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You can’t eat the grass.

But you can create an edible landscape design.

So here’s the thing. As much as we may enjoy seeing a lovely lawn and feeling fresh grass beneath bare feet, a lawn is not sustainable. Lawns require work and produce nothing to sustain human life.

Lawn to Garden

Sure, lawns are lovely, and definitely require less work than an edible garden. Lawns keep weeds out and help a yard look neat. Lawns may feed our aesthetic sensibilities, but they don’t feed our families or nourish our bodies.

Today, lawns are shrinking and gardens are expanding. It may be time to put your yard to work for you.

But if you love your lawn, there’s still a way you can have the best of both worlds.

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Replace Lawn with Edible Garden Plants

Growing your own food is not only a great way to save money, it’s also a healthy activity with so many benefits, including the freshest food on the planet!1)

If you enjoy gardening, then like most gardeners, you’re likely always on the lookout for ways to grow more in less space as well as taking less time to grow and tend the garden. One of the best ways to begin replacing lawn with an edible garden is a little at a time, such as by widening your landscaped patches and adding in your favorite edible plants, shrubs and fruit trees.2)

One of the best ways to begin replacing lawn with an edible garden is a little at a time.

We’ve written about how to turn your yard into an urban farm in another article that may interest you, and you can find that link in the references at the end of this page and article. First, here we share a few tips to help your back yard vegetable garden grow and your lawn, shrink. (Or it could be your front yard or side yard garden too).3)


First, if you have more lawn than garden, it’s time to convert some of that turf into a garden patch or greenhouse.

Imagine… At day’s end, you relax in your garden oasis as you pluck fresh vegetables for dinner.

Imagine walking out your door into a yard garden—and urban oasis—and a greenhouse of plants that are producing food. Instead of stopping off at the store for fresh produce on your way home from work, you go straight home, and stroll into your own yard garden and pluck fresh ripe produce… from “farm to fork”… from yard to table…

…from mowing grass to growing food.

Instead of spending precious time and money on your lawn… you’re saving money growing food that’s healthier and more delicious. How rewarding!

Imagine a stroll in your backyard “store” of food… your own edible garden, over mowable grass.

When we consider the quality added to our lives in time saved, healthy food access, less time cutting things down (grass) versus growing things (edibles), it’s not so expensive or odd to have a garden and a greenhouse in your backyard. In fact, it’s rather odd not to if we think about it… odd that so many have moved so far from growing our own food as our ancestors did for eons.

A backyard garden just makes sense. Imagine a stroll in your backyard “store” of food… your own edible garden, over mowable grass… picking fresh produce in peace and quiet instead of riding or pushing a noisy mower… or pushing a shopping cart through aisles of highly processed packaged food or produce tables with displays of chemically treated fruits and vegetables.

Time to implement landscaping ideas that put your yard to work for you.

Now let’s move into garden details like effective watering strategies and garden planning.

Watering for Every Last Drop

We probably all grew up with sprinklers and loving running through them as kids on hot summer days, in swim suits or short… barefoot and giggling. So, there’s a time and place for sprinklers, and hey, it’s a healthy activity of relatively cheap entertainment for kids, (unless you live in a water-restricted area). But when it comes to gardening, healthy plants and water conservation, which is vital in some parts of the country and the world, sprinklers are not the most efficient way to go.

Before the kids can play in the sprinkler, have them water the plants!

Oh, and before you let the kids play in the sprinkler… have them water the plants. 🙂

Many traditional irrigation methods waste a lot of water. When designing an irrigation plan for your lawn and garden, use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to conserve water. If you must use sprinklers, make sure they don’t shoot water too high, as wind can blow the water away from the yard where it belongs. So be sure to position them so no water is landing on sidewalks, the driveway or the street as much as possible.

Plan your watering, too. Watering in the middle of the day can cause you to lose a significant percentage to evaporation. Water in the early morning or evening, or set a timer to water at night, to allow the water enough time to soak in.

Plant with a Plan

Fruit trees are a great addition to any food garden, especially dwarf fruit trees for yards. Make the best of them by planting them in locations that can reduce your reliance on air conditioning in the warmer months. Plant a tree in a place where it will help to shade common areas inside your home so such rooms are comfortable without the air conditioner cranking all day long.


If you choose deciduous trees, like peaches, pears and figs they will shed their leaves when the weather gets cold, ensuring that sunlight can get in and help to warm the house in the winter with passive solar.

The advantage of trees near your home are many, but there are liabilities to consider. Just be sure to plant them far enough away from the house that you don’t end up with fallen fruit rotting on your roof, gutters and under your windows. Also, never plant fig trees near the foundation of your home or shed as the fig roots can grow so big and strong as to destroy your foundation.

Nut trees are a great yard addition too, but again, plant them where they’re not shedding nuts onto your home or outdoor living space. Of course it’s best not to plant trees too close to the garden. Not only will they block the light but they provide ready access to your garden for squirrels. Also, trees too close to the garden may thrive from the extra garden nutrients, but they may also send their roots in that direction and leech nutrients intended for garden plants.

In general, when it comes to any kind of garden design and edible landscaping, it’s best to draw up a plan that takes into account future growth, and plan accordingly. We really like a garden planning app that we’re using this year for the first time and which we’ve written about in another article. This app takes into account companion planting, other landscape areas, growth size for space needed and is super easy to update. It also takes into account companion planting, seasonal gardening and provides color visual schematics of your garden plan.

Our guiding mantra now that helps in deciding whether to invest in a plant or seeds is to ask: “Is it edible?”

Bottom line: when planting anything, consider edibles first.


Now for more on transforming your lawn to food.

Garden Friends

Companion planting is a great way to keep your food garden healthy and productive. Knowing which plants support each other and which harm each other in a garden can make all the difference. For example, did you know that, it’s best not to plant tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant near each other? Being members of the same family, they are susceptible to the same diseases, so planting them close to each other increases the risk of all of them suffering.

Planting nightshade plants together increases the risk of disease.

It’s inspiring how some plants—like people—get along better than others, and some… well. they’re just meant to be together, so definitely consider companion planting for the greatest efficiency of space and production.

Planting marigolds near your lettuce or cabbage crops helps keep slugs and snails off them, and planting beans and corn together promotes healthy, abundant crops without needing additional fertilizer. Nasturtiums are an amazing floral plant that help keep all kinds of harmful bugs away, and every part of the plant, from roots to flowers, is edible.

We love to eat a nasturtium or two whenever we go to the garden, as well as place them in salads. Word of caution: if eating them immediately after picking, you’ll want to tear the apart first as tiny ants are prone to live deep inside them and be completely invisible until you take the blossom apart.

For salads, we bring the blossom inside and place them in a bowl of cool or cold water, which separates any ants from their hideout while keeping the flowers fresh until you place the on your salad.

How to make any meal look exotic instantly: add an edible flower or two!

Edible flowers are a great addition to any yard garden. With edible flowers you have food and beauty.

Grow Food Not Lawns

Rolling green lawns look great. If you want to keep you lawn, then of course, keep it. However, if you’d like to grow more edible plants that feed you, consider trading in some lawn for edible landscape.

Grass is a major water-hog and can invade your food growing space easily. If you really want a patch of lawn, keep it as small as you can, and make your vegetable and flower beds as large as you can. For play space, look at other options, like low-water ground covers.

With just a small lawn, for dogs and kids and barefoot delight, you can easily clip the grassy patch with the old-timey non-motorized reel mowers that are making a comeback. They’re quiet, require no fuel and relatively inexpensive. Or, if you want to go fancier, there’s this cute little motorized mower by Worx.

Okay, back to plants.

Edible, Medicinal Ground Covers

Better yet, how about edible ground covers? There are numerous options. We’re favoring those with culinary, medicinal and repellent properties such as Creeping Thyme, Creeping Rosemary, and Oregano for full sun, and wintergreen and mint for low sun or shade. Wintergreen berries and leaves are edible, so that’s our first choice.

If you have pets, you will especially want to read on.

Creeping Thyme – an edible, medicinal herb helpful in repelling mosquitos, contains oils that are antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal antibiotic, detoxifying and more.

Another advantage of planting mint and rosemary as ground cover is they tend to repel fleas and ticks, so if you have pets, that’s a perfect choice, and thyme is a natural mosquito repellent, yet attracts butterflies and pollinators. Thyme attracts what you want and repels what you don’t! PLUS… it’s edible… and medicinal! Hmm… should probably be planted with a cape! 🙂

Creeping Rosemary – an edible and medicinal ground cover that repels, mosquitos, flies, fleas and ticks!

Though if you do have pets, while you will want to plant these flea and tick repelling ground covers, you may not want to consume them! What we do in that case is to also plant some in pots or a raised bed garden, so we can enjoy it without contamination.

Taking some time to plan your food garden properly and do a bit of research will make all the difference between a handful of tomatoes and bushels full of abundant produce… even year round, if you add a greenhouse!

Imagine how much money you’ll save in not having to buy as much of the store bought goods that are less fresh, less tasty and less nutritious overall! So…

Time to take that yard off “welfare” and put ‘er to work, aye?!

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