Gardening with Dogs and Other Plant Related Matters

The grass is always greener when it’s integrated into an ecologically balanced plant community.

My yard is small.  I have a front yard, with mostly lawn and planting beds around the edges.  I have a backyard, which is mostly dirt right now.  The backyard wasn’t always all dirt.  It became that way because three things happened at once.  1. We adopted a second dog.  2. We privacy fenced the backyard, reducing the dogs’ play area.  3. The ground got really soggy and stayed that way because of a long rainy period.

That was last year.  I was hoping the lawn would come back, but it has not.  Now, against my environmentalist leanings, we’re planting grass.  I don’t like grass, and yet I’m required to grow it by societal pressures that stem from a decades old desire to show that the home is well taken care of and that nature had been beaten into submission.  Despite the fact that I don’t plan to graze cattle, I’m still expected to have a lawn.

When did people stop looking at grass as a plant they were choosing to grow, and begin accepting it as part of a house – like asphalt shingles on the roof or a concrete walkway leading to the door?

Who knows?  I’m caving to societal pressure because I eventually want to sell this house.  And also because I don’t want bare dirt and I don’t know what else can stand up to 160 pounds of dog running back and forth.  I wish I could think of a better option, because turf has no ecological value that I know of.

My front lawn is nice.  It’s old.  I’m sure it was a monoculture when the house was built, but now it’s a lovely mix of grasses, dandelion, plantain, clover and violets.  Violets bloom beautifully and will grow in shade.  Clover adds nitrogen to the soil and provides pollen for insects.  Dandelions are edible and provide pollen as well.  Plantain is good for treating a bee sting.  I can’t understand people who think of these wonderful plants as weeds.

If I were lucky enough to own acres of land, I would have a small area of lawn for playing, surrounded by meadow, surrounded by forest.  Even on my small 0.17 acre lot, I have a strip of meadow.  It’s on the far side of the backyard where the neighborhood can’t see it and be deeply offended that I would dare embrace nature in my gardening style, instead of dominating it by establishing neat and static little beds of plants.

Meadows are making a comeback, because people who are lucky enough to own several acres of land have realized it’s silly to maintain a lawn if you’re not going to use it.  It’s going to take a while to catch on, but residential landscaping choices are beginning to reflect a societal re-focus.  Once we tried to own nature, now we try to work with it.  It’s just another example of small choices, big impact.

Update: Growing grass was a horrible failure. It turns out if they can destroy it once, they can destroy it again and again.


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