When it comes to my lawn, I’m pretty basic, following one important rule. Be green. I’m not too fussy about what’s actually growing — but as long as it’s green, it has a place in the lawn.
When I see that in writing, it sounds as if I’m a bit of a colorist, embracing one color over all others. In actuality, though, the green weeds are welcome to bloom in any color they like. I just find that my color requirement for admittance into the lawn is one way to keep me from having to resort to herbicides and liquid fertilizers. I have no intention of having my little piece of suburbia become one of the stops on a national golf tournament.
That’s my philosophy on Long Island.
Here in Florida, I’d like to still practice my basic cardinal rule of lawncare, but this lawn is a whole new jungle. Literally and figuratively. On the one hand, I’m sure I should be thankful that such an astounding variety of weeds have found my soil to be an inviting place. On the other hand, some of the woody-stemmed varieties have crossed over from weed to small shrub.
For decades, a local Florida lawn service has done the mowing — no fertilizing, no herbiciding — while Joe and I lived in New York. It’s been some time since its last cut, and for the first time, I’m able to see what’s growing. Now I’m on a mission to know what’s growing.
The primary greenery is grass, St. Augustine grass to be exact. It’s a tough as nails grass, definitely not the green that’s easy on the feet (albeit softer than those woody-stemmed weeds). For new lawns, it’s rarely sown as seed. Instead, sheets of sod are rolled out, or plugs are placed in the soil, about 1’ to 2’ apart.
As you can see in the following photo, the grass actually spreads via a rope-like runner where roots can develop at nodes along the trail. The grass eventually makes a thick carpet, with the ropes overlapping one another — and when kept healthy, St. Augustine grass can choke out many of the usual lawn weeds.
And therein lies the problem. My lawn is not healthy.
An acquaintance stopped by for a visit and we began talking about the lawn. I explained to him that I wanted to avoid using herbicides. He squatted down and said, “Here’s one problem. Your lawn service cuts the lawn too short. I see this all the time. Once the lawn is cut too short, it’s an invitation for weeds to grow.”
Now, there’s a principle that even held true in my Long Island lawn, where I mowed the grass on the tall side. This helped to prevent sunlight from reaching the weed seeds. Perhaps, St. Augustine isn’t so different than the softer, gentler, green, green grass of home.
After my acquaintance left, I began photographing the weeds in the lawn, some of which are posted here, as well as some photos of my new gardening buddies. (Hint: Bigger than a ladybug — but that’s a post for another day.)
In the meantime, I have some work to do.
- Identifying weeds. I compared my weed photos with those on a website, Weedalert.com, an interesting site that allows users to identify weeds through a variety of methods, including region. I think I labeled them correctly, but if any of you see a need for a correction, please let me know.
- Creating a lawn plan. As of this moment, I do not want a lot of grass, which the local garden club was happy to hear about. Rather than green pastures, I’d like some green paths between beds and islands of plantings.
- Talking with the landscaper about raising his blade until I’m able to mow my own.
After all, it’s a jungle out there.