The Darwinian Approach to Lawn Care

I have a lawn.  It’s not a big lawn, but it is most certainly a lawn.  And, here’s the thing:  I hate taking care of it.  Not just the lawn, my lack of enthusiasm extends to pretty much the entire area of my front and back yards (we live on a 40 x 100 foot plot, with a ~35 x 65 foot house in the middle of it, so we’re not talking about major yardage).  I think this lack of love for all things lawn can be traced back to my childhood, where I partook of various property maintenance chores with an attitude, and aptitude that could best be characterized as “lackluster”.  From the age of 18 to the age of 29, I didn’t have any sort of property maintenance duties, living mostly in dormitories, and then in an apartment several stories off the ground.  But in late 2009, we moved in to a lovely little house, and with it came a lovely little yard. 

If you were walking down my block, and you cared to notice such things, you would easily notice that my lawn is the least manicured one around.  For starters, my lawn is not a monoculture of grass.  It is a cohabitation of at least five different species, four of whom are “weeds”.  Dandelions abound (seriously, the lawn seems more Dandelion than grass).  The formerly delineated side-garden, has blurred its lines.  Crocus have taken over a large part of the entire garden-side lawn.  Some sort of horizontally spreading, quasi-succulent is making a notable bid for real estate.  Most of the restis crab grass.  The back lawn is not quite as wild, as it gets almost no sun, and as such some of the more needy weeds can not establish as firm a grip.

Some folks would be ashamed or embarrassed to cop to such things.  I am not one of them.  I have found that my attitude toward lawn care dovetails nicely with my training as an evolutionary biologist.  Why spend so much time and effort trying to select for particular strains of grass, when you can turn your lawn (through no more effort than a total lack of effort) in to a grand experiment in natural selection?  Monocultures are never good (just ask an Irish peasant circa 1875).  I suggest that we should allow our lawns to become evolutionary battlegrounds, where species can compete for limited space.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s much more interesting, and much less labor intensive than the sort of thing that my neighbors do. 

This is not to say that I am unwilling, or unable, to do some lawn maintenance from time to time.  I can (and do) mow a mean lawn.  And I will often venture in to the side-gardens of my lawns to remove the most egregious aesthetic violations.  But even here, I am serving more as an agent of genetic drift than I am for any sort of true selection (which is to say that my effect is largely indiscriminatory to the various species that have established beachheads).  

So while my lawn may be more wild than my neighbors, I don’t see it as a capitulation to a lax attitude, or a failure of home-ownership.  Instead, it’s a textbook example of suburban evolution.  And if my classification of it as such just so happens to also mean that I don’t have to spend quite as many hours in the garden as might be expected of me in other frames, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

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