Grow Food, Not Lawns

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Have you ever considered where the food you buy at the store comes from? My lunch today had more stamps on it’s passport than I do! Chile, Mexico, Australia, California, Columbia… Guess what? We live in a climate similar to these areas and can grow many of the same crops right here in Pinellas County. What…? You’re not a farmer? You don’t have massive acreage or tractors? You don’t need them.

I have been growing about half of my family’s produce in my regular-sized suburban lot in Clearwater for a few years. A handful of fruit trees, tons of herbs, annual vegetables chosen for their adaptability to our climate and season, and some perennial vegetables and shrubs that replace some of the heat-intolerant northern crops. Do I have a farm? I guess you could consider it an urban farm… but it LOOKS like landscaping. Because it is landscaping. And I eat it. And it’s organic.

Why would I choose to grow so much food at home? I had a perfectly lovely lawn. Soft green grass, few insects to pester me. Just mow and forget about it, right? Well…. maybe. But if you’re like most people on my block, you water. And fertilize. And mow.

We have water restrictions here for a portion of the year with good reason. Fresh, drinkable water is precious and limited. Yet, 50% of all residential water used in the USA is used for lawn irrigation. What!!!? That seems a bit wasteful to me. (I didn’t even list the stats on fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, and air or noise pollution from lawn care. It’s staggering.) I cannot eat grass; I’m not watering it. I can eat the fruit from my mango and starfruit trees, and the greens from my tropical spinach plants though.

Good news: gardens use 66% less water than lawns, and even less if you use a simple drip irrigation system. And, bonus! You can eat the produce from your garden. Healthy, organic, locally grown food.

Start with a small area. A fruit tree or two. A raised bed. Even a big flower pot filled with your favorite herbs. Sprouts (i.e. alfalfa, broccoli, lentil sprouts) are the easiest thing in the world to grow at home. You can build up to growing more food in your yard as you get started. Then once you bite into your first juicy mango that you nurtured and grew with so little effort, you’ll be hooked!


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