Skip to main content

Grow vegetable gardens instead of lawns!

For years, I lived in a densely wooded neighborhood in suburban North Carolina. Anyone who wanted to grow vegetables needed to plant them in the front yard, where there was much more sunlight. Fortunately, the neighbors were very tolerant of street-side gardens.

Growing vegetables instead of lawns has become somewhat of a trend lately, and that’s a good thing, environmentally.

People who are fanatical about their lawns use fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to maintain their velvety green carpet. We are urged to keep kids and pets off of the grass when these products are freshly applied, to avoid contaminating them.

Mowing lawns increases fossil fuel emissions. And lawns use lots of water, an increasingly scarce resource. Scientists using satellite data have determined that turf-grass is the largest irrigated crop in the U.S.

You can reduce fertilizer use by replacing all or part of your lawn with a vegetable garden, because agriculture uses less fertilizer per acre than lawns do. Water requirements are about the same for vegetable gardens and lawns: but you’ll get juicy tomatoes and fresh greens for your table. At a large enough scale, a home garden can replace visits to the supermarket, saving on fossil fuels for your own transportation and for moving food across the country.

It’s disheartening to hear that in some municipalities, front-yard gardens are banned or frowned upon. It’s time to reconsider the expensive, pointless green lawn and replace it with something beneficial.

Photo: Tanya Impeartrice via Flickr

Produced in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, this podcast originally aired on April 29, 2013. To access a full archive of Earth Wise podcasts, visit: