IN THE LAST several weeks, numerous people have either asked about brown lawns or complained and pleaded with me to write something about people’s brown lawns, wanting me to condemn them.

So what is a person to do if they really despise the color hues of brown and have a huge area of time, money and environment-destroying lawn?

First, how about installing something that will actually give you a healthy return for all of that labor and expense?

That’s right. If you are going to be out in the yard watering, pruning, fertilizing and weeding every week or less, why not change over most of your lawn to vegetables, berries or an orchard?

If there is nothing else you retain from this article on the American lawn, let it be the absolute destructive nature of chemical weed and feeds.

Everyone should now be switching over to organic nutrients. If you are, then just think of the incredible advantages of your own organically grown produce, vegetables or eco-friendly lawn.

Our weather here is perfect for fruit and veggies with cool nights and warm days and extended growing seasons.

Few places in the world can, with ease, grow superior crops, so why not you?

Plow your grass under, cut and flip it over, or place thick layers of cardboard on top and smother it dead.

Next, pile on a few dump truck loads of great topsoil and voila, a great big garden plot.

Now, along with all that effort spent per square foot, you will actually save money while enjoying a better and far healthier food supply than most of us normally buy.

Orchards are in strict competition with grass for water and nutrient, so plant trees or cover the entire area with 6 to 8 inches of mulch.

Plant rows of delicious berries, nut trees as well, for six to eight months of production and year-round consumption.

But if veggies and fruit aren’t your cup of tea, what about an herb garden?

During the middle ages, knot gardens were all the rage. They consisted of various herbs, mostly Mediterranean types (i.e. sage, lavender, thyme, oregano, marjoram and mints).

These herbs take little water to maintain and are easy to care for once established.

The knot garden was an intricate pattern of herbs grown and pruned, so in appearance they seemed to intertwine or knot around in a braid-like landscape.

They were bedded in rock or mulch with pathways and sitting areas.

In other words, you could go super retro.

But if herbs do not trip your trigger either, how about my favorite — a rock scree?

Rock screes are great for a variety of reasons, all centering on ease of care and low, low cost once installed.

To make a rock scree, lay down over your grass very good weed fabric, using only the woven nylon type.

Then place various big colorful rocks and boulders in a pleasing pattern, across the fabric-covered area.

Next, place out other large basketball sized rocks along with various wood elements, old chains, wagon wheels, or whatever your select genre may entail.

Using many (more than three) different sizes of pebbles and grave, and fist-sized rocks, create patterns and flow to the placement.

Use only clean, washed rock that is readily available, otherwise weeds will grow in the small particle filler and nothing is worse than weeds in rocks.

Pour various aggregate-sized rocks, 4 to 6 inches thick and leave little odd shapes here and there and everywhere that you later fill with topsoil.

Finally, plant these empty spaces with Mediterranean herbs, succulent sedums or go with an alpine theme using many wonderful, low-growing drought-resistant plants.

The vast majority of the area is rocks and rocks don’t die, get bugs or disease, need no pruning, use very little fertilizer and never rot away.

And finally, if none of this works for you, make larger landscape areas that consume most of your lawn.

Use indigenous, native plants that are accustomed to our climate, which encompasses monsoon and drought.

Mulch these native plants heavily and use your remaining grass as a pathway between your new lovely larger landscapes.

But please do something.

Give up the American lawn and upgrade to an organic, high cut, Victorian lawn or invent some masterpiece from ideas just listed.

The only one to benefit from this labor of love, will be you — and all those who happen to live on the planet.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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