My current lawn

All this talk about Delawning and Organic Lawn Care can really turn a girl off the golf course look, ya know.  Not to mention wanting to avoid those loud, polluting mowers and blowers.  Plus, we’re seeing so many fabulous replacements for lawns – like woodland gardens, perennial gardens, shrub gardens and the to-die-for native Texas look in the gardens of Austin.  Compared to all of them, lawns look awfully uninspired.

Then there’s my own unique impediment to mowing:  this lovely boulder staircase that I have to navigate with a mower to get to the backyard.  When the rotting railroad tie steps were replaced I cited easy mower passage as a requirement for this stonework.  Steps with nice clean edges were what I had in mind but instead I got this really-rustic-totally-impractical kind of stone staircase that I have to CARRY any LAWNMOWER down.  Not fun.

So I decided it was time to find myself a cute little electric mower I could carry – done.  The cord’s a pain but what do you expect for just over 100 bucks?  And I totally loved it – until it died after 5 mowings.

Now with my cute mower awaiting repair, I had a gardening brainstorm, or so it seemed – I’ll just let the damn grass grow!  FREE THE GRASS – that’s the spirit! After all, the clover I’d been adding was already creating a nice meadow look.  So the plan was to somehow manage to keep my little front lawn mowed but in the privacy of my backyard to take a giant step from naturalistic to, well, nature.  I was psyched.

So, how do you like the look?  Granted, it’s easy on the eyes but would you really like moving around your garden through 2-foot high grass?  I can tell you it feels more like trudging than walking.  And as the summer wore on, of course, there’s no telling how high it would have gotten but I’ll never know because suddenly my meadow had lost its romantic aura and I felt a urgent urge to CUT THE DAMN GRASS.

I won’t bore you with the details of making that happen – it took 3 mowers and a sythe – but finally it’s back to normal.  Long, biodiverse normal, but functionally normal enough.  And I learned a lesson.  Not just that grass grows taller than I’d have guessed but a lesson about human nature itself.  We don’t want high grasses around our homes, nosiree.  We don’t feel safe unless we can see those predators approaching, an imperative that really came home to me when the snakes started scurrying away from my mower.  So I asserted my homo sapien dominance, drove the larger wildlife from my grass, and reestablished it as the clearing around my homestead.  I guess I’m a savannah animal after all.

Here’s a good overview from the National Arboretum’s Scott Aker in the Washington Post.  Just scroll to his second Q&A for what  I would title “The Hard Truth About Meadows”.   Now maybe if I’d just reread it myself a few weeks ago.

My recent research on meadows (and yes, gardeners simply must define their mistakes as research) brings up another hypothesis to be tested: that clover – naturally short, self-fertilizing because it fixes nitrogen, excellent provider of nectar for the bees – might just be the answer.  Or maybe a clover path through the tall grass?  Readers, what are your ideas for a no-mow-lawn-open-space-meadow type thingie?