Saturday, April 26, 2014

Losing the Lawn

The world has finally put on her spring clothes!!  She is painted with a million shades of green from the delicate yellow greens of the oak flowers and new leaves, to the deep blue greens of the violet leaves.  Even on the inevitable grey days that spring showers bring, everything seems to glow with inner life.

All this wanton growth means my lawn needs mowed... always.  Even just the day after I mow it, the dandelions send their airy heads skyward, giving the lawn a ragged, half-wild look.  WeeHavyn's rocky slope makes the work hard and quickly ruins a blade, even on the highest setting.  Bare patches abound and there are more weeds than grass in some spots.

I'm well aware that with a lot of work and money, I could have a yard of perfectly manicured grass, helped along by copious amounts of fertilizer, water, and pesticides.  Of course that wouldn't solve the problem of having to mow... but I guess I could hire someone to do that.  Somehow the prospect of all that isn't the least bit appealing to me.  I can't get past the fact that all those resources are going toward something that offers nothing back and is potentially harmful to WeeHavyn and her family.

What if I could use that space to grow food?  Well, a vegetable garden isn't really an option.  The steeply sloped soil is rocky and everything is partially shaded.  Annual plants need deep, rich soil and lots of sunshine to be able to gather the energy they need to produce in just one growing season.  Yet the common vegetable garden isn't the only way to produce food and it certainly isn't the easiest, especially in less than ideal conditions.Using perennials allows one to baby new plants for a year or two and then just maintain and harvest after that.

Hardy Kiwi, Blueberry, and Goji Berry plants.
Enter the concept of a food forest.  This method of gardening centers on perennial plants and a technique called layering which mimics the way a forest grows.  The top layer are the large trees, which WeeHavyn already has in place.  The next layer are the shorter trees, in this case dwarf fruit trees such as cherry, plum, and apricot which aren't bothered by the black walnut tree in the hedgerow.  Next are shrubs, such as gooseberries, hazelnuts, blueberries, etc.  There are so many rare and interesting fruiting shrubs that I have a very hard time choosing.  Then come the vines such as kiwi, passionfruit, and grape.  Ground cover plants such as strawberries and wintergreen happily nestle at the feet of the rest of the layers.  Finally there are the root plants such as sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, and oca, which are basically annuals that leave tubers to grow back the next year.  All of these plants have their place and can be planted in such a way as to make WeeHaven more beautiful than she already is.... without mowing.

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