|Here are the results of a no-water, no fertilizer, no pesticides largely native yard!|
and a resource drain!
Forrest: We do not water, fertilize, or use pesticides of any sort on the lawn, so in that respect it’s low maintenance. It does require mowing about once a week at the height of our long growing season, however. Each mowing session expends at least three hours of precious leisure time and consumes about 3 gallons of gas. For my time and expense, I would rather have more bang for my buck than a monotonous expanse of green carpet.
|Planning is important; here, in order, are the |
plants used for this island: Stokes' aster,
blue-eyed grass, scrub mint, horsemint, blazing
star, rudbeckia, swamp sunflower, tickseed
purple coneflower, muhley grass, beautyberry
Lu: I grew up swimming in Florida’s springs, and I’m brokenhearted about how quickly we are losing them to overpumping and algae blooms. Cynthia Barnett, in her excellent new book Blue Revolution, says that turf grass is our 51st state because lawns now occupy an area of the country that’s larger than many states! Horticultural products, including turf grass, have become Florida's #1 agricultural commodity. So we’re losing our springs in part because of our felt need to water turf grass—lawns—but do we really want an aesthetic that we borrowed from England to define our water ethic in Florida? My answer is no.
| Red mulch was chosen in order|
to show neighbors some structure.
An all-hardwood, no cypress mix.
Forrest: We have well over an acre of turf—a rather motley mix of Bahia, crabgrass, and various "weeds." Some of the latter are turning out to be desirable native groundcovers that provide nectar and larval food for butterflies. Since we live in a rural setting, we don't feel pressured to conform to the picture-perfect manicured lawn aesthetic prevalent in suburbia, but at the same time we don't want the yard to look like it has "gone to weeds."
Lu: I gave Forrest the book Urban and Suburban Meadows by Catherine Zimmerman for Christmas last year, and we relied on that and Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants by Gil Nelson for guidance. We wanted to provide food for pollinators, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.
Forrest: We had a couple of low areas in the yard where the builders burned trash when the lot was being cleared. We decided to use those spots for our first conversion to small meadows. Readying the sites was a labor-intensive process of digging out the grass, laying soaker hoses, planting, mulching. Once the plants were established by late spring, they needed only occasional watering from the soaker hoses. The photo shows the results.
|Monarda punctada (aka horsemint) going to town with wonderful aroma|
and lots of pollinator visits. The blue-eyed grass and scrub
mint are hidden but thriving. Maybe they like some relief
from summer heat.
|Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) grass in the fall|
Lu: We worried a little bit that our photo might be disrespectful to the folks who are part of the Occupy Wall Street movements, but I don’t think it is. Sustainability—of the economy, of financial institutions, of the government, of the environment—really seems to me to be a core issue here, and I think all these areas are connected. I’ve started envisioning Florida as the state with the best educational system in the country, the cleanest waters in the world, and an economy that prospers because of the first two. Florida-friendly plants are definitely part of that picture. I’d love it if all the folks in Florida who are growing turf grass would suddenly find it’s more profitable to grow native plants; that will happen when more of us start using them!
Lucinda Faulkner Merritt and Forrest Stowe
October 18, 2011
I agree with Lu! This wonderful, sustainable garden is a compliment to the folks on Wall Street, and also a fabulous example to turf owners everywhere. Lu and Forest have kindly shared a link to their Meadow Conversion Facebook page:
where you can see more photos and read details of their journey. Many thanks to both of them for their effort in sharing this with our blog.