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Although I find her theories hard to apply when washing the dishes, I do see a glimmer of timelessness in the daily chores we gardeners perform outdoors.
Researchers postulate that we spend too much time in front of our computers, on our phones and using other handheld devices. I know I do. Recent studies link our intense focus and restless Internet roaming to Attention Deficit Disorder and its hyperactive cousin. On the other hand, being outdoors is found to rejuvenate both mind and body, and several fields of study are now devoted to horticultural therapy.
However, more people in the U.S. work from home or in large office buildings than outside farming or in other outdoor professions. What can we personally do to break the online cycle? First, let’s step outside, let the screen door slam shut behind us, and simply enjoy the morning air. Take a few deep breaths and then start small garden tasks.
Even mowing, a Herculean task my husband finds so enjoyable, can benefit a weary soul. Although many in the horticulture industry see grass as wasteful, I don’t think grass itself is the culprit. Grass is just a group of like plants amassed together. It’s our reliance upon this monoculture that causes trouble. We spend an inordinate amount of time applying chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to our lawns. We water in excess and mow each week to grow the perfect patch of green.
It doesn’t need to be this way. If people like their lawns, they should keep them, but allow other plants to grow there too. There’s something wonderful about clover in the lawn. I have fond memories of making clover chains with my sister and our friends. In suburbia, I don’t think that happens much anymore.
How can we change our ways and still grow environmentally sound lawns?
• Instead of a front yard that is a wall-to-wall carpet of green, build more garden beds. Gardens use less water and attract butterflies and other pollinators. The smooth green of the lawn will then set off the flowers like a tranquil sea.
• Only apply organic fertilizers at the recommended rate.
• Water according to your local extension service’s advice about on your type of grass. Deeper irrigation is better for both gardens and lawns than more frequent, shallow watering.
• Grow a variety of grasses, sedges, clovers and other plants within the lawn.
• Stop using pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Having a bit of clover in your lawn is pretty and it helps bees. Plus, what would children do without clover chains?
• Get exercise, take a mental break from the computer and use a human-powered, reel mower like Fiskars StaySharp™ reel mowers. There are three different models from which to choose, and there is even have a grass catcher. Reel mowers are powered by humans, don’t waste energy, and encourage exercise.
• Collect grass clippings as green mulch for your garden. You can also put clippings in your compost pile (if they don’t have pesticides or herbicides.) Layer clippings with brown matter to maintain balance.
• Plant a vegetable garden. It’s not too late in the season to start. Get rid of some of your grass and plant fall and winter vegetable seeds and transplants. Or, plant cover crops now to till under in spring.
By using some of the above tips, you can still have your green space while also indulging in a little homegrown, horticultural therapy. Move away from your computer and help our environment one step at a time. You’ll be healthier, and the environment will benefit too.