• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Why are we mowing?  RSS feed

 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've submitted this post under "forest garden" because I'm not sure which forum best suits, since it applies to so many.  Here's my thoughts:

About 2 years ago I inherited the family farm from my uncle, who had in turn inherited it from my grandfather.  I have had access to this property for the past 40 years, but it was only 10 ten years ago that I started applying modest improvements intended to attract whitetail deer.  Planting chestnut and persimmon trees, planting clover, etc.  I made these "improvements" in small out of the way areas because my grandfather and uncle had been hell-bent for leather to tame the wilderness as it were and create a golf course minus the holes.  In their spare time they would clear trees, plant grass seed and start mowing the newly cleared areas. On the day I took over, there were over 6 acres of rolling green grass.  Beautiful in it's own way, but it takes two days to mow and weed-eat it completely.  To be honest, until I started considering how to create quality deer habitat, the mowing just seemed like something that  needed to be done.  Fast-forward ten years and my conversion to forest garden/permaculture is complete and I'm baffled as to why I ever thought that mowing was a good idea. 

I look around and it's like I'm an alien on my own planet.  People are burning millions of gallons of oil, using up precious water reserves, and using up what is arguably their most precious resource, time, just for an aesthetic that is very temporary!  So my question is this:  Why in the world do we still try to beat back nature and continue to mow? (I'm aware that the historical origin is most likely the kept areas around medieval castles)

And yes, I realize some of us are at the mercy of a home owner's association, but even people who aren't look at me like I've got a tin-foil cap on when I suggest that they stop mowing their lawn and plant something instead.  For most people in the U.S., mowing is inherently part of their life like eating.  Everyone just assumes that you have to keep your yard "up", (which is ironic because we're actually mowing them "down").  It's like it's hard-wired into us from the time of paleolithic man.  If we did evolve on savanna with sprawling grass, why do we need it to be cut short? Is it a primordial fear that a dangerous animal could be lurking in the weeds?  Is it simply because it looks good? Was I spending hours on a mower just because the end result looked "pretty" in the traditional since? Again, I almost can't remember why I did it other than "I was supposed to".

For my part, I've let everything start to grow freely with the exception of a small area directly in front of the house which is a concession to my wife  Crazier still is that the one neighbor I do have has offered several times to mow around the trees, bushes and flowers I've planted, since I obviously haven't been able to do it.  I explained to him that I don't want it mowed and he promptly stated that it would go back to a forest if I didn't mow it.  To which I replied-"Exactly!"  (He still thinks I'm crazy)

Here's the best part though---amazing things have happened since I stopped mowing.  Wild strawberries that I used to collect as a child are coming up again and producing fruit.  Oaks, maples, sassafras, walnut, and other trees are popping up.  Eastern box turtles are in my back yard now.  My chickens have acres of forage.  There are more birds , insects, and animals that used to only prowl the edges of the lawn.  There's less erosion on the hillsides. Everything, and I mean everything is better, just because I STOPPED mowing.   How often does the world actually get better when we "don't" do something? (probably more than we think) I've added a few personal touches with trees, bushes, and plants that are personal favorites, but it's still going to be a lightly managed "wild" forest when I'm through.  Unfortunately, when I describe the plan, I still get the weirdest looks when I announce that I've pretty much stopped mowing anymore.

I can't help but wish that the shift that took place in my brain would happen to everyone.  Imagine a world where the mowers of the world just cease!  (We'll make a few exceptions for ball fields and cemeteries) I for one would like to see that world.

Just my personal opinion.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 171
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
9
bee books dog forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I second that opinion.

I also totally understand the "concession to my wife" bit

Having said that I do mow to produce mulching mass in May when the grass grows fastest and we're about to turn into summer with its high heat and drought. Mulch is very very welcome then and grass grows in quantity which makes it a good resource.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 2844
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
233
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Depends a lot on where you live I think.

For us the main reasons to mow are; 1. Keep the chiggers down so we don't get eaten alive. 2. keep the ticks down so we don't get eaten alive. 3. make hay to store for winter feeding of the animals.

Then there are those who live where keeping the lawn mowed is an obligation from choosing to live where you live.

If you have a grass landing strip, thou shalt mow so the landing strip is visible as you come in for a landing.

If you live where mountain lions live, you might want to be able to see them instead of getting the last surprise of your life. Same for bears.

Redhawk
 
Jane Southall
Posts: 85
Location: Limestone, TN
2
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Some areas do have codes and if I lived in such a place I would have raised ornamental beds everywhere and little walkways. I have been gradually reducing mowing in last two years.  I am now to the point that I can run through paths with a rotary.  White clover is taking over the grass.  Which means grubs and moles are ceasing to be a problem.  I have 8 dogs.  And though they still have some fleas, we certainly have no infestation.  In the yard several hours a day and maybe one tick all day.  I have wild trap crops, everywhere.  This season is the best insect balance I have ever experienced, in my life.  The project is a work in progress, yet two years ago there was an acre of grass and a few violets.  And I had moles everywhere and bare patches from grubs.  Everything I tried to grow got dug up or eaten.  My soil was poor in 75% of yard.  Now my soil is fair to middlin in 50% and very good in 25%.  And I worry about the neighbors, at times.  Yet, by next summer I think they will love me.  Great posts.
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Crt and Redhawk,

I absolutely agree with using grass as a mulch or letting it get tall enough for hay, both are excellent uses for it.  I do the same thing.  What I'm addressing are those billions of acres that are being mowed once a week and are not being used for hay, mulch, or other bio-mass purpose.  The amount of energy being wasted is mind blowing to me. 

Jane, I've experienced the same thing with the moles and insects, more balance and less mole hills.  I've also noticed that now that I have nitrogen fixers and beneficial pollinator plants around my fruit trees and bushes, they aren't teeming with Japanese beetles as much.  The new ones I've put in that don't have much around them get hammered!
 
Stacy Witscher
Posts: 86
Location: SF Bay Area
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have no lawn, haven't for years. To my mind, the only reason to have a lawn is for children to play on, my kids are grown, nevermind that we live  close to both a elementary school and a park. My ex liked a lawn to mow, one of the many things I didn't understand about him.
 
Kyle Neath
pollinator
Posts: 133
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
30
dog hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For many in the west, we do it for wildfire protection. Keeping grasses within 100' of your home mowed can increase its chance for survival in a wildfire by orders of magnitude. It's called defensible space
.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6431
Location: Left Coast Canada
798
books chicken cooking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"lawn" is what I have after the sheep are done with the pasture. 

The "lawn" around the house is because of the geese.

We mow about twice a year when the grass grows too fast for the geese.  I'm trying to get it down to once a year because I think it's expensive and wasteful to use a lawn mower.  I would much rather have more geese. 

Why do I like short grass/weeds?
- fire prevention in the summer.  Long grass is a major risk here. (of course, mowing in the summer is an even larger fire risk if the blades hit a rock and cause a spark, so we try to mow before the lawn turns brown.)
- long grass is more slippery than short in the winter when it's wet or frosty
- long grass makes my socks get wet when I walk in it first thing in the morning.
- long grass makes a good home for ticks and fleas.
- people don't complain about my weed to grass ratio when it's short.

 
Jarret Hynd
Posts: 53
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
8
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In my reply, I will alter your question a bit, to "why do people have lawns?" as I feel it is the more important question to answer first. I also mostly focus on the problem in a city environment, since it seems most prevalent there.

Marcus Billings wrote:I look around and it's like I'm an alien on my own planet. People are burning millions of gallons of oil, using up precious water reserves, and using up what is arguably their most precious resource, time, just for an aesthetic that is very temporary!

Many people see the water run out of their tap and believe it always will no matter what - delusions of our times. The fossil fuel point is true, but in many respects, if today you told someone "use your lawn grass to compost and plant a garden", they'd treat their garden like a farm anyways and rototiller it constantly which I think would be even more wasteful than just lawn mowing. This is a mute point overall, but I just wanted to mention that it's unlikely that those millions of gallons of oil would go to something useful even if people stopped mowing their yards tomorrow.

Marcus Billings wrote: So my question is this:  Why in the world do we still try to beat back nature and continue to mow? (I'm aware that the historical origin is most likely the kept areas around medieval castles)... If we did evolve on savanna with sprawling grass, why do we need it to be cut short? Is it a primordial fear that a dangerous animal could be lurking in the weeds?  Is it simply because it looks good? Was I spending hours on a mower just because the end result looked "pretty" in the traditional since? Again, I almost can't remember why I did it other than "I was supposed to". 


Philosophy and History
Looking at western mentality in particular, it seems to be about trying to control nature in a similar manner to the way conventional farmers were taught to, while also hinting at conforming to societal standards. I was told by someone that grew up in the 1940's that it wasn't until after WW2 that people started to get rid of their War-Gardens and some city designers started to introduce lawns into newly developed suburbs. It became trendy, and if you had a lawn you were viewed as upper-middle class, so it definitely relates a bit to the medieval castles you mentioned in the attempts of trying to look wealthy. This is also a period in time where consumerism was picking up steam, so then people got to buy a bunch of things to try to out-compete each other in a different way. Who has the most powerful mower, using chemicals so you have the least weeds, who has the nicest lawn ornaments etc. 

Bylaws
Even though there is a problem with HOA non-sense, there are also general laws which essentially favour grass lawns as Jane noted. This year for example, I was written a few letters from the municipality office and apparently had too many sow-thistles in my yard, and my grass to tall, all of which was was against "law such and such". The choices were to mow/spray the weeds and mow the grass, or the municipality would come do that and then I would involuntarily pay for that "service". Just to be clear here, I live in a place where there are less than 100 people, so there is no HOA, but there are enough provincial bylaws that act like an HOA anyways.

Another piece is that many cities have lawns near the curb which are attached to the individual lots, and by default the owner must maintain that curb lawn despite the city owning the curb grass. So if people have to mow the city's property every week, they might think they may aswell just mow their own at the same time.

Psychology
I wasn't going to add this in originally, but I'd say "instant gratification" has a lot to do with it or maybe even just feeling accomplished psychologically. People push a mower around for 20 minutes, the grass is cut, and they feel good that they completed the task. This happens every time and is a reliable way to even get a compliment "nice lawn", which creates a positive feedback loop that gives them motivation to keep cutting the lawn.

Cities are deserts for Natural Landscape
Lastly, a lawn is the simplest and most available piece of "green" for anyone living in a concrete jungle, and so for a person in the city a lawn is the equivalent of having a piece of nature just outside their door. A fresh lawn cut smell is much better than a bunch of car fumes after all - at least I found that to be true.

So laws, artificial standards, and the unnaturalness of modern cities give enough reason for people to mow their lawns.

Marcus Billings wrote: What I'm addressing are those billions of acres that are being mowed once a week and are not being used for hay, mulch, or other bio-mass purpose.

After trying to explain why people mow in the first place, I'll now paraphrase geoff lawton in his explanation on people attempting to make compost: "people put a bunch of food scrap and grass in a bin, and then in a few weeks they look at it and it's just food scraps covered in grass and that isn't rewarding". It goes back to the point of mowing the grass and leaving it on the ground is easy, while composting and gardening take at least some skills(attention at minimum) and (more)time. A person can't just dig a hole, put a seed in the ground and feel the job is accomplished, as they need to be involved for long periods of time with that plant - it's a real commitment. The person can now rationalize a reasonable argument to not make compost. "if I don't have a garden, why should I compost?" or "I'm so short on time lately. If I got rid of my garden, I wouldn't have to compost either".

The reason people likely don't use grass as mulch is that it's not seen often anywhere, at least when I landscaped in a city I never saw it, but also that there are some misconceptions like "insects will breed in the mulch" which scares people from even trying it. Example

Just to be clear here, I'm not siding with ignorance in any of my last few arguments, but I often drive myself crazy trying to understand it lol. I've previously contemplated about why someone would mow a lawn weekly, so consider it devil's advocate at worst.

---

I agree with your conclusion on letting it grow, as since I stopped mowing, wild lovage has come up and because of all the oil development+farm land that is displacing wildlife, 10's of gophers have made their home in my yard - the only yard in 1km that has a variety of native plants in it. I'm the bees' favourite place to stop aswell.

---

I don't like to analyze things without leaving a solution, but fixing bylaws would be the simplest as they are inherently broken and require no change in a person's behaviour - it's just opening up options for people. Next would the curb lawn dilemma, and for that there would just need to be an incentive for the owner, such as the city providing free seedlings in order to change curbs from grass to some perennial shrub. I think after that, with a brief campaign on permaculture techniques, things would change really fast, since many of the points listed for having a lawn could be applied to food forests or gardens. A sign of wealth, a competition of "who stores the most carbon", a positive feedback loop experience etc.

I hope this was an understandable explanation, as I find it's hard to form a good flowing reply when a subject is affected by so many factors. I tried to title the points to help tie things together better.



 
Tim Pasanen
Posts: 32
Location: Mediterranean-Temperate transition zone
8
cat chicken forest garden greening the desert hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Living in a bushfire-prone area, and having lived through a particularly nasty bushfire as a kid (75 fatalities, including entire families that I knew), gives you a different perspective on 'lawn'.

In Mediterranean-type climates, lovely green winter grass transforms into a field of brown matchsticks during summer.  Winds over 100km/h can turn a dry field into a rolling wall of fire that chases you at a speed of 10 metres per second.  No-one can out-run that.  No-one.

So, to give us at least a non-zero probability of survival if we have to make a final stand, we have a 20m buffer zone around the house.  No trees, no shrubs, no bushes — not even a pot plant.  Nothing but lawn.  Lush green lawn.  Irrigated and mowed to a height of 5cm.  All.  Year.  Round.

One day it would be nice to have some ducks or alpacas mow that lawn for me, but until that day comes my lawn tractor and I are best friends.

I mow because I've seen what happens to people that don't.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 171
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
9
bee books dog forest garden toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jarret, thanks for the psychology angle, I was about to add something in that vein. Gratification + also a ritual, confirming, conforming component (societal / class effects as described by you).

Or let's give it a pretty name and call it therapeutic - I'll admit myself to the fact that when I find myself overwhelmed by all the various things that want to be done in my professional, personal and farm life - which sometimes cluster to a point where I feel immobilized - just going out and doing something very simple with very visible results helps break the gridlock, gets the ball rolling.

Doesn't  necessarily need to be mowing, of course

 
Jim Fry
Posts: 139
Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
12
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To each their own. I love my mowed grass laying fully in the Sun. I also really like the mowed grass that grows under the 50 foot trees I planted. I like just as well my deep woods. And my unmown fields. And the Nature Gardens, where no human has stepped in forty years. And the buildings I have built that now cover what once was gardens and before that grass and before that pasture and before that woods. And the Stones, we have arranged in Circles, as Places of Ceremony. I love them all. They are home. Each the best in their own way. And each less best than another in a different way. ....To each, their own.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1546
Location: Pacific Northwest
206
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We mow our grass for three six reasons.

(1) So our shoes and socks don't get soaked when we walk around our property. We live in the rainy northwest of the US, and so our grass is soggy for about 2/3rds of the year. Even the morning dew gets our grass wet in the summer. Having my three year old with pants soaked up to the knee just from walking around for five minutes, doesn't seem like a good idea.

(2) So that there is fresh growth of grass for our ducks to eat. They don't like the tough stuff, so mowing it keeps them eating it.

(3) To keep the blackberry and salmonberry at bay. If we don't mow at least twice per year, the salmonberry takes over and what was once forage for the ducks and room to play, is now impenetrable bramble. Mowing it takes a LOT less time that scything or sickle-ing it.

(4) To deter the bobcat and deer, and so we can see any hiding bobcats a lot easier. I don't like my ducks getting eaten. Removing bobcat hidey places helps prevent my ducks being taken for dinner.

(5) It helps control the spread of invasive bindweed. The bindweed is in my hedges and growing out into my lawn toward my garden When we mow frequently and pull out the sprouts we see, we halt the progress of the bindweed.

(6) My husband likes the look of grass being mowed.

That being said, we don't usually mow that often. My father came and mowed like once every week for a while because my husband couldn't mow, but we usually only mow about 4-6 times a year, usually when the grass gets taller than 6 inches. I also hate seeing it mowed because--while it looks nicer and it's less wet--all those dandelion and clover flowers get mowed down. My son loves eating the dandelions, and the ducks love the dandelion seeds, and the bees love both the dandelions and the clover. I wish my lawn was just dandelion and clover and no grass!

Edit: I just realized that my three reasons turned into 6, and I hadn't changed the number, LOL!
 
Jane Southall
Posts: 85
Location: Limestone, TN
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I fully agree to each his own and there are purposes for lawns.  the bush fires, never thought of that one.   My kids decided they didn't need a lawn.  Yet, if they were sports oriented and absolutely wanted a lawn, I would have one of those low water, slow growing mixed grass lawns.  This is my favorite article, all time on lawns.  It is not the harsh indictment that the title suggests.  Lighthearted and quite funny.  Great posts, all.  http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/why-mow-the-case-against-lawns/

 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First of all, Jarret,  phenomenal dissection of the underlying factors!  I think you've hit the nail on the head-"Why do we have lawns" would have been a much better question.  Also, I would like to define "mowing" as cutting grass with an internal combustion powered device at a uniform height below 4" anytime that the grass exceeds that height.  So if you're using sheep to keep your yard down, that's grazing, not mowing.

As an aside, I hope no one has taken my post as a critique of their own, personal situation.  My observations were strictly from a macro view-point.  If someone has a viable reason that works for them, I say go to it.  No one at this forum has to justify why they mow-fire prevention, walk ways, and as I said originally, HOA or public nuisance laws are all valid.   But I still feel these micro points are not the deciding factor for most of the acreage in the U.S.  I would say the vast majority do not mow for any of the reasons listed in the replies with the exception of the psychological reasons Jarret mentioned.  There are lawns everywhere!  Down back country roads that no one sees but the owner, behind fences, and in millions of places that have nothing to do with the valid reasons stated in the previous posts.  We seem to be a culture addicted to mowing.  The amount of chemicals put on lawns is staggering! I just can't help but think that there's a better way. 

Instead of covering an acre with Kentucky Bluegrass, why not plant little islands with poly-culture.The best examples of permaculture and forest garden that I've seen might have small paths that connect areas which are mowed, but the "majority" of the acreage is planted in perennial, food producing plants. I'm sure an apple tree with raspberry, comfrey, and echinacea, etc. at the base could be done in an attractive enough way to pass most municipal codes.  I really think we have to make a push and ask people these questions, as well as provide viable alternatives.  Yes, permaculture is not for everyone, but I don't think things change by ignoring the 800 lbs gorilla in the room! I submit that "most" (And again, please don't feel I'm picking on anyone.  This is about "them" not "you".)  mowing does not equate to the concepts of permaculture unless the "perma" stands for permanently shortening the grass.

 
Stacy Witscher
Posts: 86
Location: SF Bay Area
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that lawn and mowing mean different things to different people, and in different places. The climate where I live is mediterranean, lawn is not natural. I think that a lot of people here have lawns in imitation of other climates, other places they have lived. Just like some who don't have lawns have english cottage style yards. Ornamentals that favor england's climate are generally not suited this climate. Italian countryside would be more suitable.

I live in the suburbs, lawns are something that is planted, or installed, if you are talking about sod. I remember driving through central Ohio and seeing lots of people on ride-on mowers, they were not mowing what I would call lawns. They were mowing the stuff that just grew. I completely understand why someone would mow that, insect control, fire protection etc.
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3567
Location: Anjou ,France
170
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why are we mowing
Because I get paid
Half rent for mowing plus I get all the mulch I can use

David
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
David Livingston wrote:Why are we mowing
Because I get paid
Half rent for mowing plus I get all the mulch I can use

David


Without a doubt, the very best reason to mow! 
 
Gilbert Fritz
Posts: 1319
Location: Denver, CO
23
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
But I still feel these micro points are not the deciding factor for most of the acreage in the U.S.  I would say the vast majority do not mow for any of the reasons listed in the replies with the exception of the psychological reasons Jarret mentioned.  There are lawns everywhere!  Down back country roads that no one sees but the owner, behind fences, and in millions of places that have nothing to do with the valid reasons stated in the previous posts.  We seem to be a culture addicted to mowing.  The amount of chemicals put on lawns is staggering! I just can't help but think that there's a better way. 


On a lot of these places, mowing is perhaps being done because it is the easiest, cheapest way to keep a wild forest from redeveloping, which might be undesirable for several reasons. In urban areas on the east coast where I lived, a dense forest would quickly reclaim vacant lots and abandoned yards. This lowered the property value, because once a lawn has become a forest there is a huge amount of work to get rid of it. In rural areas, second growth forest is often less valuable the potential pasture or plow land, or even just open space/ views. Much rural land is mowed once a month or less, just to keep the land in grass. It is interesting to note that many of these fields were originally cleared of trees at great expense by pioneers.

In his book, The Resilient Homestead, Ben Falk gives his experience. When he bought his old worn out farm in Vermont, he had five acres of "grass" which was not by any means a lawn. He decided to let it go and let nature heal it. Within a few years, brambles, goldenrod, and young trees had turned it into a thicket. At that point, he decided to turn it back into pasture for sheep, into which he would put rows of edible trees. However, the "inertia" of the old-field was hard to stop. When he scythed down the woody plants, they effectively mulched the land, keeping down the grass and clover seedlings and ensuring the regrowth of woody plants. His sheep didn't want to eat the woody plants, but instead ate the remaining grass and clover. Many seedlings didn't help at all. Finally, he burned the fields in a controlled fire to knock back the woody plants and shift the fungal dominated soil.

In other words, mowing with a machine could have prevented problems that later used up much time and energy to solve. And it is interesting that even once things got out of hand, a machine mower or brush hog wouldn't have had the same mulching effect and wouldn't have been selective like the animals.

Now, why anyone would water and fertilize a lawn, unless it is an athletic field, is beyond me. But mowing a piece of land is by far the fastest way to "weed" it. And I think that a mix of grass and other plants, mowed down every few weeks, is probably one of the fastest ways to rebuild and restore degraded land; grass improves soils faster then trees, while not building up undesired momentum towards something else.

Edited to add: animals could be used to do much the same thing. But in the early stages, the time, energy, and infrastructure necessary for them may not be present, and, animals have to eat even when the field is not producing grass for them. An abused field might not provide enough food for the number of animals necessary to keep it mowed down at peak season, or the density of animals necessary to suppress woody regrowth, which is exactly what happened to Ben Falk. Also, animals like trees, and a young orchard does not compete well in an old-field.
 
Scott Foster
Posts: 59
Location: 6a
2
forest garden hugelkultur woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have three acres and I'm slowly trying to transition to "not mowing."  I live in an area where everyone sprays and mows, weed eats and lollipops their trees.  When we moved here three years ago we had no birds, bees, butterflys, rabbits or anything.   Because it was so overwhelming to transition the entire thing to a forest garden at once I focused on specific areas.   The front yard has some mature trees and I'm not ready to focus on that area yet so I planted nothing but plants for pollinators. and I threw down mulch.

I have a fence around about an acre and I stopped weed eating the fence line about two feet on each side.  My core forest garden has wood chips and I plant every berry bush, perrenial, nitrogen fixer and edible or enhancing tree I can get my hand on.  The first year I planted some flowering bushes along my fence line that I'm using as nursery plants.  I just planted 12 locusts of different varieties, apples, plums, apricot, mulberry..you get the point.

I have also put in three hugelkultur mounds, one I seeded with wild flowers, one I planted egyptian walking onions, fennel etc.   On the third mound I planted annuals like pumpkins and squash and just let the animals eat them.  Around the mounds I broadcast clover, a lot of it.

My fence line and all my permy areas have patches of natural growth, whatever comes up..stays up.  I've started planting some of this out but I noticed that with the weeds some of my pests have dissipated, especially Japanese beetles, there is a weed that grows here and they seem to prefer it.  I did see some on my hazelnuts but not enough to mow them down.  

So really in one year of trying to do a forest garden my yard has exploded with life.  

I have so many birds I can't believe it, honey bees, monarch butterflies, all the little helper wasps and hover flys.  Frogs and dragon flys. Bunnies, skunks, etc.  There was so much life in my yard this year, it's almost unbelievable.   I am seeing the concept of basic permaculture in action and I am amazed.  I'm especially amazed because only 10% of my yard is forest garden.  I can't wait to keep planting.   Though I'm still mowing I don't bag it and I plan on slowly planting out the grass....three acres doesn't seem big but if I don't do it by zones it's overwhelming.  I'm doing everything with a shovel.


 
Jane Southall
Posts: 85
Location: Limestone, TN
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know, Scott.  It is amazing.  I have done maybe a 1/3 of an acre.  Very few tools here too.  Trying not use anything but manual from here on out.  Fingers crossed on that one. 
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1451
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
18
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This question occurred to me as a kid.
It's probably why I am here today.
While sweating behind a push mower, I got wondering, "what's in this for us?"
As humans. I got that gardening meant food,and I loved that.
I was familiar with wild edibles,often found in our yard.
Even raking leaves led to compost,why was I slaving away caring for a plant that did not love me back?
Thus was born in my mind the idea of an edible lawn.
25 years latter,I have my own house, and what lawn that is left looks like nightmare to most homeowners
When I can i pull grasses to give preference to plantain,dandelions,and my favorite, Creeping Charlie.

So for me the toil that is mowing inspired a lifetime of love for edible plants.
Worth it, but it still sucks!

 
James Whitelaw
Posts: 16
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Living in the city the steps we have taken in regards to the lawn:

1. No chemical applied ever
2. Dandelions removed when necessary only by manual extraction (out of the way areas dandelions are left)
3. Tall weeds that poke up out of lawn are dug out or trimmed w/ electric line trimmer
4. Cut grass is mulched and resulting soil used for raised beds
5. Mower is electric
6. Weeds that coexist w/ grass such as wild violets or yellow clover are allowed to do their thing (wild violets are discouraged when they get too aggressive w/ electric line trimmer
7. Gradual replacement of lawn with gardens (raised bed, figs, rain garden that receives roof runoff, etc. and especially food for pollinators)
8. Watering reserved for food garden (mid-Atlantic gets plenty of rain for the turf) and when droughty, lawn is allowed to grow tall.
9. Wild areas left tall to provide shelter for the bunnies who daily are observed munching on our weeds.

The neighbors w/ million dollar homes don't mind and listen when I evangelize about pollinators and explain that almost every specie of weeds we have observed is either edible, has medicinal value or both.
 
Brandon McGinnity
Posts: 24
Location: Winston-Salem, United States
1
forest garden fungi tiny house
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I agree with the OP. I remember doing a bicycle tour at around age 20, my first time on my own out in the country (being a suburbanite from Detroit), and of course on a bike you're so much more engaged with your surroundings, so I remember being struck by all the farmers (well, country folk, at least; a few may have been on real farms) out there, mowing lawns of an acre or two. Not brush hogging, just going around on their sit down mowers. What a ridiculous thing to do!

If it were just to keep the land clear, in case they wanted to farm it or something, fine, brush hog it once or twice a year to keep trees out. But this was northern Michigan, why keep the trees out? You wanted to live in the country, and the country there is woods! I never could see the point of wasting so much time and fuel (and money) doing that. Maybe a small place for kids to play, and to keep the area around the home clear for fire and, yeah, aesthetics. But no, I never understood it.

I once wrote an essay years ago about the insanity of lawns, which I can post if anyone is interested.
 
trinda storey
Posts: 128
Location: kent, washington
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
No exceptions for cemeteries the land is plenty fertile!😋 Bad joke
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6786
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
263
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I met someone last year, who keeps a 5-acre lawn, on a hay farm. Beyond the kept lawn, are hay fields. The hay fields get cut three times a year, so consume less resources.

There are other similar hay farms, that keep a very small portion of cut grass for a picnic table and somewhere for the kids to kick a ball, and grow hay much closer to the house. They don't have to work nearly so hard, and they get more hay.

The guy with the five acres of lawn, is very proud of having the largest lawn around. His neighbors think he's nuts. I agree with them.
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Brandon McGinnity wrote:I agree with the OP. I remember doing a bicycle tour at around age 20, my first time on my own out in the country (being a suburbanite from Detroit), and of course on a bike you're so much more engaged with your surroundings, so I remember being struck by all the farmers (well, country folk, at least; a few may have been on real farms) out there, mowing lawns of an acre or two. Not brush hogging, just going around on their sit down mowers. What a ridiculous thing to do!

If it were just to keep the land clear, in case they wanted to farm it or something, fine, brush hog it once or twice a year to keep trees out. But this was northern Michigan, why keep the trees out? You wanted to live in the country, and the country there is woods! I never could see the point of wasting so much time and fuel (and money) doing that. Maybe a small place for kids to play, and to keep the area around the home clear for fire and, yeah, aesthetics. But no, I never understood it.

I once wrote an essay years ago about the insanity of lawns, which I can post if anyone is interested.


Hi Brandon,  I'd be interested in reading your essay!
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1379
Location: northern California
46
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The challenge here is to make the activity worthwhile, in an ecologic and economic sense.  In my area, wildfire protocols apply, which might even be backed up by law if I neglected the situation enough. So aside from the gardens I have allocated as much of the site as possible to geese and sheep.  Both of these, of course, must eat through the summer dry season, and if I have enough of them to really eat the stuff down so as not to carry a ground fire, then they will need supplemental feeding.  For this I scythe grass and weeds along the road, and outside my own property lines along the fences (where, theoretically, my neighbors are obligated to maintain a firebreak, but since they don't live here, they don't) and pile this up for hay.  In addition, in the smaller access areas around the gardens and fruit trees I use an electric mower and make bag and barrel silage during the grass growing season....again for fodder.  The final mowings, in the early summer, are done by replacing the blades of the mower with weedeater string, so there is no fire danger whatsoever from either a spark or from a hot engine.  In summary....I have a clean, mowed site, and I get goose eggs and lamb as yields....
 
Sara Rosenberg
Posts: 16
Location: Fort Worth, TX 76179
2
forest garden hugelkultur toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am in a similar boat as Scott Foster but with only 1/4 acre.

I'm trying to be low key on how i'm slowly transitioning the front lawn of my home so that it doesn't catch notice of our local HOA and the city of Ft. Worth.

These are the steps I took this year that you can see in the photo:


Cow pasture


1) The FENCE: Behind this long fence is a cow pasture. The local HOA requires us to have 6ft high, wood, picket fences on all sides of the property but the front. I ripped my back fence out because it was old, leaning, and riddled with termites. It makes our already large backyard look even bigger and we get the enjoyment of baby cows to boot! I'm not going to pay to put up a fence i don't really want so I'm planting wild flowers and grapevines down this existing fence. You can see the wildflowers. I had a nice display for the majority of the summer plus a bargain bin Lowes score of 75 white glads for 1.50.

2) The 2 FRUIT TREES: In go the two fruit trees with perennials under neither. The lavender has really taken off below the Asian pear, closest to the house. i plan to add more items to the growing circle and eventually create a kidney bean, connecting the two trees in an island.

3) CITY GREENWAY: Not seen in pictures is my mailbox canna lilies. Scored them free from a lady needing her's thinned. I had the greenway curb spot (4'x4'right next to my mailbox) removed of grass and planted that entire spot with the cannas, neighbors love it and the mailman mentioned how lovely it was. Little do they know I have some plans to "creep" the cannas over to the other side of the city greenway and interplant some Red yucca seedlings I'm growing in my nursery in the back yard. I don't have irrigation to those spots so I need to make sure that the plants that go there can handle the heat. Cannas get a spot because you can eat the roots and Red yucca for their water conservation ways. Any additional ideas for a Ft. Worth location is always welcome, something pretty AND edible is always a win. I'm thinking 2-3 nicely groomed Figs would do nicely. The immediate change I've noticed is that I now have hummingbirds. I got my hands on more of the Canna and planted it next to the house near the garage to hide the AC unit from the street.

4) the FRONT garden bed: This is where the sneaky gets fun. I plan to move the bed's rock line out 1 ft each year and add additional flower and food plants into the space. Currently, I have a variety of bulbs on the front line to distract the HOA and neighbors from the food plants that will go in. I also hacked out the lower branches of the Buford hollys to get more sunlight into the space. suggestions for plants are always welcome.


So end game plan is that each of these areas will continue to "grow" year by year until I just have foot paths or the HOA/city finally says something. Neighbors already know i'm a plant nut... And I've got the local kids protecting my trees/plants too which I absolutely ADORE!


 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We  have a lawn.  About 5m in front of the house and a couple behind.  My husband mows because:

a) He is English and it is in his DNA.
b) He has a battery powered push mower.  It keeps him fit and out of my hair
c) To stop snakes coming near the house
d) To keep ticks away
e) As someone mentioned before, to keep feet and trousers from getting wet
f)  For ease  of access, we cut paths through the tall grass
g) For a place to put table and chairs and sip a fine wine after a hard day's work
h) For my grand children and dogs to frolic
i) For mulch
j) To access the back of the house without being shredded by brambles
k) To make a space to park the cars, we do not like concrete drives
l) And finally, I guess because we like it
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 68
Location: South Central Indiana
13
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

"I'm trying to be low key on how i'm slowly transitioning the front lawn of my home so that it doesn't catch notice of our local HOA and the city of Ft. Worth"

Keep up the fight Sara!

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!