This summer, I embarked on an experiment with our huge 2 acre lawn. The experiment was to answer a simple question: what would happen if I stopped mowing it? Not all 2 acres (I am afterall a Gasoholic -- I can't go cold turkey), but a sizeable chunk: about 1/2 acre.
My wife was bit skeptical, as were the neighbors. And honestly, I expected it to look like a weedy lot.
But this "lazy man's experiment" was compelling to me, so before the snow had melted from our yard, I had already made up my mind to just let the land sit and see what would happen.
In the spring, the first couple of weeks were the hardest; as the thistles sprinted way out in front of all the other plants, and the dandelions took off, it did look like a weedy lot. But that didn't last very long.
After a couple of good rain showers, the grasses eventually caught up, and are now very thick. They have squeezed out the thistles, literally killed them off. And the shorter weeds that had originally grown faster than the grass were also eventually overwhelmed. A few large interesting plants have also taken root. Some small trees have started to sprout. The "meadow" as we now call it is home to all kinds of insects and small furry creatures, and even a few wild flowers.
What we have now is a very beautiful meadow. We enjoy our meadow a great deal. The kids can often be found back there, playing in the grass (which is now 3 to 4 feet high in some places), collecting bugs, chasing butterflies, scaring out rabbits, and having fun. Meadow birds have also laid claim to this small patch of meadow.
So as the official end of summer draws near, I pledge to remain hands off on this half acre next year. Next summer, I expect the grasses will come back even thicker, pushing through the thick grass mat is forming.
I estimate that not mowing this half acre saves me about fifteen to twenty minutes on the riding lawn mower, more than an hour each month. And my meadow results in less noise pollution from my lawn tractor, requires no chemical weed preventer, needs no fertilizer and saves gas.
I will try to get a picture of it this weekend, and will post it here for you.
Now there are probably more ecologically sound ways to grow a meadow, like seeding with prairie grasses, etc. You could always do it the way the experts say. Or, in my experience, you could just start today taking your hands off the lawn mower. Eventually, nature will take back what is rightly hers.
Next year, as an encore to The Meadow, we might try our hand at gardening, and irrigating it with grey water from our main bath. I noticed that our bathroom tub drain (for the most used tub in the house) is very close to the sump well discharge pipe. With 3 kids and 2 adults bathing each day, an enormous amount of grey water (mostly quite clean) goes right into the sewer system each week. I could install a drain switch thingy that would redirect the draining tub water right into the sump discharge pipe, out of the house, either into a barrel or perhaps directly into an buried pipe that would carry the water directly to the garden.
I'll have plenty of time to plan this over the winter, since winters in Minnesota can be very long. It will give me something to look forward to.