WHITE PLAINS N.Y. LeighAnn Ferrara is changing her small suburban yard, which was once a lawn bordered only by a few trees, into an anti-lawn, a patchwork of vegetable and fruit trees.
It wasn’t easy, says the mother to two young children. She says that we started covering small areas of the lawn each year with cardboard mulch and mulch, and now our front yard has three-quarters of the planting beds. Each year, we do more.
Her perennials and native plants require less care and water than turf grass. She doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides, as she isn’t aiming for emerald perfection.
The lawn has been America’s dominant green, weed-free, grassy carpet for generations. It still does. However, a growing number of homeowners, landscapers, and gardeners are concerned about the environment and see it as an anachronism or even a threat.
They are working hard, just like Ferrara.
Dennis Liu, vice-president of education at E.O., said that America is unique in its obsession with monoculture lawns. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is located in Durham, North Carolina. Our English inheritance is our little tidy green space.
Now, drought, crashing insect population, and other environmental problems are highlighting, in different ways, at different places, the need to have more types of plants in all sizes of spaces.
Some people are trying to find eco-friendly seed mixes. These can be mixed with native grasses that may not be as finicky or thirsty. Others are mowing fewer and tolerating old foes such as clover and dandelions. Others are trying to replace grass completely or in small amounts with gardens that include pollinator-friendly plants and edible plants.
This all leads to a happier, more wild-looking yard.
Liu believes that everyone is better off if they can let the little piece they are responsible for being stewards of nature’s flow.
Many homeowners have long since switched from turf grass to less-thirsty options such as succulents and gravel in states where there is a shortage of water.
A pandemic in other parts of the world has increased the abandonment of lawns. Gardening became a popular hobby, and many people spend more time at their homes, paying more attention the natural world around them.
All across the country, municipalities are giving out lawn signs that boast healthy yards to homeowners who don’t use lawn chemicals or mow less often. Many towns have put restrictions on common tools, such as leaf blowers and mowers powered by gas, mainly because of noise.
Many gardeners have realized that gardening is more than just an ornamental hobby. According to Alicia Holloway, a University of Georgia Extension agent from Barrow County, it must serve a purpose. It is a shift in thinking, in aesthetics.
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Monrovia, which is a major producer of plants for nurseries, has received lots of interest in the Garden of Abundance trends – a more lively-looking yard with many plants. Katie Tamony, company trend observer, says Monrovia has seen a lot of interest in this trend. She believes it is a way to think about your yard as more than just yours. It is part of a larger, more beautiful world that you are trying to create.
Monrovias customers surveyed the most desired category of plants, and they were those that attract pollinators.
Yet. The lawn will not disappear any time soon.
Many homeowners associations still have rules regarding maintaining their yards. Lawn services are geared towards maintaining grassy areas.
Andrew Bray, vice-president of government relations at the National Association of Landscape Professionals (a trade group), says that lawns remain the most popular choice. People want clean outdoor spaces for entertaining, relaxing and playing.
Although his group supports the goal to make lawn care more eco-friendly, he believes that recent ordinances against gas-powered mowers and blowers have created a difficult political environment. He believes that electric alternatives to these tools are not yet feasible for large lawns that professionals manage.
To present its side, the landscapers trade association created a new public platform, Voices for Healthy Green Spaces. He said that everyone has the option to have a large yard and plant a forest of trees, or a meadow with unstructured plants.
Another problem for those who are concerned about grass lawns’ inability to help pollinators or other species is that they have a problem with their own lawns. Holloway, the Georgia extension agent, said that many people don’t want bees because they fear nature. Although I believe that this is changing, there is still a lot of work to do.
Removing grass takes patience. Site visits are one of the best parts about my job. Site visits are a great way to see backyards that have been around for 20-30 years. It helps me to forget the idea that everything must be done at once. Holloway states that it takes time to create a yard with plantings.
It is difficult to change the neighborhood’s expectations and traditions. Liu says a neat lawn is easy to maintain. Once you establish the new equilibrium, it’s much easier and offers all these benefits.
Some neighbors might be surprised to see a yard without a grassy lawn and think, “There’s the crazy person!” Many people will think it’s so cool.
JULIA RUIN, Associated Press