Monday, March 7, 2011

Let Your Lawn Get a Little Wild

A few years ago while I was attending college, somehow the topic of lawn care came up in my English Lit class. I'm not sure how the discussion took a turn in that direction, but I remember one of the younger girls mentioning how she didn't mow her lawn very often because she liked how it looked greener when it was longer. Our professor smirked and said, "oh, you would be the bane of our neighborhood."

Having lived out in the country most of my life where no one really cared if your lawn was an inch overgrown, I never realized how competitive lawn keeping was until this discussion came up. Now living in town, I further understand how some people can become the thorn in the neighborhood's side because they forget to mow their lawn one week. It's really mind boggling trying to comprehend why so many people put so much time, effort, and resources into a patch of green in front of their house that never gets used! If you ask me, lawns are really boring, and the more perfectly manicured they are, the more they bother me. The space of a front yard could be filled with so many more interesting plants, even useful & edible plants.

Last week, one morning around 9 am while I still donned my pajamas in bed, typing away on my laptop, there was a knock at the door. I peeked through the blinds from the front bedroom window, and saw a man I didn't know standing on the porch. I looked out to the street and saw a big truck and trailer with a lawn service motif on the side. I decided that he was probably going to try and sell us his lawn services, and I wasn't about to get up and answer the door in my pajamas for that. I watched him get in his truck and drive away.

Later on, as I began to think about it a little more, I began to wonder why he just decided to randomly stop at our house? Was that his usual method for gaining new customers? I had just done over the flower beds and they looked pretty good, even next to our neighbor's prim and trim yard (which in my opinion is overly done and looks more like the lawns in front of a strip mall.)  I was beginning to wonder if I should take the gardener's visit as an insult!? I deduced that it had to be the lawn, and I admit that the mower has not touched it yet this year. While the type of grass we have, St. Augustine, dies during the winter and yellows, it stays short until it wakes up in Spring. It's still asleep right now, however, there are weeds and rogue grasses that pop up at the front edges near the sidewalk. Those, I guess, are getting unruly, but some of them I just don't mind being there, like the dandelions.

I allow, and even encourage, the dandelions and pretty flowering clovers that most people banish with nasty weed & feed chemicals. I always thought that parks with patches of those little white daisy-like flowers and golden dandelions were so pretty, and wished for a lawn at home like that. They bring back childhood memories of making daisy chains and hair ornaments. Why would anyone want just a boring plain ol' uniformly green lawn in front of their house? If people want a perfect green (boring and ugly) carpet in front of their house, why don't they just lay down some astroturf? I believe it probably has a lot to do with people and their habits & traditions that they never question and continue to carry on with in order to keep up with the Jonses. Well, I say the Joneses need to get a life, or a better hobby than mowing the lawn.

Anyway, dandelions are edible and can be used in a variety of ways. The leaves provide vitamin A (a better source than carrots,) have antioxidant properties, and can be used in this kind of salad, or that kind of salad, sauteed, steamed, in soup, etc. The flowers can be eaten raw or steamed, even made into cookies, muffins, marmaladesyrup, or wine amongst many other things. The roots can be used as a coffee substitute or to make chai, mmm mm. There are many more recipes online, just surf around a bit.

Remember, you don't want to consume any part of a plant that may have had lawn chemicals or pesticides applied to it, so be careful where you harvest your dandelions from!  Also, even though it's pretty tough to mistake a dandelion, make sure you know your weeds through identification. Don't eat any plants that you can't clearly identify.

There's nothing that says you can't plant dandelions like any other vegetable in your garden, so, save your wishes for lost eyelashes & birthday candles and don't blow your dandelion seeds away! I actually saved many of the seeds from dandelions that sprouted in our backyard last summer so that I can purposely plant and harvest them. I can't wait to try out the many recipes I've found online!


  1. Couldn't agree more! I think lawns are ridiculous, unless they're used for croquet, bocce or badminton on a regular basis. Otherwise, xeriscape it or plant it in fruits and veggies!

  2. Agreed! Though, we find croquet to be more fun at the park where we can spread way out. As for front landscaping, I think that when it is suggested that you turn your front yard into an edible garden, people imagine rows of dirt. (Actually, the man across the street actually does this with part of his front lawn.) It doesn't have to be that way though, people don't realize that vegetables and fruit trees can be artfully and cleverly arranged just like any other plant, if aesthetics are a concern.

    When I visited Monet's garden 15 years ago, I fell in love with the espalier apple trees. Since then, I've always wanted an apple tree fence instead of a picket fence.