Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Polka-dotted lawn

The year is already hot. The first few months are usually testing, figuring out the same stuff we figured out last year (and didn't write down), fixing sprinklers, etc.

Anyway, the lawn is already turning brown. Part of that is the heat, and part the fact that our sprinkler system doesn't seem to be functioning correctly. Brown lawn in June = not good.

A few years ago I ran into an article that talked about drought tolerant lawn alternatives. Several were all about the specially bred and genetically altered lawn alternatives, but I try to stay away from GMO's as a matter of course.

That's a rant for another day.

Another alternative mentioned was yarrow.

Achillea Millefolium
Family: Compositae

I already did a blog post on yarrow as a medicine in 2012, but this one has a different focus.

The article suggested that yarrow could take the place of a traditional lawn. It's drought tolerant, and when water is available it grows faster than traditional grass. It uses less water for a better result. For the last few years I've been transplanting bits of yarrow into my lawn, which creates an interesting patch-work effect when the rest of the lawn dies back.

The yarrow stays green, so I have polka-dots. It grows slowly, crowding out the traditional grass. A piece planted about eight years ago is now about two feet across (or would be, except that it got dug up because we were building a wall there this spring). If given its own space it grows much faster. If it's kept mowed it's softer than traditional grass. If not kept mowed it will flower, but the flowers don't produce seeds. At least mine haven't. If not kept mowed, the remaining hard bits of the flower stalks will make your lawn hard to walk on.

One disadvantage is that you won't find many who sell yarrow carpet. It just won't happen. Yarrow doesn't seed and it grows too slowly to be commercially viable.

Try it, though. If you have a small area, dig out the weeds and get a handful of yarrow plants from your local nursery. Plant them about a foot apart, keep them watered until they're established (about two weeks) keep it mowed and by next spring you may have a great yarrow carpet.

Historical note, April 2015: I have since learned that yarrow does seed, profusely. I don't know why I don't get seedlings in my yard. I have about a dozen yarrow seedlings ready to go in the lawn. I want to get rid of the back lawn entirely this year.