14 August 2013

V is for Victory Gardens, L is for Lame Lawns

Gardening can be a political act. Creativity, fulfillment, connection, revolution--
it all begins when we get our hands in the dirt.
~ from Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard Into a Garden and Your Neighborhood Into a Community

In August, I’m participating in BlogHer’s Blogging Challenge.  The theme this month is: Hot.

very morning on my way to work this week, I’ve passed countless tiny yards that make my inner farmer cringe. 

Some are actually quite beautiful ~ with perennial shrubs and flowers and ornamental grasses.  But most are just unsightly and unkempt horrors.

I long to ring the bell and offer to plant beauty for them.  To show them how wonderful it is to harvest your own cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, and rosemary.  How just a little love shown each day could turn their drab, dusty patch of earth into a fab patch of edible awesomeness.

Grow Food, Not Grass
There has been a growing movement to bring local food to the city.  They plant fruits and veggies in any available space ~ even rooftops.  It’s called Urban Farming and it’s a great concept.

In tandem with that movement, I also found the book Food Not Lawns and the social media equivalent, Grow Food, Not Lawns.

Before that, I hadn’t give much thought to lawns, except when I have to mow a couple acres of it, or when I have to dig another foot around my garden because the grass is encroaching again.  Grass doesn’t offend me, but other than helping with erosion control, and providing a beautiful living surface to play badminton on ~ what is it really good for?  It seems more like a hold-over from 1950s suburbia.

And y’all know how I feel about that!

Water, Water, Everywhere
Many areas in the southwest are experiencing extreme drought (when is drought not extreme ~ odd) and have put in place water rationing.  Here in Virginia, we’ve never watered our lawn, letting nature take her course.  But I’ve seen people faithfully watering their lawns in suburbia and it always struck me as weird: an endless cycle of watering and mowing.  With nothing to show for it but a sunburn and a pristine patch of grass.

And not the fun kind!

Now, I’m not saying all lawns should been turned into vegetable and flower gardens.  But I do think a larger percentage of the land we own should be.  You might say that vegetables and flower gardens require more care and feeding than lawns.  Not from what I’ve seen!  And at least watering a garden serves a dual purpose: food and beauty. 

V for Victory Garden, P for “Putting By”
Back in the 1940s, while Uncle Sam was beating the sauerkraut out of Hitler, Americans were making sauerkraut here at home.  Uncle Sam needed all the metal he could get for the war effort, not to mention food for his troops.  So he encouraged Jane and John back home to grow Victory Gardens.  By growing their own fruits and vegetables, Americans lessened the burden on supplying food for the troops, as well as saving metal for all those canned veggies.

But they didn’t stop there. They were also encouraged to can ~ with glass. 

Ever watch your mother or grandmother make a batch of strawberry preserves?  Or listen for the tell-tale “pop” from the pressure cooker to let you know the green beans you harvested that week were sealed and could be “put by?”  Come late fall or winter, you could open up a can and re-live summer all over again.

There are some victory gardens still in operation today (there’s one in Glover Park in Washington, DC) only now they’re called community gardens and everyone in the neighborhood pitches in.  And canning is still done as well, and with all the concerns about GMOs and pesticides in our food, it’s a growing hobby with sustainable small farmers.  My dream is that one day, every house on that block will have a vegetable/flower garden instead of a patch of blight or overgrown lawn. 

Think of it as a personal victory garden.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What do you think: lawns or gardens?  Do you "put by" your garden's harvest?

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