I finally got my hot little hands on a popular gardening book from the library. I’ve been waiting for Beautiful No-Mow Yards since the end of February. It was worth the wait. This lovely book has lots of color photos of gorgeous yards without the traditional carpet of grass. It talks about why the typical American lawn is bad and why one might want to do something different. On this I needed no convincing.
Bookman and I have been whittling away at our lawn since we moved into this house twelve years ago. You’d think we’d have it all torn out by now but we aren’t rich and we’ve had lots to learn. However, this book explains how to get rid of large swaths of lawn in one go without the torturous digging it up as Bookman and I have been doing. I suspect that this fall or early next spring, the neighbors will see a part of our front yard covered in black plastic. The black plastic allows in no water and pretty much smothers and cooks everything beneath it within a few weeks. This technique is called “solarizing.” Theoretically when the plastic is pulled back the dead lawn beneath can be rototilled and voila! big area ready to plant. However, when it comes down to it, I will not be surprised if it isn’t as easy as described. Things never are. Still, it has got to be better than what we have been doing.
When one gets rid of all the lawn, what goes in its place? Well, native grasses, xeriscape plants, flowers, a pond, trees, shrubs, a large edible garden. And once established, these take very little care other than weeding, possibly a once-a-year mow if you go with grass, and maybe a little watering if you are growing edibles.
The really great thing about this book is that it has a midwest focus, something hard to find in gardening books. Coastal people can get in on the book too, a lot of prairie plants are drought-tolerant and would do well in the southwestern U.S. It is a great pleasure though to look at the photos and see yards turned into little prairies and find out that yard is located in my city. And that’s another great thing about this book, it focuses on city-sized yards, not huge suburban lots or anything with acreage, but typical yards you might see in urban areas.
The book encourages gardeners to try new things but also reminds us that we need to work with nature. One of the things that always bugs me a bit about my own garden is when plants begin to migrate to other beds. No-Mow says this is a good, it means that you have happy, healthy plants to begin with because they are reproducing. It also means that the areas they move into are good places for them. Don’t worry about plants spreading out, it’s a good thing, it saves you money since you don’t have to buy anything to fill that spot, and it ties areas of your garden together. Also, while plant diversity is good, it is better to have more of a smaller variety of plants than one or two of a bunch of different plants. The latter is expensive, a lot of work, and doesn’t look all that good. And this book is about less work and a yard that looks good.
I am all about the less work part of the book. I learned something really interesting I didn’t know. Dandelions. I love these bright yellow flowers. I tend to let them get a little crazy in my yard in spring. Turns out because of their long taproot, dandelions are great at sucking up calcium in the soil. If, or when, you pull up dandelions, leave them laying in the garden. When they decompose they will make the calcium they sucked up available to your other garden plants. Natural fertilizer. And free.
There aren’t a lot of plant lists, there are some, but the book is more about how to go about getting rid of your lawn and finding inspiration and motivation to do it, and fitting your no-mow yard into its climate and soil-type rather than taking a plant list to the garden center and trying to copy a garden from the book. There is a list of recommended references at the back of the book and there are two websites mentioned that look to be really useful with lots to explore. Less Lawn has projects, ideas, plant information, and helpful information on how to get started getting rid of that lawn. Lawn Reform Coalition has a blog, lots of photos, and lots of resources most of them connected to blog posts on particular topics.
If you are sick of mowing and watering your lawn all the time or you are looking for something more sustainable than a monoculture of resource-sucking turf, then Beautiful No-Mow Yards is for you. Here’s a little taste of what’s in the book: