I would love to say that I came up with this concept but I did not. It’s not even a new concept. It’s been around for a decade or more as I wrote about in a post that you can read here.
In fact, the concept is even more relevant now with all of the drought going on in various parts of the country. Look what has happened regarding drought in the last ten years or so–we’ve had sort of a rolling drought that persisted for years, moving from the south, through the southwest and then into California.
And let’s not even talk about the persistent wildfires that get bigger and burn hotter each year out west.
With all that going on, it’s downright unpatriotic–to me–to attempt to plant a perfect carpet of grass. (But remember, if we all liked the same thing, what a boring world we would have. I know my male readers are just cringing right now).
So how do I define a “freedom lawn?” At my house, in my clay soil, even in a drought, we are fortunate enough to remain a lot wetter than most, so what I try to do is to persuade the Spoiler to allow most of what wants to grow there naturally to remain.
Not only do we garden in wet, heavy clay, but we garden on a slope. So this is really a tough climate for grass. Our pH is really low so the soil is very acidic–again not ideal for grass–but perfect for moss! So in a lot of spots, I have convinced the Spoiler to just leave the moss. And it’s working!
So there’s no mowing and very few weeds that invade. Anything that comes up, I hand pull–but in that environment, very little invades. Some plantain might occasionally come up. But we do get lots of little ferns. Very pretty.
On the flat, sunny slopes, we have violets–perfect nectar spots for the bees and butterflies. This is a tough on to balance because the violets can over-run a lawn. In our clay, they do not seem to get out of control.
Occasional dandelions will also come up. I will let them flower, but we weed them out before they seed since they are perennial. The flowers are great for early tiny bees.
And clover, which also occurs naturally if you let it, is a wonderful asset to the lawn. Not only does it feed bees and butterflies but it helps fix the nitrogen in the soil because it is in the legume family. Prior to all the 4-Step programs, clover was actually sold in grass seed mixes for just this purpose. Once the commercial fertilizer programs came along, they couldn’t figure out not to kill it along with the other “broad leaf weeds” so they just chose to list it as a weed.
And if that isn’t a sad tale, I’m not sure, what is!
I love this idea. Now we just need to educate the hordes of realtors whose first reaction on seeing something other than manicured turf is to tell the prospective seller that they need to “improve curb appeal by doing something about the condition of the lawn!”
Oh how sadly true that is! Although I did have a lovely experience recently at our homeowners association holiday party. We were sitting with some new neighbors that I hadn’t met yet and I was telling them how much I admired what they were doing with an island bed in their front yard and the husband asked which home we owned. So I always identify our house by the quirky perennial bed in the front and the man’s wife said “oh the habitat! We actually tried to model our garden after yours. I came by and took pictures! ”
So you just need to get a backyard wildlife habitat certificate sign for your home & you can get away with all sorts of “creativity “–at least around here.