“Wildflowers grow where they will.” ~ Rachel Lambert Mellon
Pocket Prairie — In The Beginning
Well before spring arrives, before the blades of grass have awoken from winter dormancy, the din of mowers and weed whippers break the months-long silence in my neighborhood. Trucks with synthetic N-P-K sprays patrol the hood, promising the greenest, lushest turf through the summer.
There are few things I’d love more than not having to manage a single ‘nuther thing. Teens that can feed and take care of themselves? Now that’s something. But for an acre-and-a-half of turf grass, I know too well that fertilizers mean regular watering, algae blooms in the creek, regular mowing, which means gasoline and time management. Sheesh.
It’s time to go rogue, get a little wild.
Creekside – Mulched Path
St. Augustine and Wildflowers
Sure, I like the front of my house to look spiffy too. But St. Augustine lawns in managed neighborhood tracts are meant for only one species: the people who live there. Those with appetites for nectar and pollen — you know, the little guys that make the world go ’round — fly right on by. Turf grasses are barren for our nation’s pollinators.
Insects are in trouble. As the Texas coastal prairie where we live is replaced more and more by urban sprawl, many species are disappearing altogether, unable to reproduce. Where our house was built were oak forests, wetlands, and fields of tall grasses with carpets of perennial and annual wildflowers for miles around. Now, it’s rooftop upon blacktop upon parking lot, with a few hay/grazing fields, churches, strip centers, and apartment buildings plugged in between good measure.
There’s not much I can do about the sprawl, but I can make a difference where I live and work: at home.
Mowing is work. It’s easier to wait for signs of wildflower bodies so I can carefully mow around them when the time comes; where wildflowers are, I mow less. This crazy game played between lazy me and Mr. Meticulous next door is comical. The more he labors, the more I won’t.
Nature has so got this!
Windflower (White) and
Wood Sorrel (Pink)
Fleabane (White) and
Pea Vetch (Purple)
It’s behind the fence, away from the prying eyes of the HOA, that my neighbors have already been habituating to my wacky ways the last couple of years. Kicking it into high gear, this minimally managed 7,500 square foot space is about to grow up and become a full fledged, year ’round pocket prairie.
The process begins with killing what remains of the turf. A thick plastic film will solarize plants, killing them in the hot months to clear the way for replacements come autumn. At its focal area will be planted a mulberry tree — for the birds, of course! — and a sitting area for viewing and enjoying. Natural mulch paths will feed mycorrhizal fungi and beckon us from the edges into the center where we can enjoy a flower and insect mecca.
Tall coastal prairie grasses will be nestled among host plants specifically chosen to feed babies of a variety of local moths and butterflies. Flowers of all kinds with their nectar and pollen will serve both functional (for insects) and aesthetic (for me).
Aside from the initial managing of invasives and grasses that want to re-establish, this prairie will take care of itself season to season with very minimal work to keep it thriving in the coming years.
It might be a mow-free paradise for me, but it’ll be a welcomed desert oasis for all my insect friends.
A beautiful backyard mess!
Evening Primrose (Pink),
Bush Pea (Yellow) and Clover (White)
Out of the Compost Cage
What is this pretty yellow flower?
Edging Mulched Beds
Last one to pop up .. my collection is complete!
Shifting Paradigms, Sharing Habitat
It’s in us to adapt to changing times. With habitat loss being the No. 1 cause of species loss, do we really need to keep taking so much for ourselves? Can we simply understand how connected we are to so many other species, say, the ones who make our food happen? Thinking of others in that way may still seem selfish, but at least it’s a start.
Let’s think for ourselves again. Don’t just believe what the lawn company tells you or what the can of insect spray says.
The safety of our food sources, the health of living soil that grows our food, the purified water we need to live, the protection of our own body biomes from harmful and toxic chemicals are all important things, we all agree.
But must we micro-manage and claim everything?
Forest Tent Caterpillar
These guys are everywhere…literally raining from above.
It’s cyclical; they’ll be gone before you know it.
Front Yard Clover Patch
Free nitrogen-fixing fertilzer and bee food.
It is possible for neighborhood lawns and wildflowers and insects to get along happily. As but one species sharing this planet with so, so many thousands more, we owe it to others — to ourselves — to share our spaces with them.
You may find, as I do, that mowing ain’t all that. Nature wins Yard of the Month, hands down.