Replace that lawn with a native plant urban farm


Our native, mostly perennial, urban permaculture farm is entering its second growing season!  The farm started as a patch of dirt in the sideyard of are office and was transformed into an edible landscape.  The ‘bed’ was raised with strawbales from a farm in Warrenville, Illinois and filled with a soil mix from Buy-the-Yard in Evanston.  The farm is designed as a ‘keyhole’, oriented towards the south.  After a year of working out the kinks and observing the shadows (there are only about 6 hours of direct sun a day), and monitoring the companions, we are getting ready to add new plantings around last average frost on April 24th-ish.  After the jump is an aerial showing the location of the farm (in orange) and the new native plantings which will take the place of frontyard turf (in green).

byronfarm aerial

Turf is one of the biggest horticultural nightmares in landscaping history.  Turf (aka grass) is the most irrigated crop in the United States, receives some of the most toxic pesticides (of 30 common fertilizers, 19 have been linked to cancer and 13 to birth defects), all to be trimmed by the country’s 50 million gas/electric powered lawnmowers.  If there was ever a place to start slashing our energy and time usage, this would be it.

The best replacement for this wasteful, invasive groundcover is an edible, native landscape.  Due to the shallow root structure of common turf, most rainfall simply becomes runoff, instead of being used on site.  To corral the free water from the sky it is best to plant species with deep root systems that are capable of keeping water in place.

Below is the proposed plant list for this year.

Urban farm:
lovage Levisticum officinale (hold over from year 1)
ramps Allium tricoccum
turkish rocket Bunias orientalis (sun to part shade)
ozark strawberry fragaria ‘ozark beauty’ (hold over from year 1)
good king henry Chenopodium bonus henricus (sun to part shade)
garlic chives allium tubersum (hold over from year 1)
ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris aka fiddleheads (full/damp shade)
giant Solomon’s seal Polygonatum canaliculatum (sun to shade)
sorrel (sun to shade)
swiss chard beta vulgaris
butterhead and romaine

Front yard:
chicory or dandelion Cicorium intybus (full sun)
daylily Hemerocallis spp. (edible flower, sun to part shade)
musk mallow Malva moschata (sun to part shade)
little bluestem / june grass
smooth aster symphyotrichum laeve
prairie coreopsis coreopsis palmata