My ideal lawn would not look like a lawn at all. I’d have veggies and native plants growing all over the place, and where we needed or wanted a walking/play surface area, we would have pine trees and lots of pine straw. However, since we live in a house that we intend to sell in 4 years, we have to acknowledge the fact that most people are not as enthusiastic about xeriscaping as we are.
Steve was talking with some other guys this weekend who were ranting about how hard it is to get grass to grow in their lawns. Apparently. the one guy has a 2 acre yard. 2 acres. Of grass. And he spends over $200 per month having professional lawn crew put pesticide on it, because he can’t buy pesticide at Home Depot that is effecitve enough at protecting this “investment.” But that $200 does not include his fertilzer, which he does buy and apply himself. And he contends that even with all of this money and effort, he really struggles to achieve the lawn he wants because the grass grows horribly where it is shaded by the oak trees on his property.
The men Steve was talking to said that they can’t believe that we haven’t had more problems with our yard, assuming that we only use the paltry Home Depot pesticide. They were astounded when Steve told them that nope, all he does is water it with reclaimed water, and fertilize it by mulching the grass clippings instead of bagging them . Our lawn is growing great! Both in the sun and the shade.
Part of this is because we aren’t too picky about what grows in our lawn as grass. We have the yucky centipede and crab grass in the front lawn, where there is lots of sun. Centipede grass is generally what people buy as sod down here. We have a native basket grass that is actually soft! And thn there is some small sedge growing. It’s a member of the pea family, so I’m glad it is there to put some nitrogen back in our nutrient-depleted sand (soil).
I am convinced that messing with Mother Nature does not generally have good results. If you are bound and determined to grow something in an environment that does not naturally support it, you are going to have issues. Side note: I acknowledge that beans and lettuce and eggplant do not grow “naturally” in Florida, and that I am putting resources and money into ensuring (or at least trying to ensure) that they do indeed grow. To me, this makes sense: it infinitely decreases your carbon footprint to grown your own food, and it is much healthier. Vegetables are functional. Grass is purely decorative. There is a definite difference.
To continue: we have lots of bugs in our lawn. A lot. I never thought that centipede grass was actually a good habitat for anything…but when we removed the sod from a portion of the front to do landscaping, it became obvious how much insect and arachnid life does exist there! Enough to convince me to NEVER go barefoot in Florida again. And there are mosquitoes, too, especially after it rains. And spiders on my clothesline every morning, and butterflies and geckos all over the place.
We don’t use pesticde inside or outside of our house. We may eventually, if we have an issue with infestation in the house. I don’t disagree that pesticide has its place, but my view is that it is for short term, targeted work and you use the least amount of chemical you need for the minimum effect you desire.
If we spread pesticde routinely on our lawn, yes, we would kill the mosquites and spiders and earwigs and such. And that would certainly not break my heart! But pesticide is not as specific as people would like you to think…Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, called pesticide “biocide,” and she really was correct. Pesticide on our lawn would also kill the soil microbes, and good beetles, and earthworms that are doing so many benefical things for our yard. If we destroyed the insect population, what would the geckos eat? If we killed all the spiders, then a lot of the bugs that would be left would have a much easier time getting into our house.
And if we spread pesticide on the lawn, what about walking on the grass? Or letting the cat play outside? If you continually put poison all over your yard, how much enjoyment and use can you really get from it?