Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Lawns are plants, too

This has been a couple of challenging years for thebackquarteracre's lawn. First, a portion of the back and side yards were torn up to install a French drain. Then the front lawn was chewed up as a retaining wall was rebuilt. And, earlier this year, a new gas service line and meter box required some mid-winter excavations.

A week or so ago, as my son and I were refilling the crater left by National Grid, a passerby stopped and commended us for replacing our lawn with a vegetable garden. Lawns are bad, the person went on. They are a monoculture. Birds and insects don't like them.

Hey, I wanted to say, look around! Do you know where you are? You're not standing at a golf course, by the polo grounds, or on the rolling parkland of some English manor. You're in the middle of suburbia. The house lots here are small. Proportionally, lawns just don't take up much space. My yard is filled with trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. On the back slope, a big patch of naturalized spring bulbs grows in the grass. And lawn trimmings are compostable!

But instead, I replied, no, I like lawns, and I am preparing the soil for re-seeding. I like the way that lush green grass sets off the colors of blooming flowers, I like the way its uniformity contrasts with the various textures, shapes, and sizes of plants in a mixed border, and I like the way that a curve of lawn charges space into motion.

My little patch of grass welcomes plenty of wildlife--birds nesting in the rosebush, bees sipping from water in the raingarden, rabbits nibbling tulips in the side beds. (Okay, not so welcoming towards the rabbits, but we peacefully co-exist.)

I'm so glad that my husband has now leveled and seeded that little corner of the front lawn. It should frame the hollies, rhododendron, pieris, and vinca growing along the house and front walk.

Information, like lawn care products, can be inappropriately applied. Vegetables? Instead of lawn? Nope, my tomatoes will definitely be contained this year.


Anonymous said...

Bravo. Though I don't obsess over it I enjoy my lawn for many of the same reasons you do. Plus, I just like the way it feels on my barefeet.

Michelle said...

I am in the process of reducing my lawn. I don't think I will ever want to be rid of it all, but I'm aiming for as little as possible. Of course, the big challenge is finding something else to create negative space with. My solution for this year's new bed area was a mulched play-area for my son, surrounded by raised flower beds. Non-lawn areas can be as beautiful as lawn areas, with the proper planning.