The L word

The L word
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From Jim Charlier’s garden: fun with the idea of a lawn

Two days before Earth Day, my regular segment on our local NPR station was aired. I don’t come on as a gardening expert; I am part of a rotation of local editors and media types who chat about issues their publications are covering. We talked about gardening because my magazine always has gardening content, and May’s issue has more than usual. In it, I did an in/out list that included

Out: Adirondack chairs (more wishful thinking—they are becoming so ubiquitous and I find them uncomfortable)
In: Garden tools that let you use your feet (I am finding myself using more tools that let me stand up rather than the hand tools)
In: Reused/salvaged materials used in paving, raised beds,  and other hardscaping (this has been big in Buffalo for a while)
Out: Fairy gardens (as opposed to miniature gardens, though again, wishful thinking)

And so on.

We talked about some of that, but eventually my host asked me about his lawn; he had stopped using weedkillers and other chemical aids on it when his kids were small, but now, with them out of the house, he had gone back to them. I guess he just hates dandelions. There was no time to go into all the alternatives, so I just suggested more tolerance. I don’t have any turfgrass, but my friends who do tell me they just mow whatever is there, weeds and all. That’s the easiest way. Or, I guess there are products like these.

But what I also said is that—with all the problems in our lakes and rivers that we’re struggling to remediate already—I just see any justification for spraying or pouring questionable treatments that, in the grand scheme of things, just aren’t worth it. That’s about as far as I can go with this discussion, except for being really, really glad I never have to deal with the L word myself.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on April 22, 2014 at 8:34 am, in the category Sunspangledgardens Airwaves, Shut Up and Dig.


    • susan harris
    • 17th April 2016

    Right on! Replacing all lawn with garden is usually more work, but loosening up about lawn perfection means LESS WORK, people! Plus, way better for waterways, kids, dogs, etc etc.
    But I say no-no-no to the idea that Adirondacks will ever go out of style or become uncomfortable! Maybe they’re overdone where you are, so close to the mountains in question. Around DC they’re rare. I’m on my second batch (now made of recycled plastic, so no rotting) and still admire the design, esp the wide flat arms that eliminate the need for side tables. Brilliant, classic. I could go on.

    • val
    • 28th October 2016

    I had those wonderful made in USA recycled plastic Adirondack chairs–only $19!!! But you get what you pay for, as they only lasted one season.
    It makes me ill that people dump poison on their property to have perfect grass.

    • Tibs
    • 10th November 2016

    Love that “mow whatever grows” phrase! That’s what we have. So far lawn man, aka spouse, has done nothing this season. Whereas crazy garden lady (me), has been a weeding fiend and spreading loads of compost and hand pulling leaves from ground cover beds. Don’t tell me lawns are more work.

    • Laura Bell
    • 11th November 2016

    My parents had a very diverse lawn – full of dandelion & clover (one patch was genetically programmed for four-leaf clovers, sometimes even six-leaves!) before it was cool. They tried to turn it into turf several times, re-planting with shade blends or play-surface mixes. No dice. The pine trees all around the house were not turf-friendly, and neither were the nine children with assorted friends and pets. Even now, with considerably less activity, and even taller trees, the lawn is a patchwork of plants. It sort of fits the place.

    • Susan
    • 13th November 2016

    My lawn has dandelions, chickweed, hawkweed, escaped violets and a bit of actual grass. I couldn’t care less. We mow it all impartially. And, at least the first day after mowing, it looks as nice and green as all my neighbors’ lawns do. No doubt our refusal to use pesticides and fertilizer drives the more OCD among them nuts, but that’s their problem.

    • Sandra Knauf
    • 14th November 2016

    I love, love, love that checkerboard “lawn.”

    • admin
    • 14th November 2016

    I nearly jumped up and down with GLEE when I read your ‘ins and outs’! I have ranted on about Adirondack chairs and unsustainable lawn practices for far too long. I have no time for miniature gardens or fairies as my real garden is far too much work already. But I can see where they’d keep condo owners and apartment dwellers happy. As far as garden tools are concerned, I’m looking for truly ergonomic versions…and many of them are for standing up or using your hands and feet in ways that don’t create repetitive motion damage. Thanks for your post, Elizabeth! You made my day.

    • John
    • 14th November 2016

    We seem to be the only folks in the neighborhood that don’t have a commercial lawn spraying fertilizer and weed killing service. I still can’t fathom paying money to have deadly chemicals sprayed all around your house every month.

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