I was recently asked at a party, whether to rake the leaves off a lawn, or leave them on through the winter. My first thought was that I stumbled into a booby trap about aesthetics vs. sustainability. Then I thought that this might be a great time to talk about the history of lawns in America…

Or you could also watch this video by the New York Times

Still sticking to turf?

Now if I was forced to keep and maintain a lawn, I would treat the lawn like I would any other plant and attempt to understand how it grows, in order to maintain it as the best example of its species.

If the grass was green and covered in dried tree leaves, then I would rake up leaves that were on the green patches, because the blades of the grass are essentially solar panels. They should be maintained and kept free of dust and debris in order to operate at peak efficacy. Any of the raked up leaves should be chopped up into smaller easy to break down pieces using a push mower, electric leaf vacuum or a gaggle of school children with safety scissors, and used as mulch around the shrubbery, ornamental plants or compost piles. If you have muddy patches in your yard, then I would spread a layer of leaf mulch on the mud. Leaf mulch is great feeding the microbes in the soil. Flip over a layer of leaves from the dirt and see what wiggles.

If my grass was brown and covered in dried tree leaves, and as long as my trees didn’t contain any Allelopathic compounds, then I would rake up the big leaf piles and and leave a thin (2-3″) layer of leaves on my brown lawn to shield the tips of any seasonally confused sprouts. I am currently testing a the use of leaf mulch in one of my vegetable beds to see if these chopped up leaves will shield my lettuce sprouts from our harshly dry winter.

Keep the rake, the mower and the kids too

The most common push back I hear when I suggest that homeowners do away with the lawn, are the kids, the HOA or both. Dealing with HOA’s is easy if you have trainable raccoons, dandelion seeded drone strikes, or blackmail on your HOA governing board. However most people are sentimental towards the idea of their children running around their lawn, playing catch, riding cats, and licking the sprinkler heads. Your lawn is watered with drinking water, so who am I to judge?

What will my children play on if we don’t have a lawn?

Typically children play on their electronic devices, so unless there’s a secret Pokemon gym in your lawn, children will probably ignore the outdoors. But consider if you will, a non-mowable, non-water wasting substituent to a lawn? What would you do with your free time if you weren’t mowing your lawn every week? Would you spend more time with your kids? What if this substitute lawn was full of bees, butterflies or occasional birds? What if you only had to mow it once at the end of the season, or not at all. The visiting animals, and insects might be more exciting than a lame patch of overly manicured turf, and best of all, you don’t have to spend your summer mowing it.

If you like the sound of this lawn substitute, then you should plant a #minimeadow in part, or in place of your lawn. Rally your raccoons and check with your HOA before you do. Also ask your kids if they know what a meadow is.

Like the idea of not worrying about leaves?

Then watch this video about planting a #minimeadow in your yard

This book is mentioned in the video above! It’s easy to read (in comparison to my Grad school Art criticism readings) and the book is full of great photos. The book is surprisingly thorough and has plenty of ideas for what to expect when you grow your own meadow. If you get the book, know that you can buy seeds for your region here, because the author Mike Lizotte, also owns American Meadows.

Check out the photographer, Rob Cardillo’s work too.

Buy this book and buy their seeds
Click on the image to buy this book

No, I do not get paid for any of this content. I’m just highly opinionated, and I loath lawns. But I’m willing to listen to new ideas, especially if these ideas get me more flowers.