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Gardens on the front lawn? | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Gardens on the front lawn?

EDIBLE ESTATES: Attack on the Front Lawn

With the likelihood of me planting a garden being slim to none as I live in apartment, I wasn’t entirely sure why I would spend a Friday night listening to a talk at the NYPL about Edible Estates. What I didn’t realize was of all the green or sustainable talks that I’ve been to that were somehow related to design, this one came closest to presenting how unsustainable some of our living patterns currently are. The talk was framed around the book EDIBLE ESTATES: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg who talked about the book while Peter Sellars, Dolores Hayden, Frederick Kaufman and Shamim Momin all presented examples along that theme.

What seemed to be different about this talk compared to other lectures that I’ve been to was in the social role and how that could impact things. I’ve always taken the front yard for granted and if you actually were going to have a garden it would be in the backyard. But my reversing the yard to have the garden in the front, the public interaction is much more of a possibility. Of course growing your own food also reduces the energy needed to live. But with every action is a reaction and gardening is no different. One unpopular idea brought up by Frederick Kaufman was that for these gardens to really not leave any type of footprint without using pesticides or lots of water – they might need to use genetically modified seeds which the crowed hissed at. Another myth that I enjoyed hearing dispelled was about Jane Jacobs and her idealistic 19th century ideals of community by Dolores Hayden.

As with an open mic at the end of the discussion, the audience’s first couple of questions were a bit off topic to the talk at hand. Probably the best question as I was leaving and unfortunately did not hear the entire response to was about laws and if any had been broken by having a garden in a front yard. It sounded like none had been up to this point. Bringing it back to an urban dweller like myself I still did have a hard time thinking that the concept would take off considerably, but as a starting point for further discussion I thought it did a good job.

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