The Freedom Lawn

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We’ve grown a little too obsessed with perfection. It’s everywhere we look. If we turn on the television, all we have to do is tune in to the commercials to see that we are being sold a bill of goods: buy the perfect vehicle, or clothes dryer, or clothing, or grass seed and we too can be perfect (and don’t even get me started on the pharmaceutical commercials!)

What exactly is a “Freedom Lawn?” Well, like the name suggests, it’s a lawn that avoids inputs–so no fertilizer, pesticide, irrigation or other input beside mowing. So what happens?

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As you can well imagine, nature happens. Wildflowers–or to the uninitiated–weeds grow. And granted, not all wildflowers are welcome. For example, we have far too much plantain in our lawn. But it’s there and it’s not terribly unsightly and were we motivated it’s fairly easy to remove with a stand on step weeder–so clearly we’re not terribly motivated.

This strip is right next to the driveway as you might be able to tell. Plantain loves compacted soil. So we would be working at cross purposes by trying to remove it and grow grass in a spot where folks keep driving.

Dandelions are creeping back in, I notice. That’s one thing that doesn’t bother me at all. If you’re a “lawn person,” they drive you crazy. If you’re a pollinator person, you rejoice, because they are one of the earliest flowers for pollinators. Just deadhead them before they seed. I think I can still count them on 2 hands so they’re not a nuisance.

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And violets. I love the violets. I would have an entire lawn of violets if I could–again for my pollinators. This lovely little one is a species of viola moderate that I planted called ‘Freckles.’ The photo at the top of the post afe all wild violets.

Certain butterflies will nectar only from violets–why would anyone want to get rid of them? (Again, you can see that I am clearly NOT a lawn person!)

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Ants have naturalized these muscari for me. Maybe you can see why I am fond of ants. They also spread my violets around.

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We used to have much more clover but since my neighbor’s landscape company mistakenly poisoned my property, most of it was killed off. It’s just beginning to return, thankfully. Where the plantain has run amok used to be wild clover. Ah well.

As the season progresses, I get tiny little St. John’s wort coming up–I’ll post that at some point. The plantain blooms. And of course we get more unwelcome wildflowers like purslane and the vetches and oxalis–not welcome to us, but valuable to wildlife like the later nesting goldfinch who love the seeds.

So rejoice and enjoy a more nature looking lawn–and maybe even consider a “freedom lawn.” Your birds and pollinators will thank you.

8 thoughts on “The Freedom Lawn

  1. John Hric May 3, 2019 / 11:04 am

    I think it should be called a wild lawn rather than freedom. Either way the results are basically the same. The result is a biodiverse environment. Deep rooted plants pull up nutrients to the surface. That would be things like dandelion and clover. And they distract the rabbits from feeding on the ornamental plants. And the lawn is always ready to be played on by kids big and little. No yellow warning flags. I have been growing mine this way for the last twenty years.

  2. gardendaze May 3, 2019 / 11:10 am

    A wild lawn works for me. And you’re absolutely right about the rabbits. They love the violets. It does save my ornamental plants.

    Karla

    • gardendaze May 3, 2019 / 2:59 pm

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love your piece as well. Yes, constantly cutting the grass IS terrible for wildlife. I was just with someone who told me her landscaper mowed down a nest of rabbits. Ack! That needs to stop. Karla

  3. Small Change May 3, 2019 / 3:09 pm

    Thanks so much! We really need to change how people think about cutting grass. It is not neat, it is a bad habit. Aw man, that kind of behaviour needs to stop. So disgusting 😞

  4. tonytomeo May 7, 2019 / 1:34 pm

    Ha! I totally dig it; except that it does not work so well here. We get too many weeds that are dangerous to dogs and cats, such as foxtails and burclover. We must still pull those if they appear. Also, we must water. When I was a kid I mowed the ‘lawn’ behind my Pa’s home in Montara. It was not really a lawn, but functions as such for most of the year. These sorts of lawns are more common in the Pacific Northwest than here. Actually though, I would be satisfied with just dirt.
    Have you ever heard of the dirt athletic field of Trona high school? There were also dirt golf courses in Trona a long time ago.

  5. gardendaze May 7, 2019 / 1:55 pm

    I did hear that you all were spray painting lawns green during the drought–which I would be totally okay with–I wish my dumb neighbors had done the same during our drought instead of totally ignoring our watering restrictions with impunity. Watering grass really is a terrible waste here in the northeast where we have abundant rainfall (most years) and only 2 seasons (winter and July) so you need very little supplemental irrigation.

    We don’t have dangerous weeds per se, just dangerous neighbors who insist on pouring so many toxic chemicals on the lawns (and then “hiding” those little yellow signs hat they’ve just treated the lawns) that from mid-April to about September I practically have to walk the dog down the middle of the road (because no, we don’t have sidewalks!)

    Karla

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