Environmentalists often bad-mouth lawns. The anti-lawn stance was summed up in a recent essay by Kerry Trueman, who wrote, “The typical American lawn is pretty much an unmitigated environmental disaster.”
Here in the damp Northeast, however, many of the anti-lawn arguments don’t apply. I rather enjoy my areas of lawn, which are low-maintenance, attractive, and sunny. Lawns are great places for Frisbee, soccer, and baseball.
When I moved to Vermont, I planted vegetables. (So far, so good. If there’s one thing the anti-lawn crowd loves, it’s vegetable gardens.) Once my garden was established, the question arose: what do I do with the land surrounding the garden?
Left to its own devices, untended land in Vermont follows the rules of ecological succession, passing inexorably from wild raspberries, poplar, and birch to a mature northern forest. The result is beautiful, but no garden can grow in the shade of 80-foot maples. So after whacking away at the underbrush for a few years with a machete, bow-saw, and chainsaw, I bought a lawnmower.
If tree stumps are cut very low and stones are removed, a gas-powered lawnmower can make short work of wild raspberries and small-diameter saplings. Twigs and thick stems are soon pulverized into organic mulch. I was pleased with my new method of keeping the forest at bay.
After just one season of intermittent mowing, I was surprised to see that I had created a lawn. After thirty years of mowing, my lawns are smooth and the grass is deep green, all summer long. I have never planted any grass seed, applied any fertilizer, or watered this lawn. All I did was mow the wilderness.
I challenge the anti-lawn crusaders to propose a less labor-intensive way to maintain a border around my vegetable garden. My lawn arises organically…