As the weather moderates into warmer temperatures, I notice more damage to the yard that took place this past winter. There is also a large swath of ground at the edge of the riverbank in my backyard that animals have worn down out of repeated day and night trolling for prey. This leaves me concerned about soil erosion from wind and rain.
I’ve planted and cultivated hearty lawn grass varieties only to have them fail within a year’s time. Even native prairie weeds do not stand up to the wear and tear that strips away fertile soil. I wonder what to do when even wild plants cannot withstand the punishing conditions.
It’s not that I do not appreciate non-domesticated plants. I love the purple flowers that populate the leading slope of the riverbank each spring. The subtle beauty of wild lilies of the valley highlight the overgrowth within the grove of volunteer elms on the city lot next door. I even find vicarious pleasure when seeing the large city plot to the north when it is covered edge to edge with bright yellow dandelion flowers.
The owner of the neighboring four-plex apartments probably does not appreciate my mixed grasses yard. Each spring a lawn care contractor coats the apartment building’s yard with herbicides. A few weeks later, the contractor plants bare patches with grass seed then applies chemical fertilizer and more herbicide. The chemical odor lingers in the neighborhood for a day or two before it dissipates into the atmosphere.
About ten years ago, the contractors were careless with the herbicide spray. The plant killer leached into the ground and found its way to the small trees that delineated the eastern boundary of my yard. I had not yet bought my house from the landlord at that time so I had no say-so about the damages. The landlord was apathetic and failed to complain or cause trouble over the loss.
Meanwhile, my mixed grasses and weedy yard continues to thrive. It’s fascinating to observe how the species vary depending upon each year’s weather pattern. During dry years, tough stemmed varieties predominate. In wet years, the tough weeds die out and are overtaken by clovers and ground ivy. Meantime, regardless of the weather, volunteer cedar tree seedlings sprout. They are problematic because they are an invasive species. I dig them up before their roots grow too deep.
I do not worry much over the weeds to grass ratio of the yard. I try to keep ahead of the cedar seedlings and ground ivy during each week’s mowing and trimming chores. As long as the yard remains well within the city’s required parameters, I’m OK with its status. Having a golf course worthy lawn is not one of my concerns.
Allowing some controlled wildness also encourages birds and squirrels to visit. I derive great enjoyment from observing the small lawn creatures each day as they forage for insects and seeds. The semi-wild setting is what first attracted me to this house and yard. This factor continues to keep me contented.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes film and television producer and writer, Brian Grazer. “You have to know the weeds – to have lived in them–to delegate. I wouldn’t want to be a leader who had never lived in the weeds.”
There are some varieties of shrub related to willows (but not the enormous weeping willow which I love but man they’re huge) that might thrive there and help with the erosion. They can be bought at most big box garden centers. They are so hardy they can handle wet feet and drought. I have personally planted them. They thrive in neglect and are a nice home for animals too. Just in case you’re really worried about potential erosion… you need bigger roots than grasses / flowers to hold that soil in place!
Thanks for the tip. This might be something for my backyard. Low maintenance is key.
It is funny how some plants are considered desirable and some deigned as weeds
For sure. Some of the most fascinating plants are “weeds”.
I often feel the chemical lingering goes right to my brain and makes me dizzy
The stink is noxious for sure.