IMG_1441 IMG_1441

Who decides if a plant is “bad” or “good”? Is there an objective czar of plants who flips thumbs up or thumbs down?

It’s certainly not the fat bumblebee that leap frogs in its bobbing flight from pungent blossom to pungent blossom. It’s not the honeybee that is intent on gathering nectar to convert to honey. Nor is it the monarch butterflie that flits from blossom to blossom to reenergize itself after its lengthy migration.

Recent news reports are informing us of the seriousness of the downward plunge of populations of pollinating insects like bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies. These are the same pollinating insects that make it possible for you and I to enjoy one-third of all the fruits and vegetables we eat.

We have vilified plants that are far more valuable than a bland dose of Kentucky blue grass. And yet, the average homeowner spends hundreds of dollars in applying supposedly “good” poison on the same lawn that their children and pets play on.

Americans have a puzzling love relationship with manicured landscapes. In fact an area slightly larger than the state of Pennsylvania is mowed in our country! Consequently it’s no surprise that the average American spends 40 hours per summer mowing a lawn.* And I bet that most folks sit on a lawn mower that powers them through the chore so there is little-to-no exercise there.

I would rather spend those extra 40 hours fishing, riding my road bike, or laying in my hammock with a good book and a gin and tonic. Forty hours enslaved by a stinking and loud lawn mower is not only torturous but it is downright stupid.

And if you want to buy that boat or set of nice golf clubs you could easily save the money you use in buying gas for your lawnmower by mowing either less area or pushing a reel mower. More gas is consumed EACH year in the United States just for lawn maintenance than the nearly 11 million gallons of fuel spilled by Exxon Valdez in 1989.

This is beginning to sound like a nice sequel for the movie Dumb and Dumber.

Let’s assume that you mow your lawn for 25 years. That means you will spend 1000 hours or nearly a month and a half of your one wild and precious life riding or pushing a lawn mower. Crazy!!

When we think of a lawn I am guessing that the image most folks conjure is a blanket of trimmed Kentucky bluegrass. We are brainwashed that any other insurgent plants are the villains of such a bland green lawnscape.

I would like to know who decides that creeping Charlie and dandelions are “bad”?? Clearly the loudest warnings come from those who stand to gain from your purchasing power. Lawn owners apply more herbicides and pesticides per capita than farmers dump on agricultural lands.The ads for lawn care chemicals seduce folks into thinking that a yard has to attain a certain standard.

Biological diversity brings a richness to the natural community. And I would argue that ragged yards with carpets and patches of various plants brings more real value than a cosmetic perceived value.

You might wonder if I mow my lawn. I do. But over the years our lawn has shrunk and between a push gas mower and a push, non-gas, reel type mower we get the job done in 45 minutes. I have tracked our mowing and we mow our yard less than 20 times per spring-early fall.

That means we are mowing fifteen hours per summer. Looks like we better put in more flower gardens to reduce the mowing surface.

In the meantime I am going to revel in the heavy aroma and tea made from the leaves of Creeping Charlie and continue to munch salads and breakfast burritos augmented with dandelion greens while watching the bouncing bees as they loop from plant to plant.


Spinach considered one of the top ten superfoods is notably inferior in delivering nutrients than the maligned dandelion. Compared to spinach, dandelion leaves have eight times more antioxidants, two times more calcium, thee times more vitamin A, and five times more vitamin K and E.

We should be enhancing our yards with less grass. I urge you to  turn your back on the manicured look to encourage the likes of such nutritious and beneficial insurgents as creeping Charlie and dandelion.

Who can possibly be against more hammock time, fishing or golf?


* According to: Barth, C. (2000). Toward a low input lawn. In T.R. Schueler & H.K. Holland (Eds.), The practice of watershed protection (Article 130). Ellicott City, MD: Center for Watershed Protection.