Tuesday, September 2

Front yard gardening

I just listened to an interview with an architect/gardener Fritz Haeg, and this man has a pretty inspiring vision. Like many other folks, he has grown very dissatisfied with the cultural phenomenon known as the front yard and everything it stands for - wasted space, a monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass all over the country, pure ornament with no function, and a lack of transition between the public street and private house. Yet instead of griping about things (like I do, for instance), he has embarked on a campaign, from Salinas, Kansas to Baltimore, Maryland, to reclaim these private spaces for use as productive gardens.

As an artist, his main focus is to help shift the notion of a beautiful yard. Front yards are visible to the entire streetscape, and their landscaping as long been a way for homeowners to make a personal expression about their values. Although private property, there is a sense in which the front yard functions publicly as well, which comes to mind as soon as you consider how angry people can get when their neighbors never get around to mowing. If the front yard can become a useful space, and one that reinforces the connection we all have with the land and food, it can help enliven and educate an entire neighborhood.

While I'm on the subject, it's worth bringing up a wonderful project happening in Charlottesville down the road from us. The Quality Community Council of Charlottesville planted an "urban farm" adjacent to the Friendship Court apartments on Monticello. It provides a service on a number of levels by providing nutritious food to low-income families, setting up a local organic food source, creating a beautiful shared space, giving a common purpose to the community, and providing some physical activity for kids. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of these popping up around the country.

No comments: