Yale professors “invented” the Freedom Lawn in the early 1990s. It’s a concept rooted in low maintenance residential turf areas. No watering, chemical management, or power mowers allowed.
Freedom Lawns replace the intensively-managed suburban lawn. They offer joyously weedy landscapes as a more environmentally-responsible option.
You’ll note the word invented is in quotes. Some forward-thinking homeowners have long used this method of lawn care. But growing awareness of “greener” practices draws more and more people to the Freedom Lawn. It’s an intentional lawn management method designed to protect ground and surface waters.
Unfortunately, great ideas don’t always work quite the way visionaries expect. There’s a difference between the drawing board and real life situations. So, the Virginia Turfgrass Council’s journal added a caveat to the no-maintenance lawn.
The intention of the Freedom Lawn may be right for the times. But research shows the reality can do more damage to water quality than traditional care. In a nutshell, it says Freedom Lawns can be environmentally irresponsible.
The article offers a few tweaks to correct the failings of the no-input Freedom Lawn. At no surprise to us, many of these suggestions include the use of compost.
Among 12 Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Sustainable Lawns are the following tenets:
- Add a 1″-2” layer of quality compost before seedbed prep to benefit lawn health and aid water infiltration.
- Repeatedly apply organic matter via the compost. Builds topsoil, binds nutrients and water, and promotes soil aggregation. This improves water infiltration and compaction resistance.
- Add two compost applications per year at 100 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. (500 lbs. per application of compost for the typical 5,000 sq. ft. suburban lawn). This provides all the fertility the lawn requires and limits any potential P or N runoff.
- Phosphorous (P) does not leach if there’s enough clay and/or organic matter in the soil. Leaves, clippings, and compost add organic matter. Because it’s slow-release, compost can help with N runoff, too.
High maintenance lawns are fast becoming as passé as the era of poodle skirts from which they came. Learn to love those dandelions. Rejoice to find ourselves, quite literally, in the clover. It’s important to remember the role healthy soil plays in maintaining a healthy lawn and planet.
Use chemicals or not, embrace species diversity for your lawn or not, mow it or not. But do maintain soil organic matter. Healthy soil makes any lawn care regime an environmentally-responsible effort.
Access the full article: Are Freedom Lawns Environmentally Responsible? It’s well worth the read, even if your lawn is still stuck in the ‘50s.
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PHOTO: Flickr/by Susan Harris