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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Start now on an easy-to-maintain Darwinian landscape

The second-to-last word in home landscaping that’s simple to maintain is the Darwinian landscape, where everything is done as nature intended and you take all your cues from the natural world. The result is a lush, attractive landscape that doesn’t demand constant maintenance. (The “last word” is the yard that’s just left totally alone, and becomes an overgrown, trashy eyesore.)

The guidelines and practices of a Darwinian landscape are too numerous to cover here, but an example is what I did yesterday. After letting fallen, dead leaves accumulate on my yard for almost three months, I went over them with a lawn mower. This chopped them up into millions of tiny pieces, which are still on the lawn, but are hardly visible and will filter down to become actual soil in the first rain.  This is exactly what happens in nature with decomposition; but in nature it takes many years, and I get it done in a day. It also releases all sorts of natural chemicals into the soil, so I can skip a regular artificial fertilization.

Yes I have a small patch of grass sometimes called a lawn, in recognition of the fact that human beings use the yard, and sometimes feel the need to sunbathe, play catch, or have an outdoor barbecue. My weekend can now be devoted to things I actually like to do. It is NOT like the perfectly manicured yards you see in magazines. But now I let nature guide my decisions, and I have lots of free time.

When I bought the house about 15 years ago the yard was nothing but a sickly looking expanse of grass, with a few trees. Now it is a wildlife haven full of wildflowers and native flowering trees. Lots of birds too. I try lots of things in my landscaped and see what happens. Sometimes, my experiments fail, and I learn something from it (not to do it any more). Sometimes they succeed, and I’ll inevitably do more of the same. I see what grows well. I see what the birds like to eat and where they nest, and what they ignore, etc.

And that’s where Darwin’s observations of natural selection and evolutrion have led me.


Do I dare to eat a cactus?       During the winter, Roadrunners are often forced to feed on cactus plants (in north Texas, the Prickly Pear is most common), since insects and lizards are scarce. They break off a piece of cactus and repeatedly smash it into a rock or tree trunk, softening the needles, to make it edible.
Greater Roadrunner



OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.


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