The Battle of Green Desert has begun

It’s time to man your battle stations against the most insidious enemy you never knew you had. It’s time to stop aiding and abetting the enemy. Don’t let the Green Desert continue to spread across New Hampshire. Seize the Day!

The good news is this may be the easiest battle you’ve ever fought because all you need to do is put down your weapons and let Nature take her course. Well, to start with.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Green Desert is your own lawn – our lawns – those great expanses of unnaturally uniform and unwelcoming grass. Not only does the creation of a lawn deprive animals, birds, and insects of their natural habitat and food source, but lawns also use up a ton of resources, including water, to create and maintain and, if you are using fertilizer, actually degrade the surrounding land and water.

Have you ever wondered why we have such an obsession with lawns? The answer goes back to the Middle Ages when aristocracy started growing patches of grass in front of their castles. Since then, lawns were mostly a status symbol to send the message: “I have extra time, money, and resources and can care for this totally useless patch of grass instead of useful crops like food”. Do you want to be part of that nonsense?!

Who could hate this beautiful flower?! Not pollinators, that’s for sure.

Enter the Battle of Green Desert. It’s time to put some sense back into our land use. Am I saying let your whole yard go back to nature? No. I know it’s nice to sit outside without the danger of ticks crawling up your legs. But smaller, more reasonable lawns (hopefully covered in more ecologically friendly plants) would be a major step in the right direction.

Personally, I am only on Year One of a multi-year battle here. We just moved into a new home and, unfortunately, it doesn’t belong to us, so I have limited autonomy about my choices, but I will share my plan and I hope you will go a step (or ten) further). Here are two really useful articles about how to landscape with native plants and how to give your yard back to nature.

My Battle Strategy

As I said, I can’t entirely give my yard back to nature, since it doesn’t belong to me, but I have three plans to fight the Green Desert in smaller ways.

First, I am letting the dandelions, violets, and clover plants live. I don’t understand why everyone seems to hate these poor “weeds” so much. Personally, I think they are much prettier than grass AND they are food for insects and animals. This is the easiest part of my strategy. 🙂

This is what most of my lawn looks like. Dead, dry grass with living, lush weeds. I’m working on digging up the dead areas and planting them with clover and islands of native plants.

Second, my side yard and part of my back yard are pretty much dead because I don’t water them (why would I water grass when I have actual vegetable and pollinator gardens to water?!), so I am slowly digging up the dead grass and planting clover instead. Clover is more ecologically friendly because it provides food for pollinators and is more drought tolerant. It’s slow going, but I’m not in a huge hurry. If you don’t prefer to do things the hard way, you could definitely get a company to come in an seed your yard with clover. Or, if your yard is not as dead as mine, just patch in clover here and there. The pollinators will thank you.

As I did up the dead lawn to plant the clover, I am leaving the dandelions, violets, clovers, and wild strawberries because they do so well in this dry soil.

Third, I am taking over corners and islands of lawn here and there and turning them into pollinator and food gardens. In some places, this includes building raised beds, but in others it means planting trees and bushes with bulbs, native plants, and mulch around them. By taking back small areas of the lawn, I am making the area more hospitable to native species and less water intensive.

We recently bought several blueberry and elderberry bushes, apple trees, and a butterfly bush. I intend to create tree guilds around these to mimic natural forest systems and provide food for animals (and for us!). While this is definitely a bigger project, the returns will far outweigh the time and effort it will take this spring.

Still waiting to get in the ground, but the chicken tractor (wood pictured in the back) is taking priority this week because the chicks are getting too big for their basement home.

I hope reading about my battle plan is helpful to you. Everyone has a different situation, of course, but making small changes (even just leaving the dandelions) will make a big difference if we all go to war together. Make sure you’re fighting for the right team!

Sneak peak at my pollinator garden (in an area formally covered in gravel). It’s clearly still a work in progress, but will hopefully grow up to be a lush and beautiful flower garden. I will post on the process once I’m done (you can still see the gravel needs to be moved in the back).

– Hannah

What is your battle strategy?

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