21 March 2014

Grass

It is coming round to that time of year when, in my country, there will be a regular pilgrimage to the shed.  A machine will be extracted to cut the head off a plant that must be the most widely grown in the country.  Grass.  It is highly convenient to gardeners that grass does not grow below 7°C and therefore does not need cutting for some months of the year.  In the past it was a sign of class, of upward mobility, of wealth, nowadays, for some, a neatly manicured lawn is an obsession integral part of their garden.  It is odd really that one plant has become so important in the national pysche.

Grass grows everywhere, literally.  No other plant family has a wider environmental range, it can tolerate cold, it grows in the polar regions and on mountain tops, and heat.  Their ability to adapt and grow almost anywhere has no doubt contributed to their success as a plant.  The Grass family includes rushes, sedges, cereals and bamboo.   Rushes, they are round whilst sedges have edges, were used to light houses before electricity.  Rushlights were the pithy interior steeped in fat, set in a clip and burnt to provide a weak, as we know it, light.  I have been told that the saying 'burning the candle at both ends' may come from this, but don't quote me on that one!  Rushes can also be dried and woven.  They provided matting in houses for walking and sleeping on as well as seat covers and baskets.  Cereals are a staple crop, they are the most widely eaten and produced all over the world.

When we moved to our house eleven years ago we inherited with it a garden that was largely grass.  Other plants were attempting to grow but with such a large population of wild rabbits in the area they were struggling to survive.  The rabbits have been excluded from the garden along with the grass.  We did not own a lawn mower and had no plans to buy one.  Much as we would love to own a large enough plot of land that some could be left as grass, we don't and we wanted to grow fruit, veg and bee friendly plants and the entire garden is given over to this.  We removed the grass by covering the entire garden with old carpet, old black plastic bags and cardboard (we had a plentiful supply of this) not long after we moved in.  We left this covering on for months replacing any that had rotted down.  As we worked on each part of the garden we removed the covering and throughly dug it over.  There is a small patch, growing bigger each year, where we obviously were not so thorough.  I think it was probably one of the last parts of the garden we dug over and by then probably also loosing the will to live.  Most of the patch is under a path each spring, as the grass starts to regrow, it reminds me that we meant to take up the path and dig over the ground........

Most lawns are in fact not entirely grass.  Those that are so carefully managed are to my mind the most artificial not just because they are manicured to within an inch of their life, but that they are a monoculture in microcosm.  They offer no nourishment to our pollinators.  I bet if you were to look closely at your lawn you will see an abundance of different plants and more than plant life flourishing.  A lawn doesn't need to be grass at all. What about chamomile or thyme?  We planted a thyme lawn in the area we hang a hammock.  We knew it would be an area that would need to walked on so growing veggies there was not an option, from a few plants it has now established itself into a fragrant carpet which can also be eaten!  What about you, do you have a lawn?

7 comments:

  1. Fascinating - no we don't have a lawn we have grass but after this wet winter it is mainly moss and plenty of daisies and dandelions plus a dusting of primroses! It's a good job we don't care for striped bowling green lawns here as we also have badgers who love to dig it up too!

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  2. If I had a smaller block I would love to do what you have done. We have seven acres which is way too much garden to maintain. Hubby loves getting out on his ride on. We have been in drought so the grass is not growing very quickly here right now. I would love to see a photo of your 'lawn' and I love the thyme idea :)

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  3. I have been wanting to mulch over the very back lawn and plant all sorts of veggies, flowers and herbs but constant health issues dominate so for the time being it remains. There are some fab you tube videos on permaculture, one couple in America have nurtured a forest garden on their front patch.

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  4. Fascinating topic. We do have a lawn (mixed with lots of clover) that's under a generous foot of snow and ice right now. Have a lovely weekend!

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  5. My dad is obsessed with eradicating the moss from his lawn - but i like it, it feels soft and springy when you walk on it with bare feet. I also like daisies and dandelions too.

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  6. Our 'lawn' is spotted with dandelions and daisies (and chicken poo). My husband does mown it otherwise it gets out of hand (I've suggested getting a goat) but with our kids (and the hoards of cousins) that run all over it it will never look anywhere near manicured.
    When I was small we had a neighbour who didn't let us play on his grass (or sit on the sofa and spoil the pillows) so we ( and the neighbours kids) were always playing on my parents lawn - fortunately they didn't care for the manicured look either.
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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  7. I've always wanted a thyme lawn ... how wonderful to have every step release a fragrance. We don't actually have a lawn at all. At the front of the house is all beds - which makes it sound like a large space and it's not, and the enclosed area at the back is completely paved and bordered with shrubs and hanging baskets. It's the only way with six dogs and a small garden, it means everything can be washed down daily. I used to have veggie plots at the back, but that was BTR (Before the Whippet Rescue ... that I used to help run).

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