guest post by Howard Miller, Outreach Coordinator, Cheney Lake Watershed, Inc.
How green is our yard really, not on the color spectrum but on the ecological spectrum? Often, we picture a nice yard as having a mono-culture grass like fescue with some ornamental bushes or flower plants. I like to challenge you to think of a “ecologically green” yard, a yard with a diversity of plants growing in symbiotic harmony an interdependent yard you might say. I live in northwest Wichita and my yard is not what you would call “normal”. In my yard we encourage species diversity like fescue grass, crabgrass, clover, plantain, and dandelions. Yes, I used the “D” word. If you look at a native prairie, the species diversity in my yard in a small way mimics the native prairie system. Grass as a monoculture crop requires a great deal of inputs to maintain and is not healthy for the microbes living in the soil. Dandelions, considered by many a weed, are a deep-rooted plant that mine nutrients deep down in the soil and bring them to the surface. After the life cycle of the dandelion plant is complete those nutrients are left for other plants to use. Clover seems rather invasive, but it is a legume. Legumes pull nitrogen out of the air and sequester it into the soil for other plants to use. Clover does tend to grow in patches primarily because it grows on poor soils and can thrive where other plants struggle. I don’t fertilize my yard, I don’t use herbicides, weed killers, and I hardly ever water. I also don’t rake leaves; I mulch them with my mower and allow the nutrients in the leaves to grow the plants the following year. Also, the organic content in the leaves adds organic matter that holds moisture in my soil, and it make the soil more porous to absorb the rainfall and store it in the soil not in the neighborhood drainage canal. The more we mimic nature, the more we lower our maintenance costs for our yard. Is the soil in your yard alive and full of biological activity? Mine is!