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!! Introduction to eco-lawns

 
gardener
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I remember when my wife told someone that I was interested in permaculture. The first thing that person said was “oh, he does not like lawns then”. Truth is I don’t like lawns—at least traditional lawns. But I love eco-lawns!

An eco-lawn can be defined in many ways but in my opinion an eco-lawn is a lawn that:
1. Minimizes inputs, such as watering and fertilizer.
2. Minimizes mowing.
3. Eliminates all chemical weed and pest control.

Both otherwise an eco-lawn is just that—a lawn.

This week’s blog post – How to Transform Your Lawn into an Eco-Lawn – is all about eco-lawns and how to transform your lawn into one.

The blog post covers 2 main methods for transforming your lawn into an eco-lawn:
1. Fully replacing your existing lawn with a brand-new eco-lawn.
2. Managing your existing lawn to turn it into an eco-lawn overtime.

Both options can work but it depends on how long you want to wait for your new eco-lawn. On my own wild homestead, I decided to go with the 1st option. I wanted an eco-lawn sooner rather than later to reduce the time I spent mowing and so my family and I could enjoy the new eco-lawn.

But let’s get back to the comment from the person when they learned I was interested in permaculture.

Why I Love Permaculture but Still Want an Eco-Lawn



Lawns have really become the symbol of everything that is wrong with the way people manage their properties in an urban setting—and let’s face it sometimes in rural areas too.

This is due to all the resources that are pumped into lawns that often go mostly unused and are just there for the look and sometimes to meet local legal requirements.

I really don’t like this type of lawn either and I wish more people would grow food in their front lawns. My front lawn has been turned into a food forest!

But I also want my wild homestead setup to be a place for my family and I to enjoy and I want us to have space to sit outside and enjoy nature when we are not working on growing food or managing our land.

An eco-lawn is a nice thing to have for this. I remember playing with my son when we was a bit younger (he is only just over 2 and a half years old even now) on our eco-lawn. The lawn has a bit of a slope on it and we were “log rolling” down that slope. I remember rolling down the slope with my son chasing me laughing his little head off. It really is a great memory.

We were also both barefoot—the soft grass felt great under our feet.

Moments like this is why I have an eco-lawn and why I went through a good amount of effort to create mine. But now I have a lawn that is relatively small (1,300 square feet or 120 square meters) is quick to mow and takes no watering or fertilizer or really any other inputs.

I only pull out some prickly weeds but I expect them to not be an issue as the eco-lawn matures—it’s still only just about 1 year old.

But despite being relatively new the lawn is established and looks great and needs very little time from me.

My family and I really like our little eco-lawn. Plus, we can eat the dandelions that grow in it and we love seeing the micro-clover when it’s in bloom! It really is a nice addition to our wild homestead.

What About You?



What do you think about eco-lawns? Do you manage your lawn as an eco-lawn? Do you go out and pick the dandelions that grow in it?

Please leave a comment below sharing what you think and I would love it if you checked out my blog post all about eco-lawns.

If you want to transform your lawn into an eco-lawn then the blog post will help you know where to start.

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
pollinator
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Daron, I’ve been doing exactly what you recommend in terms of mowing, no pesticides, and cutting down the size of the lawn. I was planning to buy some microclover seed to scatter into the lawn, but your Wild Tip confused me: “If your lawn is weed-free, I would purchase some micro-clovers and broadcast the seeds into your lawn!” Why does the lawn have to be weed-free to do this? I’ve got islands of cudweed and chamberbitter growing in my lawn, but mostly it’s just grass. Since I’ve taken over mowing from my partner, who insisted in cutting it down to absolute dust, it’s got fewer weeds, but it’s still got weeds. (A nice result of my electric mower choking out unless on a 4″ setting.) Why could I not just go on and broadcast in some microclover? And isn’t Fall a good time to do that?
Staff note (Daron Williams):

Thanks for the comment on the blog post and for catching the error in the post--see my comment below. Thank you! Pie for you!

 
pioneer
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We are still building but have had several conversations about lawn.  I want to have nothing but mounds with wild flowers and plants, then put in river rock or wood chip pathways among the beds.  She wants a lawn.  I suspect we will compromise and have something in between.  I like you eco-lawn idea because I don't want to be mowing all the time.  I also like this idea for the grassy area on the south side of our property between the tree line and the road.  I'm good with letting the natural grasses and wildflowers grow wild, but the property developer likes to come around every few weeks and mow it as short as possible.  I understand that he is trying to keep the area "attractive" so he can sell the rest of the lots in the area, so I guess I'm going to have to educate him about different kinds of attractive.
 
Posts: 61
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I cut up 40 sq ft of Myers Zoyzia sod and planted it around our small lawn 10 years ago.  I has just about filled in and it is amazing grass.  Looks like turf type fescue, but holds up much better to summer heat.  I sprinkle the grill ashes on it and that is it for fertilizer/lime.  It grows slower than fescue and requires less mowing.  It does brown out in the winter, but stays thick and doesn't turn to mud.
 
master pollinator
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I have been maintaining my dad's Augustine grass lawn in town for a couple years now using his "almost complete neglect" philosophy.  I think I only watered it a couple times this year, and only in spots that get too much sun.  I always mow on the highest setting.  A couple parts of the lawn get too much sun to survive without irrigation, so this Fall I plan to install a native and xeriscape plants garden in those spots, using plants from my own garden that should do well there.  I'm excited about this project.  I think it will add a lot of interest to his rather dull yard.
 
Daron Williams
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Diane Kistner wrote:Daron, I’ve been doing exactly what you recommend in terms of mowing, no pesticides, and cutting down the size of the lawn. I was planning to buy some microclover seed to scatter into the lawn, but your Wild Tip confused me: “If your lawn is weed-free, I would purchase some micro-clovers and broadcast the seeds into your lawn!” Why does the lawn have to be weed-free to do this? I’ve got islands of cudweed and chamberbitter growing in my lawn, but mostly it’s just grass. Since I’ve taken over mowing from my partner, who insisted in cutting it down to absolute dust, it’s got fewer weeds, but it’s still got weeds. (A nice result of my electric mower choking out unless on a 4″ setting.) Why could I not just go on and broadcast in some microclover? And isn’t Fall a good time to do that?



Here is what I posted in response to your comment on the blog post:

Hello Diane! Good catch–what I meant was that if you already had clover and other “weeds” growing then you don’t need to add more. I will adjust that part to be more clear.
 
Daron Williams
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Bob Gallamore wrote:We are still building but have had several conversations about lawn.  I want to have nothing but mounds with wild flowers and plants, then put in river rock or wood chip pathways among the beds.  She wants a lawn.  I suspect we will compromise and have something in between.  I like you eco-lawn idea because I don't want to be mowing all the time.  I also like this idea for the grassy area on the south side of our property between the tree line and the road.  I'm good with letting the natural grasses and wildflowers grow wild, but the property developer likes to come around every few weeks and mow it as short as possible.  I understand that he is trying to keep the area "attractive" so he can sell the rest of the lots in the area, so I guess I'm going to have to educate him about different kinds of attractive.



Yeah, I fully understand the idea of not having a lawn. I was very much on that side of things for a while but an eco-lawn is a nice way to have a lawn that still works with nature. It does still require mowing but I have found a lot less than my old lawn at least! I get a lot of complements for my lawn so an eco-lawn can look good
 
Daron Williams
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Gray Henon wrote:I cut up 40 sq ft of Myers Zoyzia sod and planted it around our small lawn 10 years ago.  I has just about filled in and it is amazing grass.  Looks like turf type fescue, but holds up much better to summer heat.  I sprinkle the grill ashes on it and that is it for fertilizer/lime.  It grows slower than fescue and requires less mowing.  It does brown out in the winter, but stays thick and doesn't turn to mud.



Nice! Good tip! I'm not familiar with that but good to hear that it works well for you! The grass seed I got for my eco-lawn is a mix that is supposed to do well in my area and get deep roots. It was developed in partnership with an Oregon university--they wanted a lawn that would be environmentally friendly. I don't remember what the grass mix was though...
 
Daron Williams
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I have been maintaining my dad's Augustine grass lawn in town for a couple years now using his "almost complete neglect" philosophy.  I think I only watered it a couple times this year, and only in spots that get too much sun.  I always mow on the highest setting.  A couple parts of the lawn get too much sun to survive without irrigation, so this Fall I plan to install a native and xeriscape plants garden in those spots, using plants from my own garden that should do well there.  I'm excited about this project.  I think it will add a lot of interest to his rather dull yard.



Nice! Sounds like a great project--I'm planning on adding fruit trees near my lawn to add some extra character to it and make it fit in more with the rest of my zone 1 plantings.
 
Diane Kistner
pollinator
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Daron Williams wrote:Here is what I posted in response to your comment on the blog post:

Hello Diane! Good catch–what I meant was that if you already had clover and other “weeds” growing then you don’t need to add more. I will adjust that part to be more clear.



Thanks, Daron, and thanks for the pie!

I'm pretty stoked today because Dianna, my landlord up here from Florida, just left. She was just thrilled with what I have done with the property since I saw her about a year ago. I've been working hard to get grass choked out, reducing the lawn to what I hope will be a perfectly respectable little (emphasis on little) eco-lawn front and back, and creating large sheet-mulched areas into which I'll be planting the usual permaculture-type stuff. I was kind of nervous, because I thought she was going to look at how drastically I have changed things and not be happy about it. But she was delighted. She also loved my two hens.

I was NOT thrilled to discover that last night (after three days of no damage) the deer chomped off all the greenery from my recently planted elderberries, black chokeberry, and fig tree. They even took a few bites out of my pawpaws but apparently decided they weren't worth eating, no matter how hungry they were! It was funny, though, because Dianna kept saying, "Oh, look how this is leafing out!" and I'd reply, "That's what the deer left." But I'm happy to say they didn't go near anything I'd hung up Irish Spring bars around...including the luscious Southern Home muscadine and my plum tree. And there I thought it was an old wives' tale....



 
Daron Williams
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Great to hear that your landlord was happy with all the changes! Yeah... deer are a pain... I fenced my whole 2.86 acres because they were just hitting everything so much and I got tired of having to protect every individual growing area. In the end it was just easier to protect the whole property but I know that is not always possible. Great to hear that the Irish Spring bars worked! I never tried that but good to know!
 
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