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Are you interested in ECOLOGY?  Then you might find one of these Homestead.org articles handy:

A Country Girl's Best Friends (Vinegar & Baking Soda) by Adrianne Masters

Waste Not, Want Not by Adrianne Masters

The Lost Art of Beekeeping? by Trendle Ellwood

Beginning Thoughts on Keeping Bees by Kim Flottum

Getting Ready to Get Ready for Winter by Kim Flottum 

Wintering Bees by Kim Flottum

Robbing the Bee Tree by M.J. Nutter:

Honey Health: Honey in Home Remedies and Skin Care by Karyn Sweet

 

 

 

In Favor of a Naturalized Lawn

by Trendle Ellwood

Early every spring as I drive into town I notice that people have erupted from their houses and are out on their lawns.  But, instead of enjoying the balmy air, they stand with their heads bowed, holding little canisters of poison in their arms dutifully dribbling toxic chemicals onto the earth.  The deadly compounds that they so easily distribute have the potential to endanger the life of all birds, bugs, plants, children and grown-ups that might inhale or otherwise consume them.  We chance all that to kill the dandelion sprouts that dare to "yellow up" our lawns?  I would like to dare these people to try something else and that is to just love the (edible, if not poisoned) dandelions.  What is the worst thing that could happen?

It seems that the world around me has been brainwashed into scorning dandelions on the lawn.  Why must a yard be monochromatic?  Why should everything that naturally comes up be wiped out and replaced with just one kind of grass?  Who made up these rules?  We are seeing that our world is confused about a number of things and I think that this disdain for dandelions is one of them.  This lowly little flower is quite beautiful and is related to the larger sunflower.  If dandelions were not free I believe that more of us would be ordering them from mail order catalogs and planting them in rows like marigolds.

Letting dandelions and other wild plants grow is like having your own personal, renewable, sustainable food source erupting continually on your lawn.  Hardy and full of life-giving energy, a great source of nutrients and minerals, wild plants have the potential to, once again, become very beneficial to us humans if we would just kneel down, have a good look and get to know them well enough to open our minds to their many uses.

Instead we buy vitamins in plastic pill bottles, which add slime to the landfills when we throw the containers away, while we spray toxic chemicals on the free vitamins that would grow naturally right outside our door.  I have often seen the same folk who have saturated their lawn with herbicides in the spring, later in the season, spraying their monochromatic lawn with precious water during a drought.  This valuable water could surely be put to a better use than keeping up their prestigious lawns!  It could be replenishing the food supply.

In a world where insurance costs are skyrocketing, medical expenses are out of this world, transportation and food prices are continuously increasing, wouldn’t it make sense to go back to our roots and seek the forgotten food and medicinal value of the vitamin packed, herbs that yearn to grow, wild and free, at our feet?  When I proposed this article to the editor of this website, Neil informed me that, “in Eastern Europe, lawns are almost unheard of and anyone who doesn't live in an apartment plants their back yard fence-to-fence with fruits, flowers and vegetables.”  Perhaps we should follow suit.

Our so-called "local experts" are often part of the problem.  I was appalled when glancing through a local newspaper last spring when I came upon an article by the Master Gardener Coordinator with the County Extension Office who recommended several applications of a post emergence, broadleaf, herbicide to get rid of wild violets and strongly suggested saturating the earth with a combination of broadleaf herbicides requiring the formulations 2,4-D, MCPP, diamba, MCPA, and 2,4-DP to control dandelions.  Why?  We sure have acquired some rigid attitudes towards what we consider the scandalous weeds that come up uninvited in everyone’s lawns.

Why don’t we just change our attitudes?  It is my belief that it will be the homestead type, the hobby farmers, the back- to-the-landers and all the wanna-bes (who really are, but don’t know it yet) who will be the ones to stand up, proclaim that the emperor is wearing no clothes, and be the children to the realization that dandelions and other wild plants are quite useful, practical and necessary, dressing up an otherwise naked lawn.

My husband, who is a beekeeper, says that when he sets up to sell his honey the number one questions he is asked by interested customers is, “Where have all the bees gone?” or “Why are there no bees on my lawn anymore?”  He will answer them with more questions, “ o you spray your lawn for weeds?  Do you let the wild plantains, clovers and dandelions bloom?”  Honeybees are not at all attracted to the golf course type lawn that many Americans think they have to uphold.  Indeed, birds, butterflies and other wildlife cannot survive on our deserts of mown grass; they need native plants, shrubs, trees and a diverse variety of habitats and food sources to thrive and reproduce.

Growing wild plants on our lawns has the potential of saving each one of us a lot of money as we would have less need to mow and would have no need whatsoever to buy fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides or grass seed.  Nor do we need to water a natural lawn as most wild plants are very drought resistant and hardy.

I have a hard time even understanding what people see in plain green lawns.  When I was a child, my parents would take us for Sunday afternoon drives around the countryside where I would glimpse, from the car window, plots of overgrown gardens that filled me with fascination.  I wanted to jump right out and go exploring.  Mulched, uniform, clipped, heavily controlled environments didn't inspire my curiosity at all.

I still see them as dull.  The tangled yards, half domesticated and partly gone back to nature were the ones that tugged at my heart.  Rustic cottages covered with wisteria and ivy looked quaint and homey to me.  Overgrown side yards with native plants left to twine company with bulbs from Holland filled my need for mystery.  To me a restrained, too orderly garden has no charm whatsoever.  It embraces none of the unpredictable surprises that a little leeway can provide.

When a plant comes up on our property that I do not recognize I am most inclined to just let it grow.  Anticipation builds up inside of me as I wait for it to come into flower so that I can identify it in my field guides.  I have been thrilled to discover, to name just a few, such plants as: flower-for-an-hour, self-heal, jack-in-the-pulpit, flowering dogwood, elderberries, poke weed and spring beauties coming up in my yard all on their own, perhaps with a little help from the birds.

A relaxed approach to gardening certainly allows room for what I call Mother Nature’s plantings.  At times she decides to seed hollyhocks in the strawberry patch, Queen Anne’s Lace with the zinnias or chicory alongside the sidewalk and who am I to disagree?

You won't see any mulch in my gardens either except on the paths.  Everyone has their own idea of beauty, but a sea of grass with a few beds of mulch along the sides with a plant situated here and there is stark and unattractive to me and void of any enchantment.  Some folks find my overgrown yard messy and unattractive but who must it please, me or them?  According to me, the rest of the world is just way too uptight about yards.  Our yard is my oasis, a refuge from the world of technicality, logic and order.  Our lawn is a respite for myself and my feathered and furry friends.  I say let there be unplanned blooms, private disclosures and never ending marvels.  I need not to be in control; my main endeavor is to be in harmony with nature.  My gardens speak to me of the inexplicability of The Creator and when I walk there I often feel Him walking along beside me.

A naturalized lawn does not need to be completely natural.  I have the most fun when I let the birds plant a little here, Mother Nature sow a bit there and I stick in some color where and when I get around to it.  It is like having a whole team, each one of you with your own talents and contributions.  Our lawn goes through a succession with the seasons, in early April the spring beauties and Dutch bulbs bloom alongside dandelions and wild purple violets.  In June, the dame's rocket naturalizes beside domestic daylilies and fairy roses.  Come late summer, the goldenrod and New England asters dance beside sunflowers and hollyhocks.  I would like to share some of my tried and true wild lawn plant recipes for your enjoyment.  If you cannot identify the wild plants that will come up in a natural lawn seek out Park Rangers, naturalists, herbalists, friends and neighbors in the know to get you started and learn how to key out plants in a field guide.

Continued on page 2   >

 

 

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