An editorial post by our district engineer, Derek Hann.
The land surrounding your house is an amazing landscape of creative potential. There are so many fun and exciting things you can do to make your yard an original and healing environment. However, the vast majority of us choose to dedicate that land to simple lawns. Lawns requires no creativity or artistic effort - they are just the bare minimum. With so many great ideas out there, why settle for the bare minimum?
Buying a piece of property is like joining a pottery class. The teacher walks around, plops a big lump of clay down on the table in front of you, and gives you full creative control. You look at it and say “Hey, I like the look of that lump, I think I am going to just paint it green, and then throw it in the kiln as is.”
WHAT?! No! Don’t do that!!
If you can do whatever you want, why paint it green and leave it? You can mold it, shape it, and plant it. You can fill it with a kaleidoscope of color and texture. You can make it a monument to expression and relaxation and beauty and function. No kindergartner in the world would ever just leave a bit of clay unmolded. Doing that is an artistic crime, with clay or your front yard. Lawn is so ordinary. Lawn is so lazy. Lawn is so boring. Don’t be boring.
But I Can’t
Many people often say that they don’t have the time or money to do anything other than lawn. In some cases that may be true, but there are two common misconceptions people have when they say that:
They significantly underestimate the time and money it takes to care for a lawn. Mowers are expensive, as are chemicals, irrigation systems, etc. Mowing once or twice a week is a huge time sink.
They overestimate the time and money investment for more creative solutions. There are many ways to implement lawn conversions that are cheap to install, cheap to maintain, and only require weeding 3-5 times a year, as opposed to the 12-20 times a year you will mow your lawn (lawns grow weeds too, by the way!).
There are so many reasons not to have a lawn: they are pretty bad for your soil, they can significantly contribute to drainage problems and they are really hard on the environment. There are a few things lawns do well, but research shows that there are other solutions that serve a similar function. Not only are those solutions healthier for your property, they will transform your yard from the standard generic landscape, to a creative, nuanced expression of your personal aesthetic and property function.
You may have reasons to settle for a lawn, but do not let that reason be intimidation over the idea of being creative and artistic. Like most things in life, if you square yourself to the challenge and decide to try, it is not nearly as hard as it looks. In fact, it is really fun and empowering.
So challenge yourself. Give yourself creative permission. The land you own is likely the greatest monetary investment you will ever make in your life. Don’t be the person that paid a king’s ransom to commission a painting of a blank green canvas with a house plopped in the middle.
Do something new. Do something fun. Go play outside and exercise your capacity to nurture your environment into a habitat of natural beauty.
Images below courtesy of Kari Quaas, Terry Meyer, Cameron Coronado and Snohomish Conservation District.