My lawn did not look anything like the neighbor’s thick green lawns because I knew nothing about soil or fertilizer or that I should add compost or rock dust or other nutrients. It was amazing that anything at all grew in the stony ground.
Eventually, I gave up on the thin little lawn that looked like it was prematurely balding no matter how much I watered it.
My friends had better luck in their yard across the street. They began growing a garden of vegetables, which they watered morning and evening methodically when it was not too hot and so that the direct sun would not boil the wet plants in the hot desert sun. The plants rapidly grew so tall that you could barely see the girls as they weeded and watered.
I abandoned the front yard and started a garden in the back near a faucet so the short hose I had found in the basement would reach. It was amazing how easily the vegetables sprang up in the sandy soil. This was a lot easier than growing a lawn!
I had carrots, potatoes, lettuce and zucchini in a few short weeks just from adding seeds and water and a little manure! The crops tasted bitter because I hadn’t prepared the soil, but to this day I am amazed at how much food you can grow on a piece of ground the size of a large dining room table.
As I was tending my plot, I heard the window creak open, and Mom leaned out and looked at my little garden one day. Nodding sagely, she began another lecture.
“When I was a kid growing up during the depression we had what was known as ‘victory gardens.’ Every vacant lot and yard was filled with vegetables because we could not afford gas or coal to move food ridiculous distances the way growers do now a’ days. We had truck farms ringing the outskirts of Chicago where I grew up as a kid.
“All the food was locally grown. I used to have to help my mom can zillions of jars of fruits and vegetables every fall. That’s what we need to do now is grow locally!” Mom noshed on the carrot I had washed for her and tromped back to the living room to plonk on the piano.
When I drive around these days and see lawns and median strips with grass and ornamental plants on campuses, and business. Everywhere I go I fantasize that they are gardens and fruit trees. All the palm trees turn into date palms and coconut palms in my mind. They, of course, have catch-meshes under the fruit, so it does not bean us in the head as we walk by. Nop coconuts dent our cars.
All the ornamental maples and flowering shrubs turn into peach trees, and berry bushes. The illegal gardeners who now tend all these inedible plants are gathering baskets of yummy, nourishing organic foods for everyone, including themselves, to eat for free.
The grocery stores and shopping malls go out of business, and everyone goes vegan. We turn the old supermarkets into cooperatives and greenhouses with big sweeping skylights for the tropical fruit trees we grow there during the winter and share in distributing the foods we grow in our gardens.
Recently I have been looking at permaculture sites. There are whole university programs on growing local food and pretty much just doing things sensibly for a change.
There are courses on how to build things without wasting water, how to maximize heat and air conditioning, how to put things where they are accessible, for instance growing food locally so you can eat it fresh.
You can get a degree in how to grow food with a minimum of replanting and weeding and tilling and laboring.
You can get a degree in how to catch and save water and reuse gray water.
Permaculture courses cover how to reuse everything, so nothing is wasted, composting, using solar power, windmills and more.
Common sense has become a science. We have to go back and relearn the things that people did naturally 80 years ago. And that is the essence of permaculture. Instead of growing a lawn grow food.