Luke Keegan from Oakland, California was bored with mowing his front lawn over and over again without anything to show for his efforts. He then came up with an idea which may seem radical to someone living in an urban area: replacing his lawn with a vegetable garden. It is then that the project Luke calls Operation “F**k the Lawn” was born.
Urban gardening, however, is not only a rapidly-growing movement in the United States but also elsewhere. Although the idea first made its way into our cities with the emergence of suburbia and the concept of ‘allotments’ common in Western Europe, the real urban gardening boom is closely connected with the processes of deindustrialization.
In many large cities, the closing of factories and disappearance of jobs meant large percentages of the population had to leave, which in turn resulted in the appearance of vast arable land surfaces on lots that used to be located in the middle of once thriving urban centers. Detroit is one notable example of a postindustrial city which now puts urban gardening at the core of its effort to rebuild itself; more than 1,400 urban farms had sprung up in the Motor City by 2014 which produced 200 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables annually.
The professional photographer put the process into action by constructing 6’x4′ raised beds from reclaimed redwood he had acquired from a barn
He then filled the beds with free compost that were being given away by the city
The rest of the lawn is filled with cinder blocks and wood chips
“Honestly, three weekends to set everything up,” says Luke. “One for boxes. one for soil, and one for irrigation and planting. After that, she could handle most of the work herself.”
The photographer spends as little as 15 minutes a day either watering, harvesting or replanting. “The plants do most of the work for you,” he says.
Soon Luke had more vegetables than he knew what to do with so he set up a ‘free veggies’ box
“This is one of my favorite features of the garden,” he says, “All sorts of people take what I offer up. I’ve seen people drive up and get out of their car just to check what’s in the box. It is amazing how many zucchinis my neighbors will eat.”
Keegan, who lived in the countryside before moving to Oakland, was originally inspired by a story from Canada about a couple who had to fight for their bustling front yard garden because it violated a city mandate saying front yards had to be at least 70% lawn
After a long battle, the couple eventually prevailed and were allowed to keep their garden. The case prompted many cities to update regulations regarding how a front yard can be used
This resonated with Keegan who not only wanted to grow his own vegetables but also saw urban gardening as a way for a community to connect
“I wanted something I could share with my community, and that might start conversations to help me get to know my new neighbors and city, from the roots up,” he says.
“I can’t tell you how many people from my neighborhood that I have met and talked to while working in the yard,” Luke explains. “Sometimes people stop their cars and hop out to chat with, or offer me seeds. I love getting to send them off with a nice handful of fresh produce … it’s an excellent ice breaker.”
As if all that produce wasn’t enough, Luke was soon rewarded with beautiful flowers sprouting up among the vegetables
So, if you live in a house, what exactly is it that you are waiting for?