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Podcast 182: lawn care

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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Paul Wheaton talks about lawn care with Susanne Schneider. She shares about her hugelkultur beds. Susanne has a lot of hawkweed in her yard, which is allelopathic and prefers acidic, compacted soil. Paul would professionally test the soil pH. They talk about earthworms, using lime, and setting your mowers high. Paul talks about his earthworm habitat idea to deepen the soil. Paul sees permaculture purpose in having some lawn. He talks about planting things like crocuses, Roman chamomile, and yarrow for a mowable meadow. Paul talks about mowing and watering.

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Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I did enjoy the lawncare podcast. My lawn is about 75 % mowed weeds and 25 % grasses of various types including wild grasses. We are in a drought and some areas where we have had to take out large trees (emerald ash borer) we have lost shade and the lawn is suffering, even the weeds are drying up (we need rain bad). But I still believe that our lawn is healthier than if it didn't have the wildlings in it. I do not water it, after we get rain it will eventually all grow back, as it is self seeding as well.

Ours is mostly clover, plantain, daisy, yarrow, black eyed susan, dock, chicory, knap weed, ajuga, wild lupine and of course grasses of all sorts.
Posts: 49
Location: USDA Zone 5
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It's great to hear someone in the permaculture world defend lawns. NOT artificial mon-culture chemical-dependant
(and often toxic) stretches of lawns, of course. But bio-diverse, healthy swards of green appropriately located and
maintained. In suburban and in-town settings, we have to mimic natural grazing with our lawn mowers (though
'reel' type mowers at least offer an alternative to noisy, pollution-spewing, petroleum-powered mowers).

A sensibly managed 'meadow-like' yard area IS a useful and functional part of the landscape around our homes, as
Paul points out. (It's amusing to see the anti-lawn people use landscape cloth and gravel, or concrete paving blocks
in strops between raised beds, or other areas that could be productive, if only for trimmings of mixed native grasses
and 'weeds' to add to the compost pile - but these areas will usually also produce a variety of useful 'volunteer' plants,
as Paul says of natural lawns in general.)

It IS a challenge to find a mower that will mow as high as 3", (I prefer 4" or even 6"). ***There is at least one brand
of manual reel mower that has a maximum height setting of 4".*** (Are we allowed to mention brand names here?
In case not, it is a name often associated with scissors. An Internet search on 'reel mower 4" ' brought me to Amazon's
offering of this mower, though I had to go to the manufacturer's site to find the specs and the mowing heights.) HOPEFULLY
they will get enough sales to send the message that people want mowers that will mow to 4". (I'd like one that goes to 6"...)

A couple ideas on minimizing the amount of mowing needed:
Poultry - geese are idea of maintaining grassy areas, but will rarely be allowed in suburban areas. Moveable pens for
chickens, where they are allowed, can help a lot, and provide even more forage than a couple or a few fixed paddocks.

Rabbits, housed in moveable pens or paddocks, are allowed essentially everywhere (as long as you let people think
they are pets). They will graze both grasses and 'weeds', and minimize the mowing that is needed, while fertilizing
and providing both meat and pelts. Joel Salatin's son probably has the largest 'pasture rabbit' operation in the US,
but other people have used drag pens and/or wire paddocks to graze rabbits going back at least 3/4 of a century,
that I know of, and likely long before that.

Lm McWilliams
Posts: 49
Location: USDA Zone 5
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Also wonder why the homeowner objected to the idea of planting crocus? Maybe fall-blooming
Crocus sativus (saffron crocus) would be more appealing? If small rodents are not a problem,
in zone 7 or warmer, maybe a lawn planted to the saffron crocus could even produce some
income. It it was warm enough were I live, I would try it.
Heroic work plunger man. Please allow me to introduce you to this tiny ad:
FREE Perma Veggies Book! - Learn how to grow the most delicious and nutritious food with the least amount of work.
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