Grass lawns, despite a long and steady trend upwards in popularity, have recently been on the decline. What people have been realizing is that lawns are prime gardening real estate, and the land could be used for productivity. Of course, there is little debate to be had over this issue — gardens are much more functional and, most would say, beautiful than expanses of mowed grass.
The truth of the matter is that even a mix of weeds is better than a monoculture grass lawn. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for the caregiver. It’s better for eaters, for animals, and for budgeters. Ironically, a weedy lawn is even better for the soil itself. The whole situation begs the question as to why we bother to weed the land, and perhaps the more relevant answer is that we shouldn’t.
In reality, there are a lot of reasons to have a weedy lawn rather than a manicured grass one.
Typically, a suburban lawn is one focused on fostering a specific type of grass, be it Bermuda, Kentucky bluegrass, or Fine Fescues. While advertising and lawn-care products persuade otherwise, ridding the landscape of all but these grasses is actually creating a monoculture, not unlike corn fields. In fact, that’s why maintaining a lawn requires so many products.
A biodiverse lawn — one with dandelions, plantain, yarrow, and so on — is what occurs naturally because prairies and forests are not monocultures. To try to prevent this is to work against nature and the biodiversity that makes it so resilient. Plants are not meant to grow in isolation.
Having a biodiverse lawn, one with plenty of weeds in the mix, creates a more resistant landscape. Weeds are going to be plants that are adapted to the environment in which they are growing. Thus, they will be survivors. On the other hand, different grasses are suited to different climates, landscapes, and soils. This makes them more likely to struggle to perform in situations for which they are not ideally suited.
Rather than struggling to grow grass, it might be better to simply let the weeds take over and keep that maintained. At least, it won’t be in a constant state of needing fertilizer or weeding-and-seeding.
Weeds are considered troublesome for many different reasons, but amongst many plant enthusiasts, the main issue is that humans haven’t realized how to appreciate them just yet. Well, weeds in the lawn are doing important jobs. Many have deep taproots that are pulling up nutrients. Others are helping to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion that results from disturbance, such as what occurs for housing developments. Some are helping to replace nutrients that are lacking.
Basically, weeds don’t just show up for giggles. Their arrival is a reaction to the situation on the ground. Nature has employed them to repair damaged areas so that forests or prairies can grow again.
A weedy lawn, then, requires much less maintenance than a purely grass one. Rather than constantly fighting the climate, thwarting the other flora, and wishfully reseeding, yards can simply be mowed when needed and left to grow what is best suited for them. Weeds will reseed themselves, and the most resilient species will survive, free of charge. The lawn will still be green, but it’ll be more practically so.
Obviously, with less maintenance necessary, there is less money to be spent doing it. Ditch the feed, weed, and seed combinations, and that’s a ton of cash left to be used for something more productive. In fact, if lawns were left to the weeds a little more, we might even save some funds at the supermarket because many weeds are edible.
The grass we grow for lawns is inedible for humans, but a huge selection of the weeds that pop up in lawns are actually very nutritious. Some are even delectable. Dandelion greens are pulling good money at markets these days when most of us could be harvesting them from the lawn. Purslane, plantain, and pigweed are all things that could effortlessly end up on the dinner table.
With very little time spent studying and none spent cultivating food, a lot of people could be eating their lawns on a daily basis, if we weren’t so set on growing grass.
Biodiverse, chemical-free landscapes are obviously better for the animals that live around the area. Bees and butterflies, in particular, benefit from weedy lawns that provide flowers from which to collect pollen. But, there are many other critters that rely on healthy lawns — not biocidal monocultures — for their survival. It’s difficult to do, but imagine if supermarkets were just filled with food grown on chemicals and poisons. That wouldn’t be healthy. Well, lawns are the supermarket for many creatures.
This is no indictment on grass. Rather, it is us who need to reconsider what we are doing. Lawns were not meant to be grass alone. They should be melting pots of species that live together harmoniously in nature. Weedy lawns are the example we should follow!
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