Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

January 12, 2012

RIP, Back Lawn

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 5:25 pm

Since moving into my house, the back lawn has been lame. It was spotty and totally non-resilient to dogs running on it. My entire property seems to be low and it drains to a low spot in the street, where there is no storm drain and it just puddles up and spills back onto the side lawn. We planted grass seed in the Spring and the Fall, and watered it fairly appropriately, but grass seedlings just can’t anchor in the runny mud my yard turns into during the Spring and Fall, nor sprout during the heat of high Summer.

I could go nuts trying to farm turf out in the back yard there. I could move in truckloads of soil to raise the land, or dump fertilizer and sprinkle water all Summer to speed the growth of the grass, or redirect the water that spills off of the garage in an effort to impose some order back there. I could lay down sod and keep the dogs out of there for months while it comes together. However, the Lawn Gestapo can’t see into my backyard, so I’m free to say “fuck it!”

“How do you transform your lawn?” asks The Urban Homestead . “You lay down sheet mulch right over it.” Tamara and I went out there one warm January day and lay down a thick layer of straw. Besides our desperate need to contain the mud, laying down some mulch is the basic tactic organic gardeners use to control weeds and build soil fertility. Granted, my mulch could be more creative and use more layers (something nitrogen-rich?), but it represents finally stepping away from the Cult of Turf and into a healthier, life-supporting relationship with the land.

Straw-covered ground, with tree and dog

The Ex-Lawn, and Lawn-Destroying Culprits

Our largest crop in the United States is lawn. Meanwhile, something like 1 in 6 Americans struggles with getting enough to eat, and a vast majority of us eat low-quality, overprocessed food which leads to heart attacks and diabetes. If everyone grew their own veggies or relied on a neighbor, that situation would change in one season. Why sacrifice ourselves to the God of Green Grass?

Meanwhile, the Lawn Gestapo is organizing “block captains” to snitch on lawn heretics all over the neighborhood. Under these circumstances, I’m keeping the front and side lawns, but I’ve found an easy way to care for them. I leave the lawnmower blade set high to ensure that I don’t whack off the entire green part of the grass and end up with short, but brown, stubble. And, I don’t ever fertilize or water, so the grass doesn’t grow very fast!



  1. Great commentary. I love how you put lawn trouble in perspective with food difficulties – humbling and very accurate.

    Comment by Joy — January 12, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  2. Good for you! I’m telling you, this whole lawn fetish has got to go! You might still have problems growing food due to the shade in your yard … on the other hand, stuff like lettuces/greens do okay with some shade. Remember when we had a little backyard garden on Cass? We grew it until the shade got to be too much. So you might have luck after all. It’s certainly worth a try. I applaud your lawn-killing instincts!

    Comment by estraven — January 16, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

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