Let gardeners have the good yards (Google / SFGate)

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Let gardeners have the good yards

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sometimes the gardening bug chooses to infect the wrong people. For instance, I know a woman who is an ardent environmentalist and would grow her own tomatoes if she could. At some point in life she caught the gardening bug, but it’s all for naught. She lives in a condo. A shady condo at that. Which means her desire for growing tomatoes is wasted. That’s a shame. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who can’t catch the gardening bug to save their lives. I’ve seen their backyards and have surmised that they don’t know one end of a shovel from the other. Every once in a while, they might add some water to the mess of dead weeds or grass, maybe once every few weeks, which, I’d like to point out, is not what thirsty lawns are looking for. Of course, that’s all right by me. I don’t see the point of wasting water on grass, anyhow. I’d just as soon fill an unkempt yard with chickens. Or rows of corn. So I have a proposal to make. I suggest rezoning all of our urban neighborhoods into two categories: homes that can support a garden and homes that can’t. We could even divvy up the homes among people who garden and those who don’t. We would start by selecting locations with the most fertile soil and declaring their inclusion in a new “Urban Farming Zone.”

Other homes might be destined for a “Patio Table Only Zone.” Heck, we could even have a “Park Your Dead Car in Your Yard Zone,” too, if we really wanted one. Personally, I wouldn’t cast my vote for that category.

Regardless, if you don’t know what to do with a yard full of dirt, then perhaps you shouldn’t have one. It could be a rule. There might even be a required aptitude test to determine a potential home buyer’s green thumb quotient before allowing the sale of a property suitable for gardening.

The more I think about it, the more I like that idea. We’ll just require all potential homeowners to pay a testing fee to the city or the neighborhood gardening club, just to make sure that they know what they’re doing. And for current residents who sadly allow their yards to lie fallow, we’ll just have the city inspector pay a visit to suggest that they turn their property over to someone who knows how to use it.

Now don’t go getting all grouchy on me and think I’m suggesting more government intrusion in our lives. That’s not where I’m going here. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m just thinking of a simple test to spit out a score that could be used to determine who gets the garden-worthy houses.

We would simply require that people who haven’t the foggiest idea what to do with a plot of dirt – you know, the folks who score poorly on the new green thumb test – should settle for the densely squished neighborhoods with patios just barely big enough for a barbecue. I mean, let’s face it: If you don’t know what to do with a yard full of dirt, what more do you need than space for a barbecue?

And as for those folks who dream of picking summer peaches a few feet from their back door or filling up pint containers of tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes – they should be encouraged to indulge their fantasies. We should allow them to make a contribution to the green movement by encouraging their acquisition of suitable properties to create their own urban miniature farms. You can’t get any closer to the “buy local” creed than growing food yourself.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.