Your Lawn: Where the Wild Things Are?

by Kim   |   September 1, 2009

We need to re-learn how to apply an ecological sensibility to our lawns. Ethicurean had a great interview with Nancy Gift, author of "A Weed by Any Other Name: The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don’t Plant.” The search for the "green carpet" effect, amping up lawns with fertilizers and pesticides, is akin to the ups and downs of an addiction:

Gift recalls one yard where, “fertilizer had caused growth that was beyond the ability of those roots to acquire water later. And so the watering became necessary, but, of course, if you’re watering, you have to do it pretty carefully in order not to encourage thatch on your lawn, because the surface water will tend to make the grass form surface roots, and those roots will die and then all of a sudden you’ve got big patches of dead grass. And it all starts with that fertilizer application...

The pristine lawn, the American suburban Holy Grail, is probably more English in origin. What came naturally to a very wet British climate is not natural to much of the U.S. Yet there is often peer pressure to conform to the ideal: those attempting to let their lawns go au naturale can be cited by neighborhood for their "unsightly" weeds."

The whole concept of "weed," then, may be a misnomer. As the post quoted yesterday stressed, the ecological mindset expects unexpected connections. It also expects new uses for previously discounted or misunderstood parts of nature--it reminds me of this awesome video about a misunderstood natural phenomenon. Many common "weeds" are edible or have useful qualities, more so than the grass we tend to favor. It seems like this razing tendency is unfortunately all too common in humans--in how many ways do we miss out by imposing our unnatural ideals upon the natural? The identification that many people feel with their lawns may actually be on to something: how gently we shape our little lot of nature may mirror the way we live our lives.

If you're thinking of giving up the pristine green look, depending on your growing zone, it could soon be an optimal time to plant wildflowers...nature plants wildflowers in the fall, when flowers go to seed. Find more information on getting a head start on a spring wildflower crop.


By Stanley Plumly

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,

onion or bellwort, just cut

this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,

will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.

They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,

with the whole day ahead of them...

[They] have the look of "flowers that are looked at,

Rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.

I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars

with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn

as paper I put them on pages and named them again.

They were all lilies, even the hyacinth..."