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Ditch Those Big Green Lawns

Susan Cann shows homeowners how garden landscaping can be sustainable as well as beautiful.

For many homeowners, the long road to owning a home results in an immense burst of pride in their property, and this often entails the ideal yard: a lush green sprawling lawn.

But Susan Cann, a Redwood City resident and homeowner who got fed up with seeing so many homes with “big green lawns.”

Drip systems, used for native plant and vegetable agrds, use up to 80 percent less water than sprinklers, the primary moe of watering traditional laws, Cann said, according to information from gardening expert and educator Joe Lamp'l who wrote "The Green Gardeners' Guide."

So Cann went to work. At a MoveOn.org meeting, a non-profit political advocacy group, Cann brought up the idea of removing lawns and replacing them with drought tolerant plants and edibles.

The idea was so well received that an additional meeting was held, focused on Cann’s idea.  From there, Cann started holding meetings at her house which led to her creation of a Meet Up group called, Greening up with the Joneses, which currently has one hundred and fifty three members. MeetUp organizes physical meet-ups of people of similar interests through the Internet.

Cann has also participated in other sustainable events like .

Redwood City resident of four years, Staniel Saraos, joined the group last year because she loved that Cann was making the effort and an awareness of the greening efforts in Redwood City.  “Susan is opening the door for people to think different," Saraos stated.  “Making it OK to rethink the traditional lawn."

“I first heard about Greening Up With the Jones by word of mouth from someone in the landscaping industry," stated Julie Orr of San Leandro, member and one of the sponsors of Greening up with the Joneses. She contacted Cann and found that her cause was very compelling.

Orr’s motivating factor in becoming involved with the group was due to Susan Cann’s unwavering commitment to bringing native plants and edible gardening to her Redwood City community, she said.

“I think the most important thing to remember is that this is a community project and that Susan needs participation to truly make it a shared experience," stated Orr.

Cann could not agree more.  Ideally she hopes that Greening up with the Joneses will be able to offer an informational website that provides everything needed to create a sustainable lawn.  A one-stop shop of sorts providing anyone interested in Growing Green with the information and contacts to make it happen, whether you want to do-it-yourself, or hire a professional.

Cann also hopes to train the unemployed to test, detoxify and enrich the soil and convert traditional lawns to sustainable ones, and if successful, create work for these job seekers.

Cann’s next step? “I want to find people who are committed to this project who would be willing to work on the website with me, and make it happen.” 

Resident of Redwood City and member of Greening up with the Joneses, Megan Land is the owner of Garden Land, a company that helps design and install renewal edible ornamentals and a veggie garden. 

Land’s love of gardening has been a life long passion. “My parents are gardeners," Land said. “My mom has instilled in me a respect for all creatures.”

Land hopes that through her association with Greening up with the Joneses can promote, “balanced mini-eco-systems, more sustainable families, and less dependence on large mono-crop farms”.

Other members have only positive things to say about the group.  Darshana Maya of Palo Alto states, “Come help us green the world, one garden at a time!"

Nick Turner of Menlo Park sends this message.  “This is an opportunity to do something healthy for the planet, have some fun, and meet some great people. Let's get some nice clean dirt under our fingernails."

Cann’s group isn’t just local, she has members across the United States.  Poly Endrasik, of Commerce Township, Michigan, is one of those members. 

“Susan provides great value through her organization” stated Endrasik.  “The interest in going green isn’t just local, it’s worldwide."

The city has also encouraged residents to rather than the big sprawling lawn.

Cann’s commitment to this project is visible to anyone passing by her front yard.  Cann, with the help and support of her husband of twenty-one years, Gordon, completely renovated their front lawn, including breaking up the concrete with a jackhammer.  In its place they now have an attractive and sustainable garden filled with vegetation, including tomatoes and eggplant, along with native plants.

In the Cannsy backyard an equally transforming project has been taking place.  The lawn was sheet mulched, (a no-dig gardening technique mimicking the natural processes occurring in forests).  This was an extensive transition and Cann decided to check with the experts.  She met Earl Boyd, a Leed AP at in Redwood City, who not only helped Cann with the materials needed for the project, but he also volunteered to help.

“They did a really good job,” Boyd stated, “considering the fact that they never had done anything like this before.  It’s not as hard as people think, working with the soil."

The next upcoming event sponsored by Greening up with the Joneses is the Fall Gardening Party, taking place on Sunday, Oct. 2, from 11:00 – 2:00 pm.  The event will be held at a Redwood City resident’s home. 

For further information on the Greening up with the Joneses, check the Meet Up link, http://www.meetup.com/ediblegardens/.

Cliff Keith September 25, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Way to go Greening Up with the Joneses! Good luck with your helpful endeavors to make Redwood City a better place by helping our planet with things like Urban Gardens. As a helpful hint to save you time and money there is a video on how to make a cheap green house by going here: http://youtu.be/Q8RXXBuTpsw
Claire Felong September 25, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Go Susan!
Dubfields September 26, 2011 at 05:35 AM
Zzzzzz.....there's nothing wrong with a little grass
billyjames September 26, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Good for you, Susan! What do you think about the 153 meetup members asking the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to eliminate the lawn at the Pulgas Water Temple and also at their Sunol facility, if there's a lawn there -- ?? The cost of maintaining that lawn is passed on to all the cities and then to us, I highly recommend The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession By Virginia Scott Jenkins Smithsonian Institution Press Marketing Department 470 L'Enfant Plaza Washington, D.C. 20560 ***
Cathy Baird September 27, 2011 at 05:33 PM
I have a small green lawn and have thought about getting rid of the grass. However, I'm not interested in joining a group right now. Is the group going to publish some guidelines or should I continue doing my own research?
Bob Winters September 27, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Does this mean we will transition the name of this site to "San Carlos Xeriscape" ;-)
betty torrez September 27, 2011 at 08:05 PM
We have a large lawn which is watered from a well. There is no other use for this water.
Andy C September 30, 2011 at 04:31 PM
What about all the poor minorities that will be put out of work with less Mow & Blow services being needed? Also, where will all of my neighbors dogs and cats take a crap if my lawn is removed?

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