Garden writer Julie Shapiro, whose 1/4-acre garden is in Hull, MA along the Boston Harbor, sent me these photos of her "eco-lawn", and the story behind it. That interesting tale includes far more than lawn, though. Her 1885 house has a colorful history that includes lobster boats being stored alongside it, so Julie's first job on the site was to get rid of some asphalt and lots of soil filled with metal lobster trap shards, glass and other sharp dangerous things. But because her land is in a A1 flood plain – meaning an area of special flood hazard – "care had to be given to the plant material and lawn, if there was to be any."
That official status meant that Julie had to go before the town's Conservation Committee with copious amounts of documentation from all sorts of agencies about her plans for the yard, including exactly how many times her new peastones had been washed. New surfaces needed to be permeable. Even her new 200-square-foot lawn-type area had to be spec'ed and approved – and that's where we pick up the story of her eco-lawn.
My research on what to do with the "lawn" brought me to the developing of an ecolawn or biolawn, an ecologicaly-based area (consisting of plants suitable for the region we live in, and are both drought and shade tolerant, don’t thatch, as grass does, and is attractive to look at, doing away with constant “mowing, spraying , fertilizing and watering, thereby conserving water and energy, protecting the soils surface, and having a lovely and safe alternative to “a patch of green”.
This is what we proposed to the Conservation Committee, and after receiving our positive declaration proceeded to hand sow a mix of Colonial Bentgrass (Agrostis tenuis), Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum) and Dutch White Clover (T. repens), Wild English Daisies (Bellis perennis), Roman Chamomile (Anthemus nobilis), Yarrow (Achillea millifolium), and Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii), low-growing thyme, and small spring ephemeral bulbs.
These photos are of our lawn. We are proud of it, have to mow it with our reel mower very rarely, and it blooms, feeds itself, and has become a comfort for our feet and a comfort to us. We did this right and we are happy with all the work and effort we put in to doing it right.
At the 11-year mark, the annual clover, leaving bare patches, has me on the move to decide what to reseed in its place. I do reseed with clover and chamomile every other year, but I would like more thyme. It seems the thyme grows well and lives happily in these reclaimed spots, as a hermit crab would in retaking another's space.
That is our story and we're sticking to it.