We’ve been going to several open houses lately and I find that I’m more interested in the yard around a house than I am with what’s inside. When there’s a yard that’s covered over in concrete or a huge wood deck, I get excited about getting that house so I can rip things up to have a bit more green space. I don’t think fixing up your own land qualifies someone as a guerilla gardener (if that New York Times link doesn’t work anymore, check out the wikipedia article) but what you do with your own yard is still certainly an act of expression.
There are several fairly simple things that you can do with a yard that can be part of any green remodeling project that you do with a house. For instance, I just received a composter (provided at a discount by Alameda County) that will allow us to reduce the amount of trash we create and can be used to help fertilize plants without chemicals. You can put a barrel under your gutters to catch rain that you can use to water plants and you can also make your home more energy efficent by planting trees to block some of the sunlight that could overheat your house.
It’s also useful to think of that outside space as something other than a lawn. Instead of having a big expanse of grass, I’d like to grow something that doesn’t require tons of water and weekly mowing. If I can eat some stuff that grows there then that would be cool too (I now have seven fruit trees sitting in pots in our rental’s backyard just waiting for a more permanent backyard to be planted in).
Each of these things go a small way in making your house less reliant on water, fertilizer, food or electricty that is trucked (or piped or wired as the case may be) from far away.
Update: I recently came across a couple of other interesting pieces about lawns that are worth reading: