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My front lawn June 28, 2013--Two weeks after replacing most of my front lawn with raised beds.

In 2013, I dug upmost of my front lawn and replaced it with raised beds.  I put wood mulch around the beds which are planted with  blackberry, blueberry and perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb.  The other side of the sidewalk is home to  a grapevine and other various perennials--flowers as well as artichoke. (No, you don't have to bring them in in the winter here.  Just mulch them well with leaves.)  I love artichokes and they are very expensive in the grocery store.  I have two criteria for choosing edible content for my garden--1) I like it and 2) It's expensive to buy.)

Now, I'm actually thinking about replacing the mulch around the outside of my beds with grass.  Yes, grass. After two years now of having to replenish the mulch about every four months, I'm done with that expensive and back breaking chore.

Buffalograss is what I'll plant--if I decide to do it.  Buffalograss is a 5-8 inch short, sod-forming grass.  It lives on as little as 12 inches of water per year, spreading by seed and surface runners.  It has no natural diseases or pests, does not respond to fertilizer, and withstands extreme hear or cold.  It can be found from Minnesota and Montana down to Mexico, thriving in all types of soils.  Indeed, it is an environmentally responsible alternative to Bermuda or St. Augustine. No, I won't be mowing it either--another waste of time, not to mention, pollution.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lawnmowers are worse than cars. A new gas powered lawn mower produces as much volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour. Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants. Garden equipment engines produce up to 5% of the nation's air pollution and a good deal more in metropolitan areas such as our DFW area.

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"Riveroats" by Bcbaker2390 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Buffalo grass is not the only grass I'm considering. Among the seedlings I've started this year for Loving Garland Green's Seedling Sale in April include about 50 Inland Sea Oats plants. This grass is a shade-loving almost evergreen perennial grass with wide lealves.  It is an excellent ornamental grass with distinct chevron seedheads. It's often found thriving in woodland areas which makes it a perfect choice for my back yard which is almost total shade. Inland Sea Oats is one of the few native grasses that grow well in moist and shady areas. It's also called Wood Oats, Northern Sea Oats and Riveroats.

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Native Grasses at the Garland Community Garden

Gradually over the next year we will be adding displays of native grasses down at the garden.  A minimum of three displays are planned for 2015: 1) A pot of Sea Oats  2) a pot of Buffalo grass and 3) a pot of Indiangrass which was once a dominant prairie grass.  Indiangrass grows 3-4 feet high and puts out dramatic golden plume-like seedheads on 2-foot stalks from September to November. It endures extreme drought and grows best in sand, loam and clay soils of bottomlands and lower slopes of hills in many regions from Canada to Mexico. It is also a larval food source for butterflies. I'm ordering some Waco Indiangrass roots from Native American Seed.

Less than 150 years ago, the great North American prairie stretched from Mexico to Canada.  During the past five or six generations 99% of the prairie has been consumed by grazing, farming and urbanization.  Today, less than .004% of the tall grass prairie remains in Texas, the largest prairie state which leads the nation in number of acres lost to land fragmentation.

I hope that we will eventually have twelve large pots filled with Buffalograss, Green Sprangletop, Sand Lovegrass, Sideoats Gramma, Sand Dropseed, Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, Eastern Gamagrass, Indiangrass, Prairie Wildrye and Inland Sea Oats.

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Plant a sustainable lawn that you don't have to mow or fertilize and you'll have more time to enjoy life.

Tell your friends who may be putting in a new lawn to sow Buffalograss and then sell their lawnmower. Over the years they will save a lot of money spent on lawnmowers and the power to run them--not to mention the expense of fertilizer and all the time spent sweating behind a lawnmower.

Here's a closing thought:  Imagine a Homeowners Association that did not allow lawnmowers or the noise pollution of gas leaf blowers--now those would be some rules that made sense from a human health point of view.

If you are thinking that your hands are tied because you belong to a Homeowners Association, you might want to read Texas House Bill 645 which was passed by the 78th Legislature in 2003. This law among other things, prevents homeowners' associations from implementing new covenants banning outdoor water conservation measures.

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