This Earth Day, Consider Rewilding Your Yard

Don’t constantly battle nature in order to maintain a lawn.

Nature, when left to its own devices, takes care of itself. For example, I was surprised that so many people couldn’t believe that the land around Mount Saint Helens recovered so much on its own after the catastrophic eruption in 1980. Within 35 years, a mere blink of an eye on a cosmic scale, the land was renewing itself. (Check out this article for more details, and if you have more time, check out this amazing PBS Documentary.)

Humans have been shown, time and time again, that our hubris can be catastrophic. We manipulate ecosystems to “make improvements” only to learn, after the damage has been done, that nature’s original plan served a purpose. If the earth were sentient enough to make improvements of its own, I’m convinced that the first thing it would do is get rid of humans. From nature’s standpoint, that would be a story with a happy ending.

And yet, here we are, still tearing down mountains and paving over prairies and flooding valleys. We really should be ashamed of ourselves. But we’re not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, we are overpopulating this planet. I won’t go into the disturbing specifics. Check out this article if you’d like to know more.

So the best we can do at this point is tread as lightly on the earth as we possibly can. For those of you who own property that includes any amount of outside space, I highly recommend rewilding your yard. I was doing this long before it was considered cool, simply because I absolutely hate to mow.

I’m not suggesting that you should let your yard go to rack and ruin. But there’s nothing wrong with leaving at least part of your garden in its natural state. At the very least, plan your garden with wildlife in mind.

For a start, do not use insecticides or herbicides. (As far as I’m concerned, Roundup is the dirtiest word on earth. Please don’t use Roundup! )

Rewilding’s primary goal is biodiversity, whereas most yards are all about looking manicured and pristine. It’s just not natural. In my opinion, one of the worst things that could have ever happened to the world was the human obsession with lawns that started in medieval Europe and has been plaguing the world ever since.

The reason that lawns take so much effort to maintain is that they’re not nature’s status quo. You must constantly battle nature in order to maintain a lawn. That should tell you all you need to know about the foolishness of that endeavor. Consider allowing some of your grass to go long and don’t engage in a battle of the weeds.

The things we often call weeds we should instead call native plants. (Unless the weeds are invasive species, which is another result of our hubris.) These native plants are usually what native insects need to survive. They are feasted upon by butterflies and bees. Dandelions support a whole host of insects. Why do we have such a problem with dandelions?

And I hate to tell you this, but the reason you feel the need for so much fertilizer is that when you dig up your soil you’re killing off the micro-organisms that plants need to survive. Instead of digging up, consider mulching. Adding organic mulch allows the soil to naturally balance itself out. Trust nature to do its thing.

And why are we bagging up all those leaves? Instead, leave a pile in a corner of your garden. Many creatures make their homes in leaves.

Also, if possible, leave some gaps in your fencing so that small mammals can pass through. In their search for food, they are encountering more and more human barriers. How rude of us.

And it’s important for us to start viewing pavement for what it truly is: scars upon the landscape. Keep your sidewalks and paved driveways to a minimum. Concrete is bad.

If concrete is bad, bugs are good. Bugs in your garden signal a healthy ecosystem. And bugs are food for birds and small mammals. You want bugs. You don’t need to buy a fancy bug house to accommodate invertebrates. Not only is that leaf pile quite a cozy habitat, but a wood pile is wonderful as well. So are dead or dying trees and plants, as well as piles of rocks.

If each of us just allowed even a portion of our yards to go wild, we could make a huge difference for wildlife. But don’t go too wild with your rewilding. If you notice that one particular plant is starting to dominate, cut it back. You want variety and diversity, not a monocrop.

For some delightful rewilding ideas, head over to the GardeningEtc website. In particular, check out this article on rewilding while there. You’ll be glad you did.

As this picture demonstrates, there’s nothing more beautiful than a field of wildflowers. Consider creating your own, or, better yet, allow it to happen naturally.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!


Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

4 thoughts on “This Earth Day, Consider Rewilding Your Yard”

  1. My grandmothers yard was a great example of this. Wisteria, lilacs, violets, pansies, morning glories, lilies of the valley, tulips and wild roses all flourished in harmony with dandelions and weeds. Dragonflies, lady bugs, butterflies, moths, caterpillars, bumble bees, roly-polys, hummingbirds, tree frogs, and toads happily coexisted among the flora and tall grasses. It was a beautiful enchanted garden that she rarely tended, except to water. The only down side was the skeeters and bees, which I’m allergic to, but that didn’t stop me spending every opportunity to sit under the willow tree, for hours, watching the insects and birds while breathing in Gaia’s finest, floral scented air. I think her neighbors, with their high maintenance, manicured lawns, secretly envied her yard because not one complained that it was a messy eyesore. Well now, this has me waxing nostalgic as I gaze at my apartments sparse, drought resistant, succulent rock garden with perfectly pruned star jasmine, bird of paradise and hibiscus plants. Really missing natures wild side.

    1. Sounds like one of your kids needs to take you on a road trip. California should never have been occupied by humans, but it still has a lot of nature if you take the time to look for it.
      And don’t hate me, but I DO love a good succulent! I wish they grew as big up here in Washington!

      1. I’m not disparaging the flora or fauna here. I find beauty in all of it. I saw a lot of California’s wilderness when I could still tolerate travel and camping. From ocean to mountains to desert, I found it’s full of Gaia’s untouched grace. I just object to the unnecessary interfering that my apartment management does to nature in an effort to make it conform to their ridged asthetics. I’m very fond of succulents myself, especially in the wild. One of my children, doing a year long ‘Nomadland’ of the west, always photo updates me whenever they’re someplace wild. It helps me get my wilderness fix, but I do miss the feel of grass, earth, sand and sea water on bare feet.

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