Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Search for an Eco-Friendly Lawn Alternative

The Little Victorian’s lawn is a half-wild medley of grass, white clover, violets, wild parsley, mock strawberry, something low growing and non-tasty in the mint family, the occasional dandelion and some other sorts of plants I can’t identify. The grass is struggling in places. Everything else is fine. And by “everything else” of course I mean the aforementioned “weeds”. Before herbicides and synthetic fertilizers came on the market in the 1950s, clover was a highly desirable component in lawns. So I have been investigating how to help the weeds take over the lawn.

It’s funny how weeds get a bad rap. Mock strawberry, clover, dandelion and parsley all have medicinal and/or culinary uses. Clover and strawberry also replenish nitrogen in the soil. They don’t need watering or fertilizer or mowing (usually). But a monoculture of grass is so delicate, and useless. You can’t use it for eating (unless you are a goat) or healing. It sucks in resources like crazy—water and nutrients from the soil and then pollutes through fertilizer, gas-powered mowers and weed killer. Grass is expensive, time consuming and terrible for the environment. How could I justify maintaining a grass lawn?

Looking for advice, I explained to my dad that I hoped the “weeds” would crowd out the remaining grass because nature abhors a monoculture and I abhor mowing and watering the lawn.* Of course he thought I was kidding and suggested Roundup for my “weed problem”.

I love my dad, but Monsanto sure does have a friend in him. Water pollution and high human and animal toxicity is nothing when compared to having a perfect lawn, right?

I have since found a wide of variety of seeds that offer a healthy, eco-friendly, low-maintenance mix of plants to create a lawn alternative. Here are some options I am considering:

Hobbs & Hopkins

Earth Turf

Outside Pride

Wildflower Farm

During my winter hibernation, I am plotting out where to sow different kinds of seed. I am thinking we may end up with a hodgepodge of drought-tolerant grass, white clover, Irish moss, creeping thyme and wild flowers. And of course the current denizens-- mock strawberries, parsley, the mint-esque thing and violets are also more than welcome to stay.

*This implies that I do in fact mow and water. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that I abhor calling my neighbor who has a wee lawn maintenance business to mow. We have never watered the lawn. Or fertilized. I think about watering, and then shudder at the waste of time and natural resources. I don’t think we will ever water. Fertilizer (derived from petroleum) runoff creates unacceptable collateral damage. That which cannot live with rain and without chemical fertilizer, cannot live with us.

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