Avoid the lawn and try one of these alternatives with your garden

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Summers are already quite short in Maine. There are better ways to spend those precious hours outdoors than mowing the grass.

Approximately 40 million acres in the United States are devoted to lawns. This means that almost 2% of the country must be mowed, watered and fertilized regularly for this non-food plant to become the largest irrigated crop in the country.

These gas-powered lawn mowers contribute to the country’s air pollution, and it’s estimated that 10 times more pesticides and fertilizers are used per acre on lawns than on farmers’ crops.

Reducing or completely eliminating your lawn for a low maintenance alternative not only helps the environment by reducing chemicals, but it will save you time and money and leave you with something as attractive as all this well kept grass.

That doesn’t mean you should go out and immediately rip up all the grass in your yard, according to Jesse Watson of Midcoast Permaculture Design.

“I advise people to think about their goals,” Watson said. “What are you trying to do with the space? Do you entertain? Do you have children or dogs? Do you organize events? »

Each of these uses may require at least a portion of your yard left with grass, Watson said.

If there’s a part of your garden that you never need to use, try turning it into an ornamental lawn. Ornamental grasses like prairie dripgrass, switchgrass, heath grass, blue grama, and some of the virgatus can grow in Maine. Ornamental plants are often drought tolerant, disease and pest resistant, and thrive in many types of soils with little or no fertilizer. They are pretty to look at but stepping on them can cause serious damage.

If you have shady areas, you can plant a bed of moss. All you have to do is press small “plugs” of moss—chunks of moss with roots attached—into the soil several inches apart. Mosses tend to spread quickly and you can plant several different types together to create interesting patterns of varying colors and shapes.

Sowing wildflower seeds in your garden not only creates a colorful area, but also helps insects and birds.

“The easiest thing to do instead of grass is to let your garden be a habitat for insects or pollinators,” Watson said. “It’s something people are excited about now since ‘insect apocalypse’ is on people’s minds.”

Shrinking habitats, the use of toxic chemicals and climate change have all had detrimental effects on the insects and birds that pollinate the flowering plants and vegetables that humans depend on.

Before planting or transplanting anything to your lawn, you should check with a local greenhouse or nursery to make sure you are not introducing an invasive species to the area.

You can also achieve a beautiful habitat by ignoring your lawn altogether.

“It all comes down to aesthetics,” Watson said. “Aesthetics drives management, so if your eye wants an open expanse, you’ll have to mow it, but if you stop mowing, your lawn will go through ecological succession and become grassland and become a better habitat for insects. and the birds.”

Watson’s work focuses on permaculture, a design system that works with nature’s natural patterns. It uses the wild local ecosystem as the model upon which all landscaping, gardening, farming or forestry decisions are made.

It can be as simple or as complicated as the individual wants, Watson said.

“You can design a sort of edible forest garden,” he said. “You would measure your spaces and design areas for trees, shrubs and understory, which is quite complex.”

Or, you can opt for what Watson calls the low-hanging fruit approach.

“Find flowers you like,” he said. “Maybe lupine, something from the bean family, Echinacea, or Black-eyed Susans and spread those seeds or just let the dandelions do their thing.”

No matter what you choose or how much to replace your turf, Watson likes to see people active in their environment.

“We’re not trying to pretend that humans shouldn’t exist in the landscape,” he said. “We have to constantly interact with the landscape.”

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