Take a walk, and look at the lawns of the houses you pass. Most of them will be neatly trimmed and made out of grass. After all, a beautiful green lawn is a status symbol in suburbs around the world. However, there is a catch. Growing a grass lawn often requires pesticides to keep insects from eating the grass, and these can seep into the local water supply and contaminate ponds and rivers. Likewise, watering the lawn with a sprinkler or hose is very wasteful, since it essentially dumps away water that could be used for other things. In other words, lawns are simply not good for the environment.
We have grown to expect suburban houses to have lawns, however, so what is a homeowner to do? The answer lies in many plants that are traditionally thought of as “weeds,” such as dandelions, violets, and clover. Most people, when they see these plants growing on their lawns, spray herbicide on them to kill them or simply uproot them. It is much smarter, though, to simply let them spread.
Once the “weeds” have spread sufficiently, the garden will no longer be entirely grass but will be covered in a patchwork of plants—a little grass here, some dandelions there, a few violets there. The result is even more visually appealing than an all-grass lawn would be, thanks to the variety of colors and forms.
You still have to mow your “weed” lawn, of course, but if you like (and if your zoning laws permit), you can allow the plants to grow relatively tall, essentially turning your yard into a wild meadow. The plants will attract insects, which in turn will make your yard a haven for birds and other insect-eaters.
Compare that to an ordinary grass lawn, which is homogenized to the point of being almost sterile. Few animals can live in such an environment, save for root-eating grubs which are usually killed with poisonous pesticides. There are certainly fewer insects, spiders, or birds in a yard with a grass lawn. If you have a grass lawn that’s already sprouting dandelions and other “weeds,” wait to see what happens. Do they spread and alter the entire lawn, or do they stay in one spot?
Interestingly, it seems that as children, we are better able to appreciate the beauty of all plants, whether they are “supposed” to be in our lawns and gardens or not. Many children, after all, love dandelions and violets, and only later are taught that they are not “good” plants. It’s as though the roles these plants play in our ecosystem is completely artificial, and only through an unbiased perspective can we truly appreciate them.
Your lawn might be the pride and joy of your household but that doesn’t mean it has to be boringly manicured. A lawn with wild plants is even more interesting and will support more wildlife.