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The Organic Lawn

September 17th, 2012

Just like the rest of my gardens, the lawn here at Chiot’s Run is organic. It doesn’t require much care, mowing a few times a month and a top dressing of chicken manure twice a season. Other than that, it’s left to fend for itself. I’d describe the lawn as “a mixed herbal lawn”. Whatever grows is allowed to stay.

The lawn area has shrunk by at least half since we moved in. It was replaced with food and seed producing plants. We’ll never be without a little spot of lawn though, I really love the look and I think if you allow mixed herbs and wildflowers to grow it does add a beneficial habitat to your garden.

As a result, I can count about 15-20 different species of plants; different grasses, white Dutch clover, plantain (both tall and short), creeping charlie, wild violets, and a few other various species of “herbs”. The lawn is also full of insects of all shapes and sizes, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, spiders, moths, and many other things that creep, crawl, hop, burrow, and slither.

To some of my neighbors, this would be a travesty. They’d douse their lawns with chemicals to get rid of weeds, kill bugs, and to make the remaining finely bladed grass lush and green. Organic lawns really are healthier, the mix of plants provides an ecosystem all it’s own. My lawn is teeming with life, even after this summer’s drought. My neighbor’s perfectly sprayed carpet of green on the other hand, is mostly dead. This was their lawn last week:

This was my lawn last week:

So what can you do to help your lawn and go organic?

  • overseed with some white dutch clover
  • allow herbs and other plants to grow
  • add rock dusts according to your soil type, like gypsum, etc.
  • use natural fertilizers like chicken manure, bone meal and blood meal
  • top dress with compost or other organic matter

The proof is in the pudding when it comes to tough summers like this one. My lawn was lush and green most of the summer. A few varieties of grass and other plants went dormant, but other ones kept going strong. Because I don’t add chemicals, the soil gets better each year and thus the lawn looks better and better each and every year, even when there’s a drought.

Do you have any area of the garden dedicated to a lawn?

18 Comments to “The Organic Lawn”
  1. Adelina Anderson on September 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Our home is surrounded by lawn. But my favorite part (and trying to get the husband to not mow it) is a couple of sections that sprout Forget-Me-Nots. My goal for next year is a few raised beds of herbs out in the front. Less lawn to mow and more herbs for eating!

    Reply to Adelina Anderson's comment

  2. daisy on September 17, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Unfortunately, living with an HOA, we HAVE to have lawn in front of our house. We have gone to only using malorginite, instead of weed-n-feed products. Our grass is much healthier.
    The chicken manure is put on twice every season, or just in the spring?

    Reply to daisy's comment

    • Susy on September 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Twice a season, once in the spring and then once again when the fall rains start up again.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Tiffany Selvey on September 17, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I have a lot more lawn than I would like, I certainly expect to claim more and more as time goes by. We will always have some lawn, though. The dogs need a place to do their business and the boys need a place to play catch.

    Reply to Tiffany Selvey's comment

  4. jennifer fisk on September 17, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I love walking in the grass in the evening bare footed so I’ll always have lawn. The chicken appreciate getting the grass catcher dumped in their area and I use some clippings to mulch. I actually had to rebuild my front lawn this summer as it was taken over by moss in the last couple of years.

    Reply to jennifer fisk's comment

    • Susy on September 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      I too LOVE using the grass clippings as mulch. They come in very handy, and they’re free!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Justin on September 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Love the term “mixed herbal”. *chuckle* I think I’ll use that one instead of “crabgrass” from now on to describe our lawn. :-)

    This year, I noticed a neat side-effect to not having a pristine chemical-treated lawn. The neighbor (who has his lawn professionally landscaped) was complaining that the rabbits were eating everything in his vegetable garden and mine wasn’t being touched (not for lack of rabbits on the property). Turns out, I have so much clover mixed into my lawn that it’s a veritable salad bar and the little critters see no need to bother my vegetables. I don’t even have the garden fenced.

    Now, if I could just keep the raccoons off the fruit trees… :-)

    Reply to Justin's comment

    • val on September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Justin, don’t jinx yourself. I felt my garden was safe also, but the rabbit eventually branched out from its mainstay of clover and plantain–and devoured all of my beans!
      This is my preferred lawn as well, but the creeping charlies is absolutely taking over. It infiltrates everything, so I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I keep wondering if adding some grass seed to restore some variety among the weeds will have any point.

      Reply to val's comment

    • KimH on September 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Justin, You might try sprinkling the base & up your trees with baby powder or maybe even white flour will work when the coons start attacking your fruit.
      It works wonderfully on corn, which is the only thing I’ve used it on, but the premise stands. Racoons dont like getting their paws dirty. They get the powder on them & it drives them nuts & they run away to get them clean.

      Reply to KimH's comment

  6. Mary S. on September 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’ve been interested to see that in the past few months the U of Minnesota has been promoting this type of lawn via its extension mailings. The U calls it a “bee lawn.”

    Reply to Mary S.'s comment

    • Susy on September 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      Can’t wait to read this article, thanks so much for the link!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. amy on September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I have a good sized lawn but it is interspersed with an orchard we have started and all of our different gardens….It is made up of many different things besides grass. It has never been sprayed with anything nor fertilized but it is lush and has an underground spring running through it. What drives me insane are the neighbors who whether it needs it or not mow their yard every single week….down to a quarter inch…..Between that and the roundup they use around their trees and fence line. Their yard looks like dirt by August…..especially in any drought situation! They have 4 different types of mowers for less than a quarter acre! It blows their mind when I walk out in the spring with my little reel mower and then later on with just a push mower that we got at Goodwill:) It drives the man so nuts to watch me that he has offered to come over and mow our yard…..not happening. I have always heard that the height your grass is above ground is the depth of it’s root system below…..Meaning the less you mow the farther the root system has to access remote water in a drought situation…. That is how I justify my meadowy yard anyway:)

    Reply to amy's comment

  8. Daedre Craig on September 17, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Looks like my lawn. Love the “mixed herbal” description. I’ll have to keep that in mind for when I sell my house.

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  9. angie h on September 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Our lawns sound very similar and I love the “mixed herbal” label you give it. I don’t think our lawn has ever been fertilized-ever! I never knew some of the names of the contents of our lawn until reading this post. I agree about surviving the drought. We did have a few brown areas, but they quickly turned back to green once the rain came. Our bees love the clover and I do to…although when it gets tall and thick it is a very good hiding place for snakes from my unsuspecting toes! I’m always barefoot and we have had way more snakes than usual this year. We noticed the crickets and grasshoppers have been especially prolific this year!

    Reply to angie h's comment

  10. Sarah R on September 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Looks a lot like our lawn! We never treat the lawn with anything, which seems to make us a bit unusual in our suburban area. But, having grown up on a few rural acres, where fertilizing and weed-killing the lawn just wasn’t much of a “thing,” I just don’t see the point in all those chemicals and all that extra work. Our lawn got some brown patches during the worst of the drought, but it’s back to green now.

    Reply to Sarah R's comment

  11. Deb on September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Our lawn has NEVER been fertilized or chemicalized. Why waste time and money unless you are eating. No chemicals here at all for quite a few years now. We mow 4-6 times per YEAR. Our neighbor has mowed 55-60 times this year starting in march and we have 5 times. Why be such an idiot and waste time, money, and the environment. My nose has to smell and ears have to hear this. This is a rual area by the way. I have many trees, shrubs, gardens, etc. and we mow part of it but the rest grows for bees, butterflies, snakes, praying mantises, dragonflies, and birds. As we have cats, rabbits aren’t an issue for my garden. There;s absolutely no reason to mow the lawn 2-4 times per week and during a drought. If I eat it I weed it. Why fertilize to have to mow more often?!

    Reply to Deb's comment

  12. Stevie on September 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Our lawn is not really grass, either. If it is green, then we consider it part of the lawn. Wouldn’t know where to start with weed killers or pesticides and the kids and the dogs are walking on it everyday so why would we?? Although I suppose we don’t need all the sunflower sprouts that pop up under the birdfeeders :)

    Reply to Stevie's comment

  13. Sierra N Hampl on September 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I like that description, “a mixed herbal lawn”. That’s definitely what our lawn is!

    Reply to Sierra N Hampl's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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