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Blue Bungalow Farm

Heather Zydek writes about life on the east side of Tosa.

Lawn of Shame

lawns, grass, white clover, lawn alternatives

 I did it: I successfully ended another gardening season. From June on was able to harvest everything from strawberries and currants to grapes, carrots, and zucchini. Now I'm enjoying watching my pumpkins finish growing and admiring the last blooms of the season from my mums, sedums, and other fall blooming perennials. 

There's just one problem – one ugly, embarrassing problem. 
My lawn. 
The late summer drought seems to have killed nearly all my grass. The rest of the lawn is consumed by violets and other "plants out of place" (AKA weeds). The whole front lawn looks almost as bad as my dog's half-shaved butt
Maybe worse.
It's my fault, really. I let it get this way. I am not a fan of grass. Sure, I like a pristine expanse of sweet-smelling grass as much as anyone – when I don't have to maintain it. But in my own yard, I have no interest in mowing, watering, weeding and feeding in order to end up with a boring green carpet. I'd rather invest that energy (less, really) in lower maintenance perennials and edible plants. So I've spent the last five years removing my front lawn little by little, digging up grass, composting or transplanting clumps of sod and installing mulched flower beds. 
My husband and I wanted to leave a little bit of grass in the front yard, ostensibly for our kids to tramp through. So after letting our front border gardens creep closer and closer to the sidewalk, we decided to stop that progression and leave about half of the front yard's grass in place. We mowed it occasionally. I almost never watered it. I let the weeds spread and I didn't do much of anything to stop them. The lawn was weedy, but still lush.
Then, last year, we lost the large Maple in our front yard when the tree succumbed to disease. Without the shade our grass seemed to suffer greatly from this summer's long dry spell. 
Now all that remains of our front lawn are ugly brown patches of matted, dead grass and equally ugly bunches of mismatched weeds, some live, some also dead.
Earlier in the summer I was determined to do something about my hideous lawn. My first inclination was to pull the weeds out one by one and re-seed with a perennial grass. I didn't get very far with that plan. Have you ever tried to hand pluck violets from a front lawn? If you have, you know it's not fun. And as you might have guessed, I’m not too keen on herbicides, so that option was out of the question. 
Plan B was to think outside of the box a bit. I noticed I had a lot of clovers in my front yard. I did some reading and learned that white clover can be an attractive and beneficial grass alternative. The clover flowers provide food for honey bees and other pollinators. They're also kind of charming. I figured that a lawn consisting entirely of low-growing, easy-to-mow clovers wouldn't be too bad. So I ordered a bag of white clover seeds.
But when the bag arrived in the mail I chickened out. First of all, I'd have to hand-remove all that grass so that the lawn could be pure clover. As I explained above, removing weeds or grass from a lawn is no fun. Also, I worried that growing clover in my front lawn alienate me from my neighbors. Would they be annoyed if my clovers spread like weeds into their own yards? 
Paralyzed by indecision, I did nothing about my shameful lawn. That big bag of clover seeds is still sitting in my house. I haven't even opened the package.
I'm still not quite sure what to do at this point. Every time I look at my lawn, I shudder, and then quickly flee indoors. I'm too busy right now to rip apart the lawn, reseed, and water. I'm probably just going to mow whatever's growing there and wait for the spring to make my next move, which will be one of three things: (a) I'll remove all the remaining "grass" and create perennial beds throughout my entire front yard; (b) I'll pull out the grass and plant those clover seeds, trying something new and exciting; or (c) I'll pull the weeds and re-seed with bluegrass.
In the meantime, I'm actually excited for the snow to come and cover up my horrible eye sore of a lawn. Please don't judge this Master Gardener-in-training; I may be great at growing zucchini, grapes, and sedums, but I'm not much good at tending grass.

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