A Tale of Two Lawns


This is my front lawn right now. You know that we are completely organic and that we don’t irrigate at all–the only water this lawn has gotten all summer it got when it rained–and this is a slope, obviously (this abuts the ski slope driveway that I occasionally reference or photograph).

Obviously because we are organic there have been no pesticides used at all. Occasionally we use a corn meal gluten fertilizer in the spring. I don’t recall if we did this year but we certainly don’t do so yearly.


Not all parts of the lawn look so fabulous but they’re all equally lush. This section, as you might be able to tell, is right next to the road. It’s got lots of clover for the bees, some plantain, and some creeping Charlie (or Jenny, depending on which common name you prefer).


Now, not to engage in neighbor shaming but this is just one of several of my neighbor’s lawns that looks like this. What do they all have in common?

First, supplemental irrigation. This lawn gets watered twice a day, whether it needs it or not. Mushrooms are growing here, and I have seen the sprinklers going in the rain.

Next, this lawn gets cut religiously once a week, again whether it needs it or not–although with all that watering, it sure needs cutting a lot more than ours!

Finally pesticides. It seems that I regularly have to avoid the street in front of this house because of some sort of pesticide treatment. I used to think there was a “4-step” lawn care program. In my neighborhood, I think pesticides are applied every 2 weeks–& I am not kidding! And yet–this.

Whenever I lecture and say I am an organic gardener, I will get asked about weeds, to which I shrug and say that many of our so-called lawn weeds are actually nectar sources for bees and butterflies.

Then I am asked about grubs and I am genuinely mystified. It’s not that we don’t have grubs–I will find larva in our gardens when I am planting.

It’s just that we don’t have them in any quantity to do damage. I attribute that to our organic property. Birds come and feast on the grub larva before they can do any damage. They won’t eat from poisoned lawns–would you?

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Lawns

  1. The Chatsworth Lady September 22, 2019 / 8:12 pm

    Thank you SO much for this. I was recently castigated by “lawn renovation expert” when I said that other than if/when we get more than four days of scorching hot dry weather in July or August (at which time I will pull out the hoses and fan sprinkler), the “lawn” here has to survive only on whatever water Mother Nature decides to provide. The only things I want to eliminate are the crabgrass and dandelions. I’d be pleased as punch with a lawn that is 1/3 each of clover, violets, and some type of turf. This man looked at me as if I’d just suggested drowning a puppy, for heavens’ sake. LOL

  2. gardendaze September 22, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    But you WERE suggesting drowning a puppy–at least to a guy who reveres lawns and chemicals. The whole idea that lawns could be anything other than perfect? Sacrilege! Oh the horror!


  3. tonytomeo September 24, 2019 / 2:17 pm

    You lost me in the second sentence by mentioning a lack of irrigation.
    Lawn will not survive here without irrigation. However, the MAIN problem that I encounter with the trees I inspect within lawns that are ‘maintained’ by so-called ‘gardeners’ is saturation of soil. I realize that we need to irrigate, but most lawn here get such excessive and frequent irrigation that roots of trees either rot or disperse over the surface of the soil and break concrete, etc.

  4. gardendaze September 24, 2019 / 2:34 pm

    That’s because you don’t live in a deciduous coastal plain the way we do, Tony. We average a lot of natural rainfall (and snowfall) that keeps our soils naturally moist. In our “summer” (the July that I always reference, as well as August), it’s drier, but we still usually get enough rain through brief showers to keep the lawns in a dormant–but not dead–state. Once September comes, it usually begins to rain again–this September has been a little dry for us–but by that time, it’s getting cooler at night so it’s almost irrelevant.

    And yes, most people here over-irrigate to the point of drowning everything. That’s what I meant when I said they’re running their sprinkler systems in the rain. It’s just criminal. We don’t have a water problem, obviously–but why be wasteful?


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