Greening up with the Joneses

In late Fall 2008, our family was renting a home in Menlo Park, a middle-class northern California town. The home was surrounded by a humungous lawn, which the landlord expected us to maintain.

One day I was driving behind a gardening truck, with a bumper sticker which read, “Food Not Lawns.” I was stunned. A gardener suggesting that his clients grow edibles instead of ornamentals. The odd thing is, I ended up behind that truck about five more times over the next several weeks.

A seed was planted in my brain.

Mind you, I am NOT a gardener. I’ve always liked having indoor plants around to green up my environment, but digging in the dirt was not my thing. I’m a Bed & Breakfaster, not a camper. But this got me thinking: What is the PURPOSE of a “Keep Off the Grass” lawn?

So I started doing some research. And the more I learned**, the more disturbed I became. I started seeing showcase lawns in the same vein as a woman’s personal appearance: Big Business was profiting by promoting looks over health.

In July 2009 I organized a Meetup group in the San Francisco Bay Area ( with this Mission: To motivate and assist homeowners who are interested in replacing ornamental landscaping with edible landscaping, promoting organic gardening, re-establishing native plants, and using the land we live on to nourish us. The group has since grown to include local nonprofit organizations, businesses, and over 130 members.

My husband and I purchased our first home in Fall 2009, and immediately removed the lawn. We then installed a sign which reads “This Is a ‘Greening up with the Joneses’ Garden in Progress: You Can Do This Too!” ;>)


1. Lawns are a highly inefficient use of space, water, and money; we could be using that same water and land to grow healthy organic food to fill the bellies of human beings, instead of maintaining a “decoration” for the outside of buildings.

2. Lawns are seriously contributing to the rapid degradation of our natural environment. Lawns use more equipment, labor, fuel, and agricultural toxins than industrial farming.

3. Growing your own food guarantees its organic origins. You know it’s perfectly fresh and healthy for your family – free of pesticides or other additives. When you grow your own food you discover what produce is supposed to taste like!

4. And… you can share the bounty with others.

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