I’m Just Fine with Dandelions

Posted on 26. Jun, 2017 by in Grays Corner, Recent News

I’m Just Fine with Dandelions

Gray Stanback

Take a walk, and look at the lawns of the houses you pass. I bet that most of them will be neatly trimmed, manicured, and made out of grass. And why not? After all, a beautiful green lawn is a status symbol in suburbs around the world. However, there is a catch. Growing a grass lawn requires a great deal of pesticides to keep insects from eating the grass, and these can seep into the local water supply and contaminate ponds and rivers. Likewise, watering the lawn with a sprinkler or hose is very wasteful, since it essentially dumps away water that could be used for other things. In other words, lawns as a whole are simply not good for the environment.

            We have grown to expect suburban houses to have lawns, however, so what is a homeowner to do? The answer lies in many plants that are traditionally thought of as “weeds”, such as dandelions, violets, and clover. Most people, when they see these plants growing on their lawns, spray herbicide on them to kill them or simply uproot them. It is much smarter, though, to simply let them spread.

            Once the “weeds” have spread sufficiently, the garden will no longer be entirely grass, but will be covered in a patchwork of different kinds of plants—a little grass here, some dandelions there, a few violets there, and so on and so forth. In many ways, the result is even more visually appealing than a plain grass lawn would be, since so much variety is included.

            You still have to mow your “weed” lawn, of course, but if you like (and if your zoning laws permit) you can allow the plants to grow relatively tall, essentially turning your yard into a wild meadow. The variety of plants will attract insects, which in turn will make your yard a haven for birds and other insect-eaters.

            Compare that to an ordinary grass lawn, which is homogenized to the point of being almost sterile. Few animals can live in such an environment, save for root-eating grubs which are usually killed with poisonous pesticides. There certainly nowhere near as many kinds of insects, spiders, or even birds in a yard with a grass lawn as there are in a yard with a weed lawn. If you have a grass lawn that’s already sprouting dandelions and other “weeds”, it would be a good idea not to remove them and instead wait to see what happens. Do they spread and alter the entire lawn, or do they stay in one spot?

            Interestingly, it seems that as children, we are better able to appreciate the beauty of all plants, whether they are “supposed” to be in our lawns and gardens or not. Many children, after all, love dandelions and violets, and only later are taught that they are not “good” plants. It’s as though the roles these plants play in our societies is completely artificial, and only through a completely unbiased perspective can we truly appreciate them.

            Your lawn might be the pride and joy of your household, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boringly manicured. A lawn with wild plants is even more interesting, and will definitely catch the eye of anyone walking or driving past.