God: Hey St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect “no maintenance” garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.
St. Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there Lord, the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
God: Grass? But that is so boring. It is not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It is temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and to keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
God: The spring rains and warm weather probably makes grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy…
St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it; sometimes twice a week.
God: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
St. Francis: No Lord, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it grows, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
St. Francis: Yes Lord.
God: These suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth of grass and saves them a lot of work.
St. Francis: You are not going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
God: What nonsense. Well, at least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn the leaves fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as the leaves rot, they form compost to enhance the soil. It is the natural circle of life.
St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them in big piles and pay to have them hauled away.
God: No, what do they do protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
God: And where do they get this mulch?
St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make mulch.
God: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you are in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
Sister Catherine: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It is a really stupid movie about ….
God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
Coming across this the other day in an old Gardening Journal of mine, I could not help but post it again. "God's take on lawns" first appeared in the El Ojo Del Lago News, Guadalajare, Mexico. I did not find the author's name, so I can't give credit where credit is due. Nevertheless, it is reminder to all of us there is rhyme and reason to the seasons. Spring brings rains (and this year a lot of it) and warming temperatures bringt growth and beauty. During the summer heat nature takes a break, although there are plenty of plants still strutting their stuff without a lot of work from our side. Then fall rains (again, lots of it so far) and lower temperatures slow growth as we are ready for a break as well. Leaves start falling, providing protection to plants and nutrients to the soil. I cring when driving down the block I see large piles of leaves being discarded. I have resorted to leaf-napping and by now all my neighbors know to drop their leaves off at our house so I can shred and spread them around my plants in the fall. I noticed how my helleborus (Lenten Rose) hardly ever produced any seedlings early on in the garden. Now, after having spread shredded leaves around in the garden and around the helleborus, each spring hundreds of seedlings pop up around the mother plants thanks to the improved soil. If you don't have a shredder, bag your leaves in plastic bags, poke some holes in these bags and let them sit outside during the winter. Come spring, take everything out of the bags and put it around your plants. The leaves will have partially decomposed during the winter and they will add valuable nutrients to your garden in spring as they decompose completely. Meanwhile, worms will have a feast as well, aerating the soil in the process. Allow nature to do its thing rather than fight it and your garden will be more natural, and as just as beautiful, if not more so.
At our house there is still a bit of lawn, although greatly reduced from when we first bought the house. It has been eliminated from the back and one side completely and replaced with gardens. The front is home to large garden beds filled with spring bulbs, perennials, shurbs and trees. I add annuals in late spring for additonal interest. The little bit of lawn left is mowed with a reel mower, the kind where you do the work without electricity or gas. Grass clippings are left on the grass where they provide nutrients. Just about every year I make more lawn disappear under layers of newspaper or cardboard and a layer of soil. Then more plants are added.
If you don't know where to start, call me. I can help put you on the road to a garden filled with butterflies and birds, one that requires less work withouth harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Once you start this gardening adventure, you will be amazed with the journey.
Marty Oostveen, Gardener
The Dutch Touch LLC