posted about, only the Foti garden (being in a place where I gather the neighbors are a bit more likely to complain) is much more stylishly done.
Mr. Foti has kept a blog of his experiences (which both reminds me of my own blog and is tempting me to try to make my own pickles). I particularly enjoyed this observation:
I guess that in person, one of the things that is most striking about the garden when you first see it is how open and close to the sidewalk it is. How vulnerable it seems. There's no fences or anything to keep anybody out. It really makes you aware of how most lawns function as kind of buffer between public and private space. In a way, it sort of illuminates the value of a lawn to most people - not worth stealing, and useful only to the extent that it keeps people away, or doesn't need to be worried about.
Many people don't even take any pride in maintaining their own lawn. They pay a service to do it, usually when they aren't around to see (or hear) it being done. One of the concerns I've heard from some neighbors is that they fear I might have taken on more than I can handle in terms of maintenance. Lawns are so easy to deal with, especially if somebody else is doing the work. There is nothing low maintenance about our garden, and you really can't pay someone to give it the kind of care it needs. I couldn't afford it anyway. If I slack off on the maintenance, it will turn into an eyesore very quickly. I think that is valid concern, but do people really prefer their neighborhoods be maintained by low-paid workers who's main concern is efficiency rather than beauty? I think it's a vicious cycle. The more utilitarian and functional these spaces become, the easier they are to maintain, but also the easier they are to ignore and neglect. Ultimately, the upkeep of a lawn becomes nothing more than a kind of tax on the homeowner that he only pays out of some sense of obligation, or self interest in neighborhood property values.
Personally, looking at my own space, it's very evident what gets more care--and it's certainly not the grass.
(Edited on 7/20/06 to add: Here's a link to the NY Times article discussing the project in more detail and with more pictures. You have to login, but it's free.)