Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sustainable Living project - The no-mow lawn

Jan, at Thanks for Today, is hosting the Garden Bloggers Sustainable Living Project, in recognition of Earth Day, April 22, 2010. She asks bloggers to write about things that we have done to promote a greener lifestyle and contribute to protecting our environment. Lots of nice prizes are being offered (including a rain barrel, oh yeah!) so if you haven't joined yet, time is running out!

So I've been mulling this project over in my mind, trying to decide what to write about. I know I'm a very environmentally conscious guy. I'm obsessive about recycling. Our city accepts almost all recyclable items, except for glass (that irks me!). But I won't complain because many of our neighboring towns don't even have recycling programs.

Other things I do:

Composting - It is not the greatest compost pile and I don't tend to it like I should but any garden wastes and proper kitchen scraps are thrown in.

Chemicals - I don't use them except in cases of extreme emergencies. I don't spray my roses and rarely use fungicides. If I'm dealing with a problematic plant, I shovel prune it. I do use weed killers to maintain my sanity but I also try to use environmentally friendly products if I can find them.

Then it finally hit me - a big project that I started last year and shared it here - our no-mow lawn (or do you even call it a "lawn" if there is no grass? hmmm). Anyway, you may recall that I had a dickens of a time getting grass to grow in one of the few places I wanted grass - in our front lawn area. What started out as a sunny area had become quite shaded, like many other parts of the garden, and tree roots from the "October Glory" maple had created a thick web of roots on the surface of the ground. No wonder the poor grass struggled.

I thought I had solved the problem two years ago when I planted fescue, a grass that thrives in shaded areas. It started out good and I was pleased as punch to have a lush verdant patch of grass in the middle of winter. My excitement was soon crushed later that summer when the grass promptly died in our summer heat. I don't want to discourage anyone from using fescue because I see it growing in other lawns around town and it is beautiful. But it did not like our yard or maybe I didn't give it enough water (again, those cursed tree roots!).

The solution - out with the grass! I reluctantly decided to kill the remaining grass and create beds of dwarf mondo grass along with pathways of crushed gravel. I've been working on this in various stages this past year and so far I am very happy with the results. The dwarf mondo grass is drought tolerant and it doesn't seem to be bothered by the tree roots. I used pea gravel for the pathways and I love the sound of it as you walk across it. But most of all, it saves me the time and expense of mowing. Mowing has never been a favorite chore so it is not a task I'm going to miss. I still have a few areas of grass to mow but the largest section of grass that once comprised the front entryway of our home is gone, and my initial fear of there not being enough "green" was needless.

So, in the end, I think this is a good thing - I'm saving time (now maybe I can catch up on my weeding :( ), expenses for gas and lawn mower maintenance, mechanical frustrations which always seem to follow me, and no noise or gas fumes polluting the neighborhood.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

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