Monday, February 12, 2007

The lawn's a yawn

Lawns are a YAWN is my motto. Parterre raised bed in the rain, dizzies my head like champagne.

Taken from CONFESSIONS OF A BOTTOM FEEDER an how-to essay on how to life on the fat of our oversized society. I can't say that I fall in line with everything that's said but I love the radical recycling aspect.

Who needs a lawn? The rant part:

It requires too much nitrogen and water, looks crappy if there's a drought, or too much shade, and isn't a particularly effective weed barrier (chortle, chortle). You could go for the low weed meadow look but then your neighbours (read mine) might give you annoying advice to which you have to smile, act stupid as if you didn't realize that you had to 'water' the grass, and back slowly away to plan your next assault on the turf.

My yard pre-garden was pretty much all the big mean green. The previous owners had a 'company' that came over regularly to give it an 'organic' program of native plant annilation (chemical weeding), baby beetle destruction (japanese beetle grub prevention) and growth exagerators (fertilizers). We also have an irrigation system that had been put in. Let me tell you - if the deluge that we get in Ottawa is insufficient to grow good grass then grass should not grow here.

My yard:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The green bits are the lawn which has been reduced by more than half (the rest just masquarades as lawn if you don't look too close).

Reasons for having a lawn:

When I started to get rid of the lawn, I thought we should keep some for the kids to play on. But thinking back to when I was a kid, I always gravitated to the edges of a garden, the places where there were overhanging trees, secret hollows in hedge rows or wild meadows. If I happened to be stuck with only grass, I hunted for the daisy or dandelion in the monotonous green. Lawns did not inspire me. The only activity that I can think of that needs a lawn is some sort of organized sport and there are other venues for that sort of thing. Sure it's nice for kids to have a running-around-crazy-place but exactly how much space do they realistically need? As my husband puts it, 'he had a concrete stoop'. Mind you, when I met him he couldn't identify a thistle... so perhaps he lacked something.

The only other reason I can think of for this lawn thing is that it is like a living patio, a blank space that highlights the taller aspects of the garden. There are great alternatives to low growing groundcovers, or the extremely low water and nutrient requirements of real bona fide patio stones if you can afford those.

Alternatives to lawn - go native:

Add some low care perrenials. In Ottawa, Fletcher's Wildlife Garden demonstrates how to use native plants in many types of landscape plans including sunny borders, rock gardens and shade places. Remember, native plants like it here and require very little care to give spectacular results. Native wildlife appreciates them too! Fletcher's Wildlife garden has a plant sale every year, so contact them for details. Or you could winter sow some wildflower seeds if you have them. I suggest winter sowing because in Ottawa, most plants require a cold dormant period to germinate. If it is fall when you are reading this just toss the seeds in the area where you want them to grow. You may want to mark a spot where you put the seeds so you can compare seedlings for weeding - I write from experience.

Kindly reminder: when collecting wild flower seeds make sure they are not in any way endangered and don't collect all of them from one plant.

Stay tuned on more alterantives to the lawn...

  1. Add edibles
  2. Alternative Ground Covers
  3. Grow wild - the mini-forest


Landscaping with native plants, Ottawa:


Anonymous said...

"violets (want some?) and creeping jenny (though I am trying to eradicate this"

I'll take some - I've been bringing back creeping jenny from the cottage over the last few weeks, but have a large area to cover. I'll come and get it with my own pots as well.

Not certain how to swap info, though?


Anonymous said...

the creeping jenny fan again here. You mention you're an urban dweller - me too - Old Ottawa South.

My e-mail is

Ottawa Gardener said...

I do all my plant exchanges through the yahoo group, plantcycle.

Join up and make a WANTED request and I'll be happy to give you the plants. It will have to be soon though because I'm nearly finished eradicating.

It's the green kind with the yellow flowers and it is really, really spready. Did I say really, really? I mean really, really, really, really spready.

Hope to see you there.