Sunday, August 21, 2011

Manicured lawn? You can do better.

What does a lawn need? Space, water, sunlight and maintenance. The maintenance takes time, assorted equipment, and sometimes fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides.
All of this is in the service of a plain green background around a house.
A half step forward here is to lay off the fertilizers and the irrigation. You'll still need to maintain it, but if you understand that going brown when there's no water around is actually a survival strategy you'll appreciate the lawn a little better. You might already be doing this. It's a good start.
There are two different next steps here, depending on your objectives.
If you're looking for easy, xeriscape the lawn. Between plants and mulch or rocks, you won't have to mow or fertilize any more. It's a little work up front, but the payoff is huge. You can still plant the plants you want.
To really help keep the weeds down though, you need  layer of cardboard or 8-10 sheets of newsprint under the 4 or so inches of mulch. Don't be stingy with the newsprint or the weeds will find their way through and reduce the low-maintenance benefit of this approach.
If you'd rather have a payoff from your yard, instead of the xeriscape option, look seriously at permaculture. It's a systems design methodology that gets the plants and the landscape working together so that you can grow food without having to put too much effort into it.
By putting the effort into the design of the yard/garden you can let the system do most of the work once you're done. This limits the work you have to do, and you still obtain a yield in exchange for your work tending the system. (You mean I have to pick the berries myself?)
You don't owe your lawn anything. It was a cheap way to cover the dirt when they finished building your house.
Get back your time with a xeriscaped yard, or get paid in food for your time tending the yard. The green carpet you visit only to mow is a drain on your time and energy. Either get clear with a xeriscape concept, or permaculture up your yard and reap the bounty.
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