Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why not more vegetables?

My morning walk takes an occasional loop through a new neighborhood, not far from our established one. Developed on the site of a series of old horse pastures, it supported grasses and forbs with large trees on the perimeter. Currently, there are 4 completed houses with inhabitants, two houses for sale, and one in the final stages of construction. All quite large, of course, with expansive space around them. This is not remarkable, unfortunately, but what is fascinating (and scary) is how uncreative the landscapes are.

This is not for lack of spending money on the landscape, mind you. The rows of leyland cypresses, ornamental shrub beds, and heavily watered turf sodded in great expanses strikes me as unmodern and not forward-thinking at all. The water is streaming from overhead irrigation in the morning.

Why not add a diversity of interesting (and fast-growing) native trees to create shade instead of crepe-myrtles? Or native conifers and pine?

And where are the vegetables? One house has two tomato plants next to the garage near a sea of irrigated grass and 'foundation' plantings. I read a blog post in Garden Rant this afternoon that mentioned an article in Time magazine about Edible Estates, something I'd read about before, but I missed this article.

I love the idea of this -- I've been doing various programs (this link is one version of it) recently about creative and ornamental vegetable gardens, so I think Fritz Haeg's concept is brilliant.

We're fortunate enough to have lots of space in front and in back of our house, and the main and satellite vegetable gardens are in the backyard, but they're certainly attractive enough (in my opinion) to be out front!


  1. I live in a neighborhood similar to the one you describe in nearby G'ville--- although mine is more of a vinyl village than a plastic palace "development" (the saddest ironic usage of a word I know). But take off 1000 squ ft or so and they're all the same. And the landscaping parallels the construction. I've worked like the dickens to take out bad grass and boring shrubs, improve the soil, use natives, be more conservative with water needs, etc. And I have a vegetable garden one can see from the front. People walk by slowly; a few say they like it. Most look really puzzled. The guys with the trailers and big mowers scowl.

    I can't give a fresh tomato away in my neighborhood. People look at me when I offer as if I'm trying to sell them drugs. And that's my point: gardening with vegetables will only come when people learn to eat vegetables. And, even more challenging, (because it's a little more work than buying fast food?) to prepare them. And when people understand why those things might not only be healthy for bodies but also for spirits, the social life of families, and I daresay, communities. And then there's the environment. We're talking cultural shift the size of a geological plate.

    I alternate between total depression at the landscape and attitudes that surround me and guarded hope-- when I see a butterfly or a bird managing to make it here or the four year old next door taking an interest in my jeaune flamme tomatoes. Orange is her favorite color she tells me. Perhaps she'll try one one day.

    In the meantime, good luck with the parsnips. You've encouraged me to try them-- although I'm a little afraid to know what's 24 inches down in my soil. The top 12 or so are doing pretty well. Only took 3 years.

  2. Oh, dear, and I was able to write about how well our small Farmer's Market in nearby Pendleton is doing.

    I do think you're right -- people need to learn to appreciate vegetables (and other real food) for how delicious it is, rather than succumbing to the hard-wired response (at least here in the Southern U.S. to salt, fat, and sweet).

    And good for you for encouraging by example -- keep planting vegetables and wildlife-attracting flowers and trees!

    One of my encouraging experiences as a beginning gardener was to see what a difference one of our volunteer couples had made in their conventional lot. They're fabulous gardeners, and the contrast between their landscape and their neighbors was Inspirational. 15 years later, several of their neighbors have now mimicked their planting style.


I enjoy hearing from fellow nature lovers and gardeners. Let me know your thoughts.

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