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grow neat stuff in your lawn

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
After being asked the same questions over and over a few hundred times, I would like a change of pace.

I would like to come up with a rich list of great things to plant in an organic lawn.  Stuff that would make it way cooler than anybody else's lawns.  Stuff that would be okay with occasional mowing. 

The first thing that pops into my head is flowers.  Of course, there is the dandelion and clover and black medic - and while I like them plenty, I would like to focus more on slightly more interesting flowers.  Crocuses for example.  Easy to plant.  Pop up in the spring before the grass starts to grow.  So while the rest of the neighborhood looks all gray and bleak from winter still, your lawn is the very first sign of life!  By the time for the first mow of the season comes around, the crocuses are all done and are dormant again.

So what might be another flower?

How about edibles? 

Or medicinal herbs?  Yarrow and roman chamomile come to mind.

Or ....  anything interesting? 

Who knows of some really fascinating things to plant in an organic yard that is mowed at 3 inches or higher?



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Cinebar McCoy


Joined: May 27, 2009
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
I think there are some varieties of thyme that are meant to be walked on.  I don't know about mowing them, although if they're low-growing you wouldn't need to mow them anyway.

I'll see if I can come up with some specific names.


C.
Cinebar McCoy


Joined: May 27, 2009
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
Are you talking about what to plant, in addition to grass, or instead of?

I need to be looking down the road to a time when I don't have kids at home anymore to help me with mowing (I have a disability which would make it pretty much impossible to mow my hillside myself).

At the moment, I'm trying to eliminate as much as possible the actual "yard" by planting edibles, such as blueberries, raspberries, other types of perennial edibles (including vegetables), and fruit trees.  And, right now, I'm letting the goats take care of the grass.

Eventually, though, I think I might like to try something along these lines:

http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/groundcoverthymes.htm

Maybe not in the entire "yard," but certainly where mowing would be the most difficult.  At most, my goal is to be left with a very small grassy area on the little bit of level ground that is my "yard."

C.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I was asking for "in addition", but I think "instead of" is a good topic too.

I think replacing lawn with edibles is a good strategy.  At the same time, lawns do have some excellent function.  Especially if you have kids.  So rather than have a boring all-grass lawn, I think it could be worthwhile to figure out what a really excellent permaculture lawn would have in it.



Dave Miller


Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 363
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
    
    4
I have a small patch of this mix from Nichol's Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon:

- Colonial Bentgrass
- Strawberry and Dutch White Clover
- Wild English Daisies
- Roman Chamomile
- Yarrow
- Baby Blue Eyes



Once it is established, it requires no care other than occasional weeding (if you want), and occasional mowing.  The Bentgrass grows slower than standard lawn, so you mow much less often.   And when I say "no care", I mean no care - no water, no fertilizer.

Pro-time has a similar mix: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13285080@N05/sets/72157613492592934/show/

- PR8820 Perennial Rye grass
- Strawberry Clover
- English Daisy
- Dwarf Yarrow
- Baby Blue Eyes



These seed mixes are more expensive per pound than regular grass seed, but the coverage is also better so the price per square foot is about the same.

There are a number of sites around the Portland area that use it if you want to see it in person.
Cinebar McCoy


Joined: May 27, 2009
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
I have a small patch of this mix from Nichol's Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon:

- Colonial Bentgrass
- Strawberry and Dutch White Clover
- Wild English Daisies
- Roman Chamomile
- Yarrow
- Baby Blue Eyes


Oh, I like this!

I wonder, if at a later date you want to do something different, how difficult it would be to eradicate it without chemicals?

Really pretty, though, and something I would definitely consider.

Thanks!

C.
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2217
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  37
Awesome photos and links, adunca!

Near me there is a park where the lawn if full of the English daisies, or lawn daisies as I've called them (or bellis perennis). It makes a beautiful hillside.  I enjoy the simplicity of the daisies there - simple, single-petaled white with yellow centers. Not quite as fancy as the double and pink-edged ones in those photos!

I once took home some bellis perennis to plant in my own lawn, but it didn't make it. 

I'd also heard of the hardier, low-growing thymes, chamomile and yarrow in place or addition to grasses and always wanted to try it.

Ooo, and corsican mint is considered pretty amazing for ground cover, in damp-ish, (part shady?) areas like we have in the Pacific NW. It smells, sooo good!


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Paulie McCoy


Joined: May 04, 2007
Posts: 33
Spouse planted some crocuses last year.  I figure if I keep adding 50 or so every fall, I'll have an awesome pre-lawn before the first mowing. 





jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Paulie, that looks great! I hope those pics will help me talking my wife into letting me do that.


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
--
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
Jeremy Bunag
volunteer

Joined: May 30, 2007
Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
I've noticed my chives "going native" in my lawn.  At first I'm thinking "wow, that is some thick grass!" then I notice that they're round and smell onion-y when I mow 'em.  Kinda neat.  Haven't had any trouble with them surviving mowing either!

jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Mmm... fresh mowed chives. I like that idea. I think I may let some invade my lawn next year.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
adunca wrote:

- Colonial Bentgrass
- Strawberry and Dutch White Clover
- Wild English Daisies
- Roman Chamomile
- Yarrow
- Baby Blue Eyes



I'd like to steal that idea!

I think I need something more drought-tolerant than bentgrass, though.  I think I saw something appropriate as I drove by a car dealership yesterday...

I like the idea of creeping (elfin) thyme, if it will play well with the others listed.  I'll keep an eye out for that and dwarf yarrow.

I also think mixing in some garlic chives would be good.  They're a little shorter than regular chives, a little finer, and I like the flowers.

'The Camomile; The more it is trodden on, the faster it grows'. --Henry IV, part 1 [\quote]


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
I have plenty of "weeds" growing that I do not intend to kill such as several kinds of plantain, dock and chickweed.

www.richters.com has seed and a description of many of my lawn weeds.
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
Well I had sure hoped this topic would take off better.  I realize I am partly to blame...I should have not sent the un-link but instead started in on what we can grow easily that is edible.

Some of the things growing in my lawn, aka weeds, I am letting go to seed and plan to collect.  My father says they do not grow where he lives so...I will be sending him weed weeds. 

The link I sent was to a site that sells weed seeds such as common plantain.  I have lots of it and I hear it is as good or better than spinach... I have several edible weeds that I hope to enjoy...anyone ever try Polk before  i have a nice patch of that too.

http://www.kingdomplantae.net/commonPlantain.php ; would make that a link if I could.  The following is taken from that site..is that plagerisum  There is much more information there and I hope some of you will have a look and tell me what you think.

Plantain is edible. The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens.  Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C). The seeds are said to have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.  Medicinally, plantain is astringent, demulcent, emollient, cooling, vulnerary, expectorant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxin, and diuretic. It effects blood sugar, usually lowering it.
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
Here is another kind of Plantain growing in my lawn. 

http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=X4495&show=&prodclass=Herb_and_Vegetable_Seeds&cart_id=4184410.10244

ok now to learn to make that a link...I give up, help anyone?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think there are lots of plants that some folks call "weeds" that won't do well with a mowed lawn.  So I'm thinking it would be good to come up with those that do okay in a lawn that is mowed.

jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I have some Plantains in my lawn. They don't get the purdy flower head like those. I tend to discourage them myself. I get both the narrow and wide leaf types. I prefer dandelions over the plantains. They're tasty.
lanemik McCoy


Joined: Oct 09, 2009
Posts: 16
Location: Dover, DE
I'd love to find some neat things to add in with the lawn. I'm definitely interested in the wildflowers. I looked around and found some wildflower seeds that are native to the northeast. It doesn't seem like this is something you can just plant right in with your yard if you're planning on mowing. Am I right about that?

What about daffodils, irises and tulips. Not sure if these will work well in New England or if they are something that will come up early enough to avoid being mowed. Thoughts?
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1311
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
I have a few clusters of grape hyacinths beginning to spread in a corner of my small lawn appear in spring shortly after crocuses.


"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
(Buckman)
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I know the irises tend to be all spring and summer here. Not sure about tulips and daffodils as I haven't grown them.
Greta Hatfield


Joined: Nov 28, 2009
Posts: 3
I liked the idea of an edible lawn and was excited to see this website describing one and giving a list of possible plants:  http://www.pfaf.org/leaflets/ediblawn.php

I tested yarrow and self-heal (prunella vulgaris).  Here in North Carolina, the self-heal is producing a beautiful, lush green carpet but is spreading, overtaking grass, yarrow and clover.  The deer graze it, and I use a little in medicinal teas.  For some reason, the thought of eating something that is walked on is not so appealing afterall.

Growing a mix of plants in the lawn makes so much sense.  I see our lawn as a berber carpet, full of texture and shades, that changes with the season.
Jennifer Smith


Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 666
Location: Zone 5
Greta wrote:
I liked the idea of an edible lawn Growing a mix of plants in the lawn makes so much sense.  I see our lawn as a berber carpet, full of texture and shades, that changes with the season.

Nicely put. 
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
i've always grown lots of "weed" in my lawn and in my gardens that are edible plants..I have some wonderful books on edible wild plants and have tried a lot of them.

one time an errant lawn company came by and sprayed our property with weed killer..they had the wrong address and came when we weren't home and left the bill on our door, we ended up suing them and winning cause they killed our weeds..we were so upset..

the lawsuit provided $ for us to replace the entire area they sprayed..but unfortunately it did kill off a lot of our wild plants at the time..so we no longer put them in the lawn..however we still had our fields and gardens where we could grow them.

this same company has tried 3 or 4 times since to spray our property..i think they just would do it and charge people when they weren't home as a scam..we just were able to sue and win..but most people probably just refuse to pay..thinking thank you very much.

Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
At a party last night, a friend was singing the praises of cilantro's frost-hardiness.

I know some people plant crocus in their lawns to have something green in the early spring. Do you suppose something like cilantro (maybe not exactly that, but the seed is really cheap from the grocery store) might have a place in keeping the lawn green when the dominant grasses are dormant in the winter?
david c


Joined: May 09, 2008
Posts: 40
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
At a party last night, a friend was singing the praises of cilantro's frost-hardiness.

I know some people plant crocus in their lawns to have something green in the early spring. Do you suppose something like cilantro (maybe not exactly that, but the seed is really cheap from the grocery store) might have a place in keeping the lawn green when the dominant grasses are dormant in the winter?


Not sure what variety of cilantro your friend is using, but in my experience it has died off completely each year here in Oregon. Plus cilantro is a pretty tender plant, I don't think it would like being walked on.
Aljaz Plankl


Joined: Feb 18, 2010
Posts: 291
    
    4
Super good thread.

In our mowed lawn grow bunch of things - yarrow, daisy, plantain, dandelion, grasses, clover... the first ones to appear - they made us happy this year already - are Galanthus nivalis, Primula acaulis (super edible and beautiful, got plant more), crocuses. There is still a nice way to go before first mowing, it's not even spring.

I'm looking which plants to add. I will try with Thymus serpyllum.
Paulie McCoy


Joined: May 04, 2007
Posts: 33
Paulie wrote:
Spouse planted some crocuses last year.  I figure if I keep adding 50 or so every fall, I'll have an awesome pre-lawn before the first mowing. 









Update:  Did some work on the house, which took out the lawn.  Getting help on regrading the yard (back is much worse... back-hoes leave trenches...), and planing with just tall fescue seed.  But here's the crocuses, gives ya something to look at even if you have bare dirt: 







Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
Lady ferns - eat the fiddleheads in the spring
Chickweed - salad greens when young.  also make  very good burn salve.
Lambsquarter - salad greens
Wild geranium - salad greens
Rhubarb - deserts

Ye I know lambsquarters & chickweed aren't neat but they taste good


FrontierFreedom
jess B


Joined: Apr 05, 2010
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
So I'm wondering which of the ornamentals mentioned here (as opposed to the edibles), esp. those with flowers bloom or at least look good when kept below six inches or so?

I think we have a city ordinance that requires your lawn to be mowed below a certain height or the city does it for you and fines you.

As to daffodils, I believe you can get some dwarf varieties that stay small.  And they do bloom shortly after crocus.  Iris and Tulips (at least in my Twin Cities zone 4 area) are more like late May to June - there is range of bloom times depending on cultivar.  There are for sure dwarf Iris, not sure about Tulips.  Iris are sort of fussy with their planting depth and tend to get infected with Iris borer if you leave the foliage on all winter....basically they are a little high maintenance compared to bulbs.

Something to think about with bulbs for naturalizing is that you ought to let the foliage stay up after the flower is spent.  The bulb grows during this foliage-only period.  If you chronically cut off or mow or braid the foliage you'll have poor flowering and / or reproduction in subsequent years. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Paulie,

I hope you don't mind - I added one of your pics to my lawn care article.

Paulie McCoy


Joined: May 04, 2007
Posts: 33
paul wheaton wrote:
Paulie,

I hope you don't mind - I added one of your pics to my lawn care article.


No Problem Paul!  Too bad the blooms on the wreck of a lawn look so much better.  Maybe next year we'll have an updated pic. 

So I have two things in the article now:  Crocuses and the Neuton?  Wow!  A small trade for leading me on the path to a much better way of lawn care.  Thanks!!!
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Please , I want to see more pictures of " lawn as a berber carpet, full of texture and shades, that changes with the season."

This quote brings such a lovely vision to mind.
D
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1311
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Johnnie Jump Ups and Chamomile


[Thumbnail for johnnie jump ups.JPG]

[Thumbnail for chamomile in grass.JPG]

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Very nice, thanks Robert I love the pics.
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1311
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Snow in Summer has migrated from pond rock garden into grass


[Thumbnail for snow in summer.JPG]

Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame


Joined: May 23, 2010
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
    
    3
don't think anyone has mentioned pennyroyal. I remember a poolside lawn in N. California that had quite a bit of pennyroyal in it.  Nice fragrance, and soft to the touch, but the major upside is its use as an insecticide. 
TFox Hatfield


Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 33
This first part is actually instead of lawn.
Last fall mature dry seed heads and stems of Nigella were strewn/scattered unceremoniously across this area that was once mowed pasture grass.  I think it was sheet mulched with cardboard and straw four years ago...not ideal... turned pretty weedy eventually so the seed heads were the easy solution.  They germinated fall 2010 from a summer 2010 harvest, overwintered and are now growing slowly and blanketing that one area nicely.  As a side note, the chickens have had free access to this area the entire time.  Normally when they have access to sown seed they eat it.  The seed heads and other organic debris shelter the seed.  An excellent example of do less, get more. 

Somehow these pretty pink flowers became established and no one is admitting to sowing the seed. 


[Download IMGP4376.pdf] Download

TFox Hatfield


Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 33
The Nigella polycuture


[Thumbnail for IMGP4370.jpg]

Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1383
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
For my region, Violets and Pink Oxalis.  I fought them for several years before I learned to appreciate them. 

Both stay very low to the ground.  The pink oxalis creates 'floaty' patches of pink all around the yard in the sunny areas.  Bees love it.

The violet seems to grow thickest in the shade.  The chickens will eat both to the ground but wont touch the grass - shouldn't that tell us something?

I could not find pics of pink oxalis in my own yard so I 'found' this one.  They are really prettier than this but you get the idea.

I am getting ready to try my first cup of violet tea in a few minutes.  I will report back 


[Thumbnail for OxalisMound.jpg]



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Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Violets might be better in salad - they are very nutritious!   


Idle dreamer

 
 
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