We’re Not in England (aka, The Last Guest Post of the Season)
It’s the last week of school at our house. Hold on a second, because just typing that sentence made me break out in hives and I need to do something about the itch.
Okay, I’m back with a gin & tonic, and the hives feel much better. You silly people thought I was going to get medication for my hives. Well, you take your medicine and I’ll take mine.
Anyway, it’s the last week of school and also… the last guest post until fall. We will pick up again when school starts, and until then you’re stuck with just me, writing about whatever I can manage to pull together while the children
set the house on fire play quietly with educational toys.
For my last guest writer, I have someone very exciting: my brother! Matt is one those people. You know the type: he’s really good at everything he decides to tackle. This could lead to some nasty sibling rivalry, as I excel at being perfectly mediocre in most things. Luckily for you, though, I like Matt in spite of the fact that he’s smarter than I am. He’s here today talking about one of his passions. Enjoy!
A guest posting spot. I’ve made it (never mind the nepotism).
When my sister asked me to write a guest post here, I was flattered. And then overwhelmed with the number of things I could write about. Things I wonder about? Everything. Anything. It seems the older I am the more things befuddle me, like human nature, nature itself, and Natural Light (Why would anybody drink that? Besides a good ad campaign – adding nati as a prefix does, in fact, make words funnier).
So I limited the the things I wonder about to things I know a little about, and that pretty much leaves: drinking beer and gardening. We’ve already covered some beer drinking, so let’s stick with gardening.
Here is my latest gardening question: Why do we insist, as a people (Americans, Texans, Humans) on landscaping the way we do?
Before you give up and start reading the back of your cereal box, this is an interesting question, I promise. To focus the question to something that we can dig into a bit, we’ll talk about 1) why must we have a lawn 2) who decided which plants belonged in the front garden (or yard) and which belong in the vegetable garden?
Now, I know most readers have never really thought much about their yards, and kind of like it that way. But yards are about fashion. Just like the car you drive, the house you live in, and the clothes you wear. The fact is, American Garden fashion is, for the most part, stuck in a particularly nasty fashion trend. Where you see a large, grassy lawn with three shrubs and one tree, I see outdated fashion. Your house is wearing polyester bell bottoms. And your house is not doing it ironically.
First, the lawn. I could really bore you with the historical background of landscape design, but I’ll boil it down: we are all pretending to be landed gentry in England that live in a rolling parkland. This is a gift from Fredrick Law Olmsted. He gave us this concept… and Central Park. Let’s call it 1-1 on his ledger.
As you may have noted, we are not landed gentry, and we do not live in England. We do not need acres of grass to water and mow and water and mow and complain about. Do you really like your grass that much? I doubt it. So lets rip some out and replace it.
Replace it with what?
Mostly, you should replace it with some stuff you don’t have to take too much care of. Because let’s face it, we kind of suck at that. I’m thinking some pathways, patios, and seating areas. Try to eat up 1/3 of your front yard with stuff that doesn’t grow. You and your water bill will be grateful. Now for the rest, leave some lawn (again, 1/3 would be nice). It’ll help you fit in with your neighbors, and most of us long for that. As for the last 1/3, grow some stuff that is easy to grow. Pick natives and plants adapted to your area – any nursery or landscaper can help you decide.
This brings us to the second part of my question: Why not vegetables in your front yard? Crazy, you say? I know! But we should all be so crazy.
Vegetables need sun, water and good soil. You have that. The idea that they are not pretty is just fashion again. Petunias and the like are the equivalent of whatever kind of jewelry is considered tacky (I have no idea, I stink at jewelry shopping, ask my wife). Most vegetables, though, are beautiful, easy to grow and then… you eat them! Why grow grass if you’re not a horse or a cow? Do these animals roam about your neighborhood? No! Can you eat flowers? No! (Okay, some. But let’s not get into that just yet.) Grow something you can eat and your neighbors can eat.
Okay, sorry for the sermon. I get a bit preachy about this, because I think it’s the truth and needs to be spread. In 30 years when your new garden is horribly dated, you can rip it out and put in the full lawn that is all the rage. But in the mean time, hey, who wants some tomatoes?
:: Why do we grow and water all this grass in Austin when our lakes are going dry?
:: Could we end hunger if everyone grew some veg and gave away 50%?
:: Why I can’t find a wider range of English Style Bitter Ales? Am I the only Austinite who likes them?
About the Writer
Matt Evans is an equine veterinarian whose avocations include gardening, oil painting, writing and swilling ale. He lives in Dripping Springs, Texas with his beautiful wife and two amazing daughters. His passion is gardening for good and for awesome – you can read about it at christchurchgarden.com.