Before anyone gets too excited, I’d love to claim title to this concept but it’s not mine. As near as I can figure, it dates back to 2005, to a book written by Hannah Holmes called Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn. Holmes is a science writer and she spent the year studying nature in her backyard. During this time, she decided that the overly processed and chemically laden lawn that many homeowners had been routinely slave to (oop– my bias is showing) did not need to be the norm.
I’ve been trying to nudge the Spoiler in this direction–with varying degrees of success-for years. It’s not that he disagrees with the “organic” approach–it’s that he has no idea what a “chemical” is. A week or so ago he tried to tell me that Preen was exactly the same as corn gluten. My head hurts just thinking about it!
In any event, we don’t knowingly use chemicals on the lawn. I’m not quite sure what the Spoiler does when I am working–nothing dire I hope.
In any event, the concept of the Freedom Lawn, as I understand it, is to allow the lawn to be more than just a monoculture of grass (even if it is a blend of different types of grasses as it should be–ryes, fescues, blues, etc.)
Instead, the lawn (if, indeed, you choose to have one at all–with Pam Penick’s new book Lawn Gone, some folks may just decide that there’s no need for a lawn whatsoever!) becomes a blend of lawn grasses, flowering plants, native plants and even, yes,–gasp–weeds. This makes the lawn more heat resistant, drought resistant, insect and disease resistant and it will even stay green a lot longer without artificial irrigation in the summer. What’s not to like?
Here for example are those violets that give most homeowners fits. I find them charming–and so do several species of butterflies that use them as nectar plants. If you want butterflies, you’ve got to stop using pesticides. That’s why we’re losing our monarchs and our bees.
Weeds? Or Wildflowers? You choose. This is clover and creeping veronica. I’ve also got a dwarf native hypericum, also known as St. Johns Wort, growing in the lawn. Now if you don’t want it there, it’s a weed. That’s how clover came to be listed as one of the “weeds” that are killed on all the pesticide products–because the manufacturers couldn’t figure out how not to kill it when they were killing all the other weeds.
But clover actually fixes nitrogen in the soil–in other word, it helps feed the soil. And the rabbits in my yard like to feast on it, leaving my “ornamental” plants alone.
It’s also a benefit to native bees and some butterflies. So you decide: weed or wildflower?
Finally, I’ve got lots of these ferns popping up spontaneously all over the yard. When they get too large for the lawn, I transplant them to my garden beds–we have plenty of shade for them.
But, for those used to the “golf course” look, there’s a lot not to like here. My yard looks nothing like a fairway and is in no way “manicured.”
But it’s a great habitat for all sorts of wildlife.
So you ask yourself a couple of questions: first–look at what I wrote about the heat resistance, etc.
Next, think about this. Right now, every single house in my neighborhood with children has a yellow sign on the lawn that says that some sort of pesticide has been applied. What’s wrong with that picture? Is it so important that those folks not have crabgrass that they’re applying chemicals where their children play–even though we have a law in this state that forbids us to do the same at their children’s’ schools?
That’s a scary thought–and maybe if more folks thought about it, they’d allow a little more clover, violets and other so-called weeds into their lawns–maybe even crabgrass.
I have no desire to put landscapers and lawn guys out of business–two of my neighbors earn their living that way. And they still could, even if more folks chose freedom lawns. There would still be plenty to mow.