DIY Turf Blog

Lawns vs. Veggies in the Front Yard, which has the Right of Way?


Did you know that Americans spend an estimated $30 billion annually on lawn care? At least according to a December 19 New York Times article, where author Steven Kurutz reported on the battles between homeowners who plant vegetable gardens in their front yards and city ordinances that consider only tended lawns or shrubs to be appropriate for street-facing areas.

Yes, we Americans do love our lawns.

On the other hand, there’s a growing (no pun intended!) awareness that a “natural lawn” is usually anything but natural, requiring excessive amounts of water, fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers, and hands-on and mechanical maintenance in order to look tended. That’s not exactly the picture of green environmental standards. As another New York Times columnist, food activist Mark Bittman, observes, “many common lawn chemicals are banned in other countries, because most if not all are toxic in a variety of ways.”

All of which made me wonder: Why can’t we have it both ways? Surely we can find a legal – and sustainable – common ground.

One of the things we like to share with our customers is the understanding that installing artificial turf should not be looked at as an either/or proposition. Most yards have areas that have a hard time supporting living vegetation because of improper sun or shade exposure, high foot traffic, damaging pet access, drainage issues, even proximity and access that make caretaking difficult. Other areas are perfect for trees and shrubs, flowerbeds and, yes, vegetable gardens. Installing artificial turf in the hard-to tend areas frees up resources (time, water, organic materials, fighting with local authorities, etc.) that can be devoted to planting and caring for productive living areas.

Interspersing sections of green, beautiful synthetic lawn gives your garden the neat, well-tended front-yard look that neighbors find so pleasant, while beds filled with healthy herbs, vegetables and flowers add a homey, welcoming feel. And won’t that organic tomato taste even better when it’s all perfectly legal? How have you combined synthetic sod and live plantings in your yard?

We’d love to see images, hear your stories and help our readers learn from your experiences.