Monday, September 14, 2009

I used to have a lawn , now I have balanced diversity

When I moved into my house 10 years ago the front yard was a mix of mud, weeds and a struggling lawn.

I restructured the spatial delineation of the front yard by dividing the area into a (1) small potager garden,(2) a mixed flower and succulent border and a (3) mixed lawn of clover, alyssum, fine fescue and crabgrass.
From Pina Colada

From a water wise standpoint , the potager requires more water than the mixed flower border and the lawn combined.
From Pina Colada

From Potager Gardens

From a maintenance standpoint the flower border and the potager require substantially more maintenance time per month than the lawn.
From Potager Gardens

The potager requires replanting about 3 times a year with seasonal vegetables, herbs and flowers. Thus it costs more to water and maintain.
It also requires the addition of regular compost amendments at each time of the annual replanting.
Occasionally I have skipped amending the potager with compost prior to a new seasonal vegetable planting and noticed a big difference in the lack of growth and production from the vegetable garden.

I have never fertilized the lawn with a chemical application.
In the past 10 years I have top dressed the lawn with a 1/2 inch of compost twice.
I mow the mixed clover lawn with an electric mower, which takes about 7 minutes every three weeks.
From Pina Colada

The mixed flower border regularly receives compost each year.
If it doesn’t, there are definite signs of lack of flower production.
I work in this garden about an hour a week , dead heading, editing, weeding, and cutting flowers.
From Pina Colada

From Pina Colada

So in closing, the vegetable garden requires more water, more organic resources and more maintenance to maintain than my mixed clover lawn and mixed flower border.

In return I gain fresh vegetables and herbs from the potager.
I receive cut flowers and the joy of gardening from my flower garden.
And I receive a place to lounge after gardening , a soft place to read a book and a place to play with my dog from the mixed clover lawn.


danger garden said...

Thank you for sharing more pictures of your garden, and the break down of energy spent. Does your mixed clover lawn bloom at the same time or in intervals? Do you mind the flowers? That is the hardest thing for me to accept in our clover and grass mixed lawn.

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi Danger,
The clover mixed lawn blooms at various times during the year.
I don't mind the flowers.
The alyssum tends to bloom the most.
I also have a patches of chamomile and it too blooms in intervals.
The clover can become problematic if it has a chance to dry out. Then the dried velcro like burrs become stuck in my dog's coat, making us both unhappy with the burr picking process.

Terri said...

Great example of a nicely balanced yard.
Like you, I spend very little time, energy and no resources (compost, water etc- none) on my lawn. It is very big, but takes up so much less than my veggie garden (Which always seems to need something) and my flower gardens. Even though we expend so little on it, the lawn pays us off by giving us a place to play, lounge, enjoy the view and a frees us with the sense of open space.
thanks for sharing!!

Linda@ Lime in the Coconut said...

Since we bought our, Casa...We have slowly been replacing the lawn with a mix of natives and tropicals. Sometimes I wonder. 'Cause it feels like way more weeding...

Talk to me about your composting...what? where? when?

Pretty please. Cherry on top.

Pam/Digging said...

I like the way you break down the time, resources, and water needs of each element of your garden, Michelle. Inspiring pics, by the way.

In central Texas' hot, dry summer climate, our St. Augustine lawns require quite a bit more water than xeric perennial gardens. But they require much less physical labor, in my opinion, to be kept looking good.

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Compost. Such a versatile word.
In my neck of the woods there are a ton of agricultural farms and retail soil specialty suppliers.

Most people are dumbfounded by the variety of soil amendment mixes you can purchase at just one soil supplier.
I often purchase a mix called Walt Whitman Mix which is a mix of humus, forest fine, rice hulls, sand and chicken compost.
It's about 37 bucks a yard.

Sometimes if I am having a cheap attack I'll go to the local mushroom farm and pick up a yard of steaming hot mushroom compost for 10 bucks a yard.

If I'm feeling a bit more flush with cash and don't want to deal with waiting for the compost to settle down ( age ) then I pick up a blend called 'Lawn Mix', which is mostly sharp sand, some green sand, chicken compost and fine ground forest bark ( mostly redwood ) for about 40 bucks a yard.
This is what I use on both my mixed lawn and heavy clay soil beds.

At my local soil supplier there is no less than a dozen and a half different soil mixes to choose from.
Something for everybody and every garden type.
Lawn amendment mix
Cactus and Succulent mix
Rhododendron mix
Veggie mix ( no bio solids )
General mix
Super Harvest Mix
Walt Whitman Mix
Clod buster Mix
Vineyard Mix
and a bunch more.

And then there are dozens of different types of mulches to choose from. Every thing from Grape seed hulls, to cocoa bean hulls, three different grind forms of shredded redwood ( fine, medium and rough )
Three different chipped grades of chipped bark and different varieties of wood to choose from.

It can be a little overwhelming.

I've never had such availability of choice before.

In the winter I make my own compost by layering all the fallen oak leaves with bags of chicken compost and what ever is left in the back of my truck from other jobs.
By the time spring rolls around it is all broken down and ready to spread in the mixed borders.

Rebecca Sweet said...

I visited your garden this Spring and can attest to it's un-manicured, slightly wild, thoughtfully designed and it's all-over stunning beauty. I agree, wholeheartedly, with you that lawns don't have to require THAT much maintenance if you're willing to let your perceived notion of the 'perfect lawn' go by the wayside! My planting beds (perennials & evergreens mixed) use up 75% of my gardening time and resources - though, they're worth every minute and every penny!

Thanks for such a great blog (and for your awesome compost response - very helpful!)

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi Rebecca,
Nice of you to drop in and say hello.
I enjoyed seeing your garden that Michelle Gervais photographed for Fine Gardening Magazine.
She did a nice job ( no surprise there )

I hope that you have a chance to drive up this weekend to view The Late Show Gardens in Sonoma.
I've had a chance to do a sneak peek and it looks like it is going to be a thought provoking and visually exciting event.
Bring your sunscreen, I heard it is going to be in the mid 90's.

Hope that you can attend and that we might bump into one another .


Germi said...

What utter gorgeousness! Color me inspired!

Thanks for breaking it all down for us - a big part of the whole sustainability issue is our time working in our outdoor spaces, isn't it? I find that is often overlooked in the whole equation of 'greening' up. We need to be realistic in balancing our goals and desires, and if we plan well we CAN have it all, in bite sized chunks.
Love your SMART lawn choice, and so agree with Rebecca - we CAN have lawns as long as we change our perception of that "perfection"
Kudos to you, wonderful Michelle! Your balanced diversity is marvelous!