Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What I've Been Reading About...

Last year as you (may) know, I ripped out the turf grass in my backyard. 

It went from looking like this:

To this today, with composite granite:

(Wow!  It's been a long time since I did a side-by-side photo comparison!  I love it!)  I've got platforms to do yoga outside.  I have a vegetable garden.  I have several fresh herbs for cooking.  I have a couple of different butterfly gardens.  And I have no mowing schedule.  (Except for Greta's little patch of lawn!)  My backyard makes me so happy!  It literally is My Happy Place.

Now I am thinking about my tiny front yard.  Here's the most recent photo of it that I could find in my files - blurry because it's snowing!

I haven't done a ton of stuff to the front yard since moving in -- I had over 20 shrubs removed from the flower beds -- it was simply overplanted - and I put in a butterfly garden to the left of the long sidewalk.  I have some vague ideas to expand the flower bed on the right side (as seen in this photo) but I haven't executed yet.  I hope that this is the year.

But the lawn.  Ohh the lawn.  I don't really mind mowing it, I guess.  It's small.  It's square.  It's really boring.  But really, it serves no purpose other than providing a visual apron to my house - which, okay, I won't say it isn't eye-pleasing. But as Americans we expend so much time, energy and money on turfs that aren't native to our agricultural zones.  And so we fertilize.  And the fertilizers run off into our storm drains, which drain to our natural water sources... where things live.  Things that don't exactly thrive on lawn fertilizers.  And the things that do live in our lawns?  We hit them with pesticides!  (I won't trot out any numbers here on the amount of resources used on lawns in a time when water resources are being challenged -- they are out there, and they are easy to find.) 

I'm not going to argue that all lawns everywhere should be banished; I don't believe that is true.  Some people do use their lawns - and that's awesome!  But for the mass expanses of lush lawns that I see while driving around town every day, I don't see very many people out there barefoot, lounging, playing croquet... Instead I see flatbed trailers of lawn crews swooping in with noisy and polluting equipment... I think that it is often the case that the lawn crew are the only people actually walking on those lawns.  I know -- I can argue both sides too.  But I have a stronger argument against lawns than I do for them.  (But seriously - why do we have lawns?  Because our neighbors have them?  Are we just keeping up?  They could be growing vegetables!)

And now - climbing down off of my very small soapbox...

What to do?  Personally, I'd love to just landscape it away.  I've been reading about turf alternatives.  I've been reading about edible landscaping.  I've been reading about water conservation, and landscaping that will benefit insects, and birds and bees (who are struggling to survive).  Interwoven through all of those ideas are the ideas of "natural," "organic," and "beneficial plants," "native plants," and "chemical free."  I believe there is a better way. 

I have a book on edible landscaping, Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. (Find it on Amazon.)

I also recently purchased Beautiful, No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives by Evelyn J. Hadden. (Also available on Amazon.  I had my local Barnes & Noble order a copy...)

Soon I'll be lounging on my porch with books, a notepad, and a beverage... brainstorming and dreaming about what transformation is coming to my front lawn.

Here are some sites/blog posts with informative and thought provoking reading:


http://www.lawnreform.org/  (This is a blog.  The initial entry happens to be a book review, and then the posts below it deal with lawns...)





I hope you'll join me in thinking outside the lawn -- what do you think about it all?

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