Hi there, I'm working on some landscape design for our tiny suburban property. I'd love to use all of the pre-existing lawn area for food-growing, but my partner wants to reserve a portion of lawn for our kids to play on. I'm wondering if people have creative ideas for:
- Incorporating play areas into a food forest.
- Making a lawn more edible (but still being nice to roll around on)
Yes, of course! But in my case, it's for me, not kids.
Life is to be enjoyed, and. I'm not about to apologize to some intensely focused fanatic halfway around the world (by the way, that person has a right to have their own principles to live their own life by) who preaches that my small lawn area is destroying the world. I'm choose not to go down the guilt trip road.
I love my little lawn space. I can sunbath, enjoying the feel of the grass and smell of the earth. The smell of freshly mown grass is joyful. My lawn is used for picnics, playing with my dogs, a place for yard art where I can enjoy seeing it from my front door & porch. I don't feel the least bit guilty having a small lawn area to play on.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
We will be putting in a lawn for my grandson, and hopefully in the future more grandchildren to play on. We enjoy playing croquet and badminton as a family. The lawn area will likely only be about 1/10 of an acre, on our 80 acre property, it seems reasonable to me. When I lived the suburbs I took out all of our lawn because we lived 4 houses away from the elementary school yard, and 4 blocks away from a large park. My kids never played in our yard, so I took it out. To each his own.
I am having a similar dilemma in my own backyard. I don't like the grass, but my dogs and free-range chickens adore it. So, I am starting to reseed any bare patches with yarrow and clover, as well as build the edges into a meadowscape--this way I don't have to stress about keeping the edges perfect, but focusing more on natural, soft edges that provide habitat. Ticks are a problem in my region too, but those chickens sure help!
I am an outdoor and garden educator and the author of The School Garden Curriculum: An Integrated K-8 Guide to Discovering Science, Ecology, and Whole-Systems Thinking. Inspired by ecological design and permaculture principles, my goal is to make weekly gardening lessons more easily accessible to all educators and to inspire the next generation of change-makers.
I have a front lawn for my dog. I would like to put some of these mythical creeping-nice-smelling-indestructible kind of plants I keep reading about in there, since he is constantly destroying the grass, but so far I haven't been able to figure out what kind of plant can stand up to him. I also have a bit of grass in front of my house on the street under my fruittrees, since the zoning rules state that the town can come in and lay a sidewalk there eventually. This is not my forever home, and I need to keep it saleable (so I can buy my farm in a few years).
I think that this sphere is one of the most important where it comes to promoting permacultural values to people who might only be seeing the Wheaton Eco-scale for the first time.
I mean, if you can show people a lawn alternative that is still a lawn, functionally speaking, in terms of being kid, dog, chicken, and quail-friendly, and can be rough-housed on, well it may not sway any of those looking for golf-green texture and homogenaiety, but if it largely takes care of itself, eliminates most weeding (whatever that is), seeding, feeding, and mowing, except perhaps occasionally, why wouldn't people want it?
I was actually the kid who encouraged the raspberries to encroach upon our back lawn until there were nothing but raspberries and Russian Mammoth sunflowers in the middle, with some vigourous raised vegetable beds around the perimeter.
But I don't think it has to be a choice between lawn-for-kids or permaculture.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
For the most part, my kids would rather play in trees and shrubby areas than the lawn, but there is one part of our yard that we avoid planting anything else: the sledding run. The septic tank is conveniently located under part of it, so we couldn't plant stuff other than lawn there anyway.
I have an open space intentionally left because I love meadows....That being said, there's plenty of space between trees in my food forest/orchard for play and enjoyment. I plant in rows so I can mow or move a chicken or goose tractor through, which is a must for fire control here.
When you reach your lowest point, you are open to the greatest change.
We live on a tiny suburban lot as well, and our front lawn is sacred ground. Our kids are 10, 9, and 7, and right now, them having a place to play is vastly more important than growing veggies on every inch. Our 20'x20' front lawn gets used by about 10 neighborhood kids every day as a sprinkler park, soccer field, badminton court, popsicle-eating venue, or safe-place-to-recover-when-they-skin-their-knees-riding-scooters.
I follow Paul's guidelines for lawn care , which means no weedkillers or artificial fertilizers, just mowing with my reel mower, adding random organic stuff on it when available to improve the soil (like leaves or leftover potting soil) and a little water during the dry summer. It's probably 50% grass, 45% clover, 5% dandelions and other random stuff.
The other half of our front yard is a garden that's gradually being turned into a mini food-forest understory (too small and shaded by a big maple for any more trees to do well), and I've tried to make it as kid-friendly as possible, with lots of stepping stones, places for kids to plant and dig for worms and rollie-pollies, rocks and stumps and things. My kids do really well with it, but I have had quite a few experiences with neighborhood kids kind of running through pell-mell and stomping on baby plants, just because they don't know what's what. This is one of the main reasons I have not chosen to make the rest of the lawn more edible at this point - I want neighborhood kids to feel welcome here, not have me always asking them to stop trampling the strawberries. I would be insanely stressed out if I had a bunch of plants I really adore and have invested in getting accidentally mauled by my kids' friends.
Maybe you could put some sturdy, edible shrubs on the edges of the lawn area?
As far as ticks go, from what I've read, they mostly like to hang out in tall grasses and bushes, and they have to have a host to drop from in order to be in an area. We've gotten ticks from walking in open, unmowed fields with lots of deer, but we've never had any from a mowed lawn. Your area might be different though.
My wife anticipates the day when there will be grandchildren running on said grass, so it stays.
Gotta keep her happy.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
In my childhood, I loved my 'hiding place' under the canopy of a bridal wreath spirea shrub at the front of our house; all of nature surrounding me in that space, and no one could see me; our suburban yard didn't call to me so much. In fact, it was a chore I dreaded, when it needed mowing. There was a playground with fields and trees only a bike ride away. imho, green space feeds the soul - but if where you are doesn't have enough room, just make sure it's near enough by...