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It’s time to get the lawn off drugs. If you really care about your lawn, you will help it get clean. Your lawn on drugs is slowly killing the critters, microscopic and macroscopic, that live in the soil. Your lawn on drugs is poisoning the ground water. Your lawn on drugs is harming children and pets that play on it. Ultimately, your lawn on drugs is killing itself.

Lawn, an attempted monoculture, requires a diligent codependent partner to keep it alive in its highly strung-out state. Grasses do not naturally grow to four inches tall with no other plants among them. They do not remain uniformly green whether in shade or sun. Grasses in a meadow intersperse with many other plants, attain greater heights, grow their own seeds to reproduce, and have a life cycle that includes aging and dormancy. A golf course lawn is a form of artificial turf, if you really think about it.

I’m writing to myself as much as you. I am guilty of sneaking a little herbicide or fertilizer to the desperate junky surrounding my house just to keep it from completely going off the deep end. I’ve set up a sprinkler in the past to try to stave off the lawn’s insatiable thirst. I’ve dumped grass seed on it every year to try to keep it thick and lush. And of course I mow, because I live in suburbia. I’m as guilty as you are.

It’s time for an intervention. Last year I vowed to go totally chemical free, but I failed. After a season of no watering, of weeding by hand (yes, hours and hours weeding the lawn, can you imagine the soul crushing tedium?), and of eschewing all fertilizers except the mulching mower’s debris, my lawn looked like absolute crap. My husband kept saying, c’mon, just one little application of weed-n-feed, what’s the harm? And I caved. I did it.

But this year, no. It’s time for an intervention. I will not let the Identified Patient of my plant community boss around all the healthy specimens and devour time and resources. This year, the madness ends.

To hell with peer pressure. This year my lawn goes 100% organic, no matter what. Here’s the plan:

  1. Less lawn. Find places for groundcovers, areas to plant new garden beds, and ways to expand existing garden beds. Less lawn means less mowing and more habitat.
  2. Add clover. The places where it already grows in the lawn stay evergreen better than grass. Since weeds will fill in any bare spots, I’ll choose the weed I want.
  3. Tolerate diversity. Reconceptualize the lawn as a community, not a monoculture. If grass can’t grow, plant something else.

I know the lawn will probably get worse before it gets better. I know recovery won’t be easy. I know the neighbors might talk behind my back. But I’m writing it down and putting it out there to keep myself honest. I can’t call myself an organic gardener and keep my lawn high on drugs. It’s time to hit rock bottom and start over. The lawn and I will just have to take it one day at a time.

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