Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not-lawn not-care

I never really understood the vast expanse of green grass between the house & driveway with the curving ambling walkway to the front door. It has a look-but-do-not-touch quality; it makes me want to be somewhere else. As to our 'yard', I admit that I am letting the wild borders creep further in every season. Officially this is because our place is a lot of work for one person (A does everything he can & everything I cannot, but as far as routine animal & ground care goes, this is a solo operation 30 out of every 31 days). But there is also my complete lack of desire for that crushed green velvet lawn with sculpted borders look. I like looking out my back door & seeing actual wildlife, cute & brutal.

We were living in Houston, an apartment in Houston, when I bought my first copy of my gardening bible. I have lost track of how many copies I have purchased since then (I give them as gifts, I lose them in the sheds, I once deliberately composted one but only after leaving it on the hood of my truck during a thunderstorm). The emptiness of the perfect neighborhoods struck a very deep chord with me, surrounded as I was by homeowners who would pave their front yards & then spray paint them green; it made it easier to hose off the oily muck that dripped from the sky & it looks just as nice as astroturf, right?

In a wildlife friendly (not to be confused with a friendly wildlife) backyard, the key is to have not quite wild & not quite yard spaces. Because our property is shaped like a bowling alley, the edges where these merge are not all that far from the house. We have had many close-up years of squirrels & bunnies. & now we have a pair of young hawks. Like I said, cute & brutal.

This time of year, before the rains, I have trouble bringing myself to mow what lawn we do have. Every week I leave it another new drought-tolerant plant appears. I find it hard to kill them in favor of something I cannot achieve anyway (I draw the line at the alternating weed killer/fertilizer weeks that a North Florida green-year-round lawn entails). I will mow this week, though. The back yard anyhow or the stinging nettle will be waist high. The front is a different story.

The front would be a great dry dust patch if it were not for these volunteers, & when I look at them, I just cannot agree that pile-cut green grass would be more attractive. Besides, by the time there is enough rain for the grass to grow, these will have peaked, seeded & died back of their own accord. I think the front will be left to it's own life cycle for another month or so.

There are people who are certain my whole approach to not-lawn care is just an excuse to be lazy & they are half right. The other half is that I really do prefer a yard that has seasons, especially in this part of the world where the changes can be subtle. The third half is just that I think Sara Stein was right.

1 comment:

  1. For several years I had volunteer California poppies coming up in the front yard. It is against the law to cut them, so I heard. it was an excuse not to mow anyway. But the ingrates stopped coming up.