The state of NJ cultivated them on road sides, during a labor shortage in the 90s. Neighborhoods across Duval county have had them for years. Garden Clubs cultivate them. You probably had one yourself at one point or another.
The Freedom Lawn
A lawn laced with whatever grows.
A freedom lawn is free from fertilizer, weed killer, water and restriction of any kind.
If it is green, you mow it.
If you live in an HOA or deed restricted community, there are rules you have to follow. Please make sure you understand just how much turf is required and do what you can to maintain it in compliance. However, once you have satisfied the minimum requirement, please consider other options for portions of your yard and here’s why.
Studies show that 62% of the water used in Central Florida is used for irrigation. Public demand for water is projected to increase 39% by 2030, thanks to population growth. The demand for fresh water in Florida will rise to 1.3 billion gallons per day. A joint taskforce between St Johns River WMD (Water Management District) and the Suwannee River WMD predicts water demand will rise to 667 MGD (million gallons per day) by 2035 which will result in a 117 MGD shortfall in the water supply over the 20 year planning window.
117 million gallons per day short
Storm water runoff carries excess chemicals from our lawn fertilization efforts into the rivers and aquatic habitats. Excess nitrogen in the water bodies result in algal blooms, and the loss of thousands of manatees with other mammals.
Loss of Biodiversity
With roughly 4 million acres of managed turfgrass in Florida, we are seeing significant declines in useful insects, varieties of plants, and massive numbers of birds. In fact, Florida has lost 2.9 billion birds in the last 50 years! 90% of those birds were terrestrial birds that require insects to eat and feed their young. In the last two generations, we have lost
- 1 in 4 blue jays
- 1 in 3 baltimore orioles
- 1 in 3 rose breasted grosbeaks, and
- 1 in 3 white throated sparrows.
Turf Is Prone to Problems
Diseases like large patch, take all root rot, and gray leaf spot, are just a few of the common problems that plague Florida lawns. Then there are the insects – tropical sod web worms, mole crickets and chinch bugs – and each one seems to have a +1 invitation to your home.
A couple of raised beds are a convenient and manageable way to start a vegetable garden. As is tucking herbs around the perennials. A few tomato plants in containers can work well, too.
A band of groundcover around the edge of a bed might feel like a maintenance headache, but with border edging materiale, the contrast can be strikingly pleasing to the eye. There are a number to choose from. Here is a list of UF recommended ground covers for shady areas:
- African hosta(Drimiopsis maculata)
- Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum)
- Aztec grass (Ophiopogon intermedius)
- Lilyturf (Liriope spp.)
- Carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)
- Cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior)
- Florida violets (Viola spp.)
- Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
- Strawberry begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera)
the Freedom Lawn
Lean in here, folks. A freedom lawn helps to recharge the aquifers, provide habitat for insects and feeding birds, and the clover will put nitrogen back into the soil. In no time at all, there will be all sorts of varieties growing.
Florida Betany is a lovely wildflower, a member of the mint family and much loved by pollinators, as is Bidens Alba. In some cultures both the leaves and flowers are used to make tea. It blooms from March to October and is the larval host plat for the dainty sulphur. Some might consider Basketgrass an annoying weed in a perennial bed, but that does not diminish how useful it can be in shady areas. This plant tends to go dormant in our hot summers, but the birds love eating the seeds from what can soon become a dense low-growing groundcover.
So what do you think? Could you reduce the amount of turfgrass at your house and start something radically different? Can you do your bit to help reduce water demand?
Please comment below.