Water Restrictions? Bring Em On!

I am actually looking forward to a quiet, brown summer.  I will sorely miss the baaroooommmmm, zzzzzzzzzzzz, aarrrooooooooooo sounds of green lawn madness. Don’t forget the maddening tick-tick-tick-tick-tick of the sprinklers.  All of this fanatical effort to produce a green, weed free lawn has resulted in over 40 million acres of lost wildlife habitat, severed toes and fingers, air and noise pollution, chemicals in our ground water and little time to actually relax in our yards without having to mow or being driven indoors by our neighbor’s noisy lawnmower.

I recently visited a friend on Sewall’s Point in Martin County who had preserved the natural coastal hammock vegetation on his property and had zero lawn. Quiet, birds, clean air and interesting plants were everywhere with lots of shade.  Even the back deck was built around tall black ironwood trees.  As I drove away toward a newer, totally cleared and sodded portion of the island I was assaulted by the din of power machines. The streets were lined with a gauntlet of trucks, trailers, cars etc. and there was no shade.  It’s too bad that the original paradise trees, oak, hickory, pine and other native trees were replaced with sod.  But why not do the reverse?

Start with trees placed to shade the south and west side of the house and create a forested effect elsewhere. Then fill the corners of the yard, view of the neighbor’s clothes line, and roadside with shrubs.  These plants will shade out the grass and weeds while providing dead leaves as free mulch.  There is very little maintenance and now you can plant small,more labor intensive, areas with wildflowers for your butterfly garden. 

What will happen to all of the people working in our yards?  There will always be some quiet snipping, a little weeding and of course someone to clean out the birdhouses at the end of the nesting season.  I suggest the book “American Green” by Ted Steinberg.  He covers the history of the lawn and after you finish the book you will view yours with a less loving eye. Also, read Bringing Nature Home by Douglass Tallamy.

Don’t forget to supply your birds with a small tube that drips or has a mist attachment hung over the birdbath.  Connect this to a timer set for one hour each day and you will help your little friends get through a drought.