Clarence Ridgley is the most popular guy on his block, and it's all thanks to his lawn. In April, Ridgley transformed his neatly trimmed yard into a garden of tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, lettuce, beets and herbs. And because the plot sits in front of his home in Baltimore, the bountiful harvest is visible -- and available -- to anyone who wanders by."People will come to my yard and pick up an onion sprout and start eating it on the spot," he says. "I've met more people in the past two months than I have the past 22 years of living here."
Ridgley is one of five homeowners in the U.S. to participate in the project known as "Edible Estates," in which homeowners trade their mowed and ornamental lawns for artistic arrangements of organic produce. Los Angeles-based architect Fritz Haeg launched the campaign in July 2004, as pundits and politicians began dividing the country into Red and Blue states in the run-up to the Presidential election. Haeg says he was drawn to the lawn -- that "iconic American space" -- because it cut across social, political and economic boundaries. "The lawn really struck me as one of the few places that we all share," he says. "It represents what we're all supposedly working so hard for -- the American dream."