Every year when the snow melts I start noticing how many huge empty lawns there are. Lawns are ecological wastelands (a phrase I learned from a wonderful professor I had). Not only are they bereft of plant diversity, their soils are often nutrient deficient and can contain contaminants, such as oil and pesticides. Below I list some ways to reduce the huge swaths of cut grass that abound.
- Allow whatever surrounds your lawn to re-colonize it.
- Plant a mini orchard.
- Plant native shrubs, flowers and medicinal plants.
- Create organic vegetable gardens
The first option is the easiest. You simply let it be. However, keep in mind that invasive plants tend to take advantage of open areas, so monitor the area and remove any invasive species you find. If, however, you are like me and need as much sunlight as is possible here in Vermont you may want to choose from the other three options.
Planting an orchard has both the benefit of creating food (eventually) and providing habitat for birds and other species. Choosing blueberries or dwarf varieties of fruit trees will allow more sunlight to reach your house. The drawbacks of this option are the expense and the time one must invest in properly caring for your orchard.
Planting native shrubs and flowers is another more time consuming endeavor, but it allows sunlight in, as well as creating habitat for many more birds and other species than an orchard would. It is also visually pleasing, and for bird lovers a great way to add to your species list! Medicinal plants are always beneficial, if you have the time to process them. Or you can grow them for trade with people who do have the time. Watch out for invasives!
Vegetable gardens are the easiest alternative (aside from the “let it be” method). If you are partial to raised beds like I am you can design a beautiful garden with benches and pathways and little plots of flowers and herbs. This is not going to increase wildlife numbers much, except for the animals that want to eat your food! Though it can increase insect diversity and provide our rapidly declining bee population with food. The greatest benefit of changing your lawn into a vegetable garden is the decrease in grocery costs, and the amazing taste of the fresh vegetables you will produce. Besides, it’s really fun choosing seeds while it’s still cold and dark.
Note: I am currently attempting to drastically increase my gardening practices and plan to write a blog each week about my amateur endeavors. Up to this point I’ve been a throw-the-seeds-in-the-ground-and-wait kind of gardener.