The Truth About Growing Food Not Lawns

The world as we know it is changing, yet again, and with change comes movement after movement.  One movement in particular that I am super happy to support is the practice of growing food and not lawns.  There are so many benefits to doing this, such as self sufficiency, ready to eat healthy food at your doorstep, timely nutrition for pollinators and more.  There is also more to it than you might expect, and before you jump right in, you need to know The Truth about Growing Food Not Lawns.

The Truth About Growing Food Not Lawns

The Truth About Growing Food Not Lawns

It’s Not as Simple as Planting Seeds

If you’ve got an established lawn, just going to your local general store and procuring seeds and sticking them in the soil will likely not work.  Nor will it likely bear you any fruit or vegetables.  Grass (and there are like a bazillion varieties) grows where it does because it doesn’t need much by way of nutrients.  The soil you have under your lawn has likely been growing all grass, just grass and nothing but the grass for a long long time.  It is likely void of any of the nutrients and fertilizers required to grow plants that will produce anything.  Start by getting a soil sample.  Take a plug of soil about 12” deep, put it in a clearly marked bag, and have it sampled. There are many places that do soil sampling – check your local colleges and universities first though, they may do them for free.

It’s Not as Simple as Digging up the Grass

Yes, if you are going to replace your lawn with a food garden, you will need to dig up the grass.  And till the soil, amend the soil, and likely drain the soil.  While you can get away with having a garden without tilling the soil, when you are starting from scratch you are going to need to loosen up the soil bed, and break it up to create workable soil, with good tilth.  Tilth refers to the crumbly texture of the soil.  Think of the texture of sand and the texture of clay, and imagine something right in the middle.  That is the right tilth of soil you are looking to create.

   
     

It’s May be as Simple as Sloping the Soil

As far as drainage, it can be as simple as sloping your tilled soil in the right directions, such as away from your house, and toward natural low spots.  If you have many low spots, or a swampy area, you may need to add a French drain or two, and possibly bring in lots of top soil to make the area workable.  A giant mud bath is good for growing pretty much, um,  cattails.

It’s Not as Simple as Digging up the Grass

Armed with your soil sample, consider two ways to amend your soil.  You can focus on the long haul.  Plan on growing nutrient rich ground-covers such as clover for the first few years, knowing you will have to till them in each fall.  The tilled in clover will bring up the fertility of your soil.  This is likely the cheaper way of doing it, and the greener way – be prepared though, it can take years to get the soil you desire.  If money is no object, bring in truck loads of new topsoil, and voila – you’ll be harvesting fresh veggies from your new garden in the fall.  You can also purchase the right amendments for your soil, by using the information from your soil sample.  Check your local garden and farm supply stores to see what they have available.

The Truth About Growing Food Not Lawns

The truth about growing food and not lawns is that it is extremely gratifying, satisfying and all together an excellent cause to work toward.  But it is not easy, and it is not a quick fix.  Go ahead and do it, just plan it out first.

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