Digging the Dirt: The Grass is not Always Greener

9 years ago

A long holiday weekend like we have here in the US leads many to think about life outdoors: barbecueing in the backyard, a game of catch or croquet.  But before we do those things, we must consider our lawns.  Do we really need all those swaths of green that require mowing, fertilizing, and pesticides? 

I love how The Subversive Gardener has discovered that taking a Master Gardeners program from OSU has made her more of a subversive, though that was NOT the intention of the program:

What I have discovered is that I am a more subversive gardener than I knew. Every instructor has come with his/her own set of passions and areas of expertise and incredibly strong biases. Biases that I have found irritating. Biases that annoy me like a bias for the use of herbicides to get rid of weeds. A bias for everything native. A bias for growing lawns.

Here's a surprise: The germinatrix is extolling the virtues of faking it:

By now, everyone must know that having a lawn is one of the biggest environmental no-no's ... especially in the warm, dry areas of the country. If you have loads of natural rainfall - go for it, but if you have to supplement your lawn with irrigation to keep it lush and green, think hard on what kind of a price you're paying for that emerald carpet. Researchers agree that the depletion of fresh water due to global warming will be an extremely serious problem in the very near future. So why are we using SO MUCH of it to grow something that gives back so little? As if that wasn't bad enough, having a good looking lawn (in the traditional sense) takes liberal applications of herbicide, pesticide, and chemical fertilizers. Think about that when you let your toddler roll around on the grass in your neighborhood park

We at Elysian Landscapes are hot on fake lawn ... we use SYNLawn, but other varieties are out and about. The installation isn't cheap, but you save money on putting in an irrigation system and you save on the water bills! When it rains, synthetic lawn drains; you don't have to worry about puddles and low spots. And it's soft - it even has that coolness that lawn gives you when you sit or lay on it. Another plus is that it looks just as perfect in the shade as it does in the sun - you can't say that about sod.

Still blogging about people rethinking lawns, Kitchen Gardeners International pointed out this WSJ video about residents who have stripped the grass from their yard (and sometimes their neighbor's yards) and turned the ground into mini-farms:

Mungo Says Bah! Took us on a treasure hunt through his Toronto backyard.  If we could find edible plants in every lawn, would we feel better about growing grass?

Those who suggest removing turf and replacing it with other plants often talk about "sustainability."  The Texas Nursery & Landscape Assn. has created a Ning group for professionals to discuss "sustainability."  Derek Little's Sustainability in General is great place to begin this discussion:

The first is to understand how a true sustainable landscape works. Go out into a uncultivated field and look at what is growing and how. Various grasses, broadleaf, and woody plants will be growing in coexistance. This is biodiversity. The biodiversity acts as a community in supplying growth substances through plant extracts and food sorces through plant littler to stimulate a wide variety of microbial life.

The microbial life exist in various food webs and break down organic matter through multiple stages releasing nutrients. Other microbial life is stimulated to protect host plants from disease. Since all is in balance little stress is incured by plants and plant damageing insects do not get to significant levels.

Garden Wise Guy chose to suggest beautiful pairings of plants that could be appealing in large beds.  While these pairings are stunning, I just cannot imagine walking through this on my way back and forth to my vegetable garden. 

Reminding herself that she's growing kids, not grass, Grace Reign contemplated a backyard impacted by years of child's play and decided to reclaim a small corner for herself.  She planed petunias.

It occurs to me that sometimes I wait until something can be "perfect" before I seek to bring out the beauty in it.

Isn't that ridiculous??

I need green and flowers and sunshine, but I haven't chosen to spend much time outside the last few years in part because of the lack of beauty in my backyard.

It's still not great. It's still kid-world.

But I feel I've made a stride forward and I pray that many mornings will find me sipping tea and reading The Message at my peeling picnic table which is now quite cheery thanks to that little pot of pink flowers.

What do you think? Are you proud of your lawn? Indifferent to its existence? Or trying to imagine a life without all that work?

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her mundane life at Deb's Daily Distractions .

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