I Support Food Not Lawn

For those who don’t know, I have a passion for growing my own food here.  In fact I am so in to growing our own food that I ripped up all our lawns and replaced them with garden beds and fruit trees.  The vast majority of our plants are edible which is by design.  I’m a big advocate for Food not Lawn!

Gavin Webber's lawn before

Before with Lawn

Now, I had often wondered if this trend was catching on.  It didn’t seem to matter how far I walked around my neighbourhood, I couldn’t find anyone else with food growing in their front yard.  Maybe I’m not as trendsetting as I think I am.

Grow food not lawn - Veggie patch, January 2010

After with Food

Anyway, I was pleasantly delighted when I was contacted by Sue St Jean who lives in Rhode Island, USA, who also grows food in her 464 sq metre yard.  I caught up with her over the weekend and recorded a chat which will be published via tomorrow nights podcast episode.  It was really interesting to learn how she grows so much food in her small urban block and her front yard, and still manages to make it look really nice which gets the neighbours onboard and manages a big crop.

Then as luck (or fate) would have it, Christie, one of my Facebook followers and podcast listeners brought this story to my attention.  It was regarding food not lawn!


It’s about Tim Rinne who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, who was very worried about climate change and food scarcity, so he decided to take action.  He ripped up his own lawn and started to grow food.  This had a massive ripple effect throughout the neighbourhood and many other families now grow their own food in their yards.

His story was so inspiring that I had to embed the TED talk into this post.

 So here’s to growing food not lawns and all the trailblazers throughout the suburbs who are trying to make a difference and set an example to show that it is easy growing food with a bit of practice.

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for my chat with Sue St Jean!

Growing Citrus in Temperate Zones

We are blessed with mild winters where we rarely get frost.  We also have hot dry summers.  We live in what is known as a Mediterranean climate or Temperate zone.  These are pretty good conditions for growing citrus fruit, especially due to a couple of amazing micro climates that I have in our yard that help during winter.

We have four trees against a east/west facing brick wall that provides the trees with extra heat, and five trees in the pool area where they receive abundant reflected light and full sun in winter.

This year we have been rewarded with a bumper crop of all types that we grow organically on our suburban food farm!

Just a note to remember.  All of our citrus trees are grown in pots as the soil is a heavy clay which not particularly good for establishing this type of fruit tree.  Citrus likes well-drained soil and hates wet feet.  Check out this post titled Tips for Growing Citrus in Pots.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemon

This is a Meyer lemon which is growing in the pool area of the garden.  It gets a lot of reflected sunlight and is a heavy feeder.  The fruit is almost seedless, and it ripens in late April.  We just pick the fruit as we need it for hot lemon drinks or meals, and they are great preserved in jars or as a pickle.

Navel Oranges

Navel Orange

I have two navel orange trees, but only one of them has ever set fruit.  I feed them well with organic fertiliser, and make sure that they are always moist.  They should ripen by the end of July.  You can still see a little bit of green skin, which will turn orange when ripe.

During winter you will always notice yellowing of the leaves.  As long as your citrus trees are well fed every month and kept moist, it is nothing to worry about, because this is just the tree renewing leaves.  The older ones yellow and drop off, with new green shoots appearing soon after.



This is one of my favourites, the Lemonade.  It kind of looks like a lemon, but it is sweet and can be eaten straight from the tree.  It grows large fruit and the tree is always loaded in the colder months.  Great for making juice as well.



We also have two Mandarin trees, with only one fruiting this year.  The other decided to drop all its leaves and regrow just as it was in flower.  Anyway, the Mandarin fruit is nearly ready to pick.  It’s still a little sour and has a little green skin on the bottom, so it should be ready in a few weeks time.  When ripe, they are very sweet and delicious straight off the tree.

Eureka Lemons

Eureka Lemons

Eureka lemons are our general purpose citrus used for juicing, cooking and cleaning.  The tree fruits abundantly and flowers for about three months of the year.  We even use them for making Paneer!

Tahitian Limes

Tahitian Limes

Our Tahitian Lime tree always has a few fruit on it most of the year round.  Great in Key Lime Pie, Lime pickles, and in Cerveza.  We do use them for refreshing drinks in late Spring as they do last on the tree for quite a while.  They do eventually turn yellow, but it the colour does not affect the flavour.  The fruit are mostly seedless.

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

This is the first year we have had a decent crop of Blood Oranges, but I may have picked them too early.  They are just beginning to turn crimson inside as you can see from the cut fruit.  They are a combination of sweet and sour, so probably should have stayed on the tree for another couple of weeks.  Not to worry though, as they are very edible and will juice well.

Grow Some Now!

Anytime is the right time to plant citrus trees, especially if you have some large pots spare.  If you have loamy soil then you should have no problems growing them straight in the ground.  If your place is frost prone, you will have to protect them for the first few years until they get a bit of height especially if growing citrus in temperate zones or cooler mountain climates.

So, not only is citrus fruit delicious and versatile, it provides you with loads of Vitamin C, which when deficient in your diet, can cause scurvy.

I cannot recommend this easy to grow fruit variety highly enough.  Just make sure that you fertilise regularly and keep the soil moist and you should have no issues setting fruit in a few year.

When all other fruit is a distant memory, citrus come through in abundance during the winter months.  Love it!

TGoG 115 – Bek’s Backyard with Bek Stiegler

Listen to the Episode Below (00:34:34)

Bek Stiegler went pretty much went from the average consumer (supermarket shopping, buying stuff she didn’t need, buying the cheapest and not caring where it came from etc) to growing pretty much all her own food (except meat and dairy), reusing and recycling, and being an extremely conscious consumer.  She lives in Melbourne on a 750m² suburban block.

She writes about her own sustainable living journey over at Bek’s Backyard, a popular gardening and lifestyle blog.

Bek Stiegler

Bek Stiegler

During the show we talk about how she went from a barren backyard to building a fruitful and abundant suburban food farm!  She loves fruit trees and eating fruit that is in season.  If there is a glut she preserves via dehydration or water bath.

Her passion and enthusiasm about growing her own food is clearly evident as you listen to the episode.  Please thank Bek for sharing her story and journey with us all.

Don’t forget that this show is financially supported by you, the listener, via our Patreon page.  If you believe the show adds value to the sustainable living community and you would like to support the show, please pledge your support at http://www.patreon.com/greeningofgavin.  Any pledge small or large is most welcome, as it keeps the show going and growing week by week.

Become my patreon!

And finally, do you think this podcast episode will help someone you know?  If so, help them out by sharing it using the social media buttons below.  And if you are super excited about what you have heard during this episode, pop on over to iTunes using the button under the player and leave a rating and review.

It helps the podcast get noticed in the charts and makes it more visible for others who may be interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle in the ‘burbs.  Thanks!

If so, please join thousands of others who receive exclusive weekly online recaps & tips, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, The Greening of Gavin - My First Year of Living Sustainably.