Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Climate Change and Lawns

The NY Times had an interesting video documentary on lawns. The old photos are amazing. It was 7 minutes long, and I do not normally watch 'newspaper' videos, but this was more documentary. 

The Great American Lawn: How the Dream Was Manufactured

Coincidentally, I've been thinking about lawns. We've had some drought, again, and it does require that we manage our lawns differently.  We've since had some rain, but we have to be careful. There are many, I find, who shave their lawns closely, not giving it a chance to absorb even morning dew.

My house on Hobart had a small lawn, and I was trying to change it over to plants. To the left of the patio stones I'd replaced grass with plants. Then, we moved to Pine Glen, and then Muskoka! (This is the beautiful birdbath that was stolen from us.)


It's an excellent piece the NY Times video. During white colonial settlement, forests were felled, farmland created. The settlers cows and sheep ate the indigenous grasses that existed. In these days of Climate Change, with both flooding and drought, our thoughts must change. People are using too many chemicals to keep lawns pristeen, as well.

In the video, you can see how rich Americans began creating large lawns on large properties. They imported the romantic English and French notions of parks, as well as 'Kentucky Blue Grass' (actually a native species from Europe), in areas where biodiversity thrived. Technology changed things, as is its way. They highlight the development of cities with water systems, which meant the individuals could water more frequently and maintain a lawn. The development of lawn mowers, which meant maintenance was easier, meant that plantation owners could play lawn bowling on manicured lawns, maintained by slaves.

There are many books on lawn care, as well as hundreds of magazine articles! We've moved into a new era, however. With guerilla gardening, and rooftop gardens, etc. we know the value of looking at lawns differently.

I've been leaving our front lawn alone in spots. The wild oregano has taken over, which hosts all sorts of critters!
monarch on wild oregano from Jennifer Jilks on Vimeo.

What people are promoting is a laissez faire attitudes. I am up for that. Now, the bugs do hide in the grasses, but it doesn't truly keep the bugs away to trim a lawn to 3". I've let the weeds grow.


This is Oliver's Lot. They kept it cut, previous owners. I've let it go and the sumac has come back, as well as the milkweeds.


In spring, I love the dandelions and wildflowers.

These are two trees I transplanted, one a spruce and the other a serviceberry.




Aside from flowers for insects, milkweed for monarchs, the reptiles and amphibians love it, as well. We have leopard frogs sitting in the lawn, eating bugs. I spotted a ribbon snake, as well.


I bet it is difficult to see it in the above photo. The clover provides sanctuary.  Photo fail, archival photos show the ribbon snake much better!


You can see in the backyard how lush the grass can be, but with climate change, it's been too dry.

 In the backyard, I create a path. The ticks like the long grasses, so a path is a good way to do this.
I've let the pumpkins have their way in the backyard. Coincidentally, I found a milkweed tussock moth, which I'd not seen before! I shall have to revise my life cycle!

I'll bet people have a hard time with this. People seem to cultivate the pristeen, manicured lawns.  Perhaps it is time for change!

8 comments:

Olga said...

We are so enamored of green expanses of lawn that we try to replicate them even in Florida, a task that requires a metaphoric chaining and repeated whipping of the land with precious water and mountains of chemicals that pollute more of that precious water. Yes, a change is due. I did visit a couple who had converted their small property entirely to edible plants -- trees, bushes, common and uncommon edible plants of all sorts. It was actually very beautiful as well as functional. I know there are such projects in both the U.S. and Canada.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Oh no, I am all for the 'wilding'; even my tiny patch in Sydney had what I call frilly edges, and I saw a lot more of the varied insect life than many of my neighbours. Because I was in tight suburbia, though, I did need to keep the main part of the lawn behaved. Also for Jade dog. YAM xx

eileeninmd said...

Hello, love the butterfly and moth. The Ribbon snake is pretty. I love all the wildflowers. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy week ahead!

Karen said...

I like to keep the grass cut short close to the house because I don't like being started by snakes. We have stopped cutting a patch off the back deck, about 15 by 25 feet, right next to the house. It is full of milkweed, so I call it the nursery.
When my husband passed away I was not able to cut the two acres of front pasture that we called "lawn". Some neighbour reported me to the township who ordered me to keep cutting it or they would do it and bill me! Fifteen years later and Michael now stays on top of it. We have abandoned the old gardens down by the fences and the bush line is slowly creeping closer.

Anvilcloud said...

Tired of fighting weeds, we have put a barrier down in our backyard and covered it with mulch. We also do this partly because when you live in townhouses it’s a troublesome walk around to get the mower to the backyard.

Our front if mostly garden or mulch. we haven’t watered the grass that remains although we do have to tend to the plants, but at least it isn’t a general watering with a sprinkler.

Out To Pasture said...

I agree totally, Jennifer. Nothing makes me go 'tsk, tsk' like driving by acres of manicured lawns. When I do cut, I wish my lawn mower had a higher setting.

William Kendall said...

The monarch is a welcome sight.

Angie said...

Jenn - I couldn't agree more that it is time for lawns to go, especially in areas where watering is required to keep it going. And I know how hard this is for people, seeing as my Dad once took the lawn from a house he sold to plant it at the new house!!! It was his pride and joy! As Edward Abbey said “Water, water, water....There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”