Posted by: Dan | February 25, 2009

Bringing Life to Your Yard

I’ll tell you first upfront, I don’t own a house with a yard. Just a modest flat. But I’ve always rather had the opinion that the well-manicured suburban lawn was unseemly, even though one might be an outcast to let it grow into a jungle. Native plants especially, are always a very welcome sight with me.

So I really enjoyed coming across an article yesterday written by a chapter director of the National Audubon Society, who tells the story of how he stopped trimming the lawn or shrubs, planted native plants, put in some water elements, and just let things grow. Kill Your Lawn was a neat article, which pointed out that “Lawns have no ecological benefit. They provide no habitat or food or shelter for any life except introduced non-native isopods (sowbugs) and crows.”

Moreover, the story has appeal for birders, that I can’t resist quoting:

Why not bird at home I thought? In the summer of 1994 I planned my new habitat. At the end of summer I stopped watering altogether and watched the lawn die. In late fall, after removing the dead grass, I began buying and planting native plants, with guidance from the Theodore Payne Native Plant Institute, and installed a three-tiered stream.

Fifteen years later, now mature, my yard is a jungle filled with life: Almost 100 species of birds have come through.

Of course, I not only don’t own my own yard at the moment, I am not living in the States now. Here in Cyprus, the climate is such that the Summers are long and very dry, while the Winters are mild and there is more rainfall. In unkempt plots of land, where native plants take over, a semi-arid set of Mediterranean shrubs usually takes over. And still in other places such as backyard gardens, fruiting trees, especially citruses and olives, are planted and taken care of. These are both decent ecological alternatives, except the former may lack aesthetic appeal to most people.

Those people with lawns here (two houses in our neighborhood have small lawns) require enormous volumes of water to keep them green. And given water shortages, I find that appalling (last year the water reserves in Cyprus dropped to 5% of their normal capacity. Thus, lawns are infinitely more hideous to me here in Cyprus than in the States.


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