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Planning my way to No-Mow Glory

One of the realities of living in Alaska is dealing with the flight schedules in and out of Anchorage. We Alaskans are pretty accustomed to showing up at Ted Stevens for a middle of the night flight and arriving back home in time to catch a couple hours sleep before heading out the next day.

This spring, we took our kids down to see my mother-in-law in Florida. Our trip home had us landing in Anchorage at a respectable 11p.m. – pretty decent by Alaska standards. Still, it was too late to catch a flight to Homer and too late to get on the road, so we booked a hotel and stayed overnight before driving home the next day.

I was getting ready for bed at this unnamed hotel and flipped on the overhead light in the bathroom. It was bright and florescent and my gawd they made the pores on my face look massive! I know I’d been wearing a heavier mineral sunscreen for two weeks and I was appalled by what was going on. Yick!

As I lay in bed that night I thought to myself, “too bad there isn’t something like a vacuum where you can suck all the gunk out of your face and call it a day.” Quick google search and lo and behold! THERE IS! So I ordered one. Twelve bucks and 5 days later, I vacuumed my pores to my heart’s content. (Note to readers, if you’re going to try this, start slow. I spent a day hiding in my office because I over-sucked my forehead and looked like someone slapped me. I did a lot of prospecting that day).

That little pore vacuum got me thinking about what other new solutions are out there to the stuff that’s nagging at me. So for past few months, I’ve been hunting and implementing solutions to all the little irritations in my life. It’s been so much fun. So liberating!!

What’s this got to do with Real Estate in Homer? Lawn. My lawn has been irritating me for years. My husband bought a mower last year. We really thought we could get away with buying a used one from a friend – it was handy, it was here, and it was inexpensive. But this is Alaska lawn, it takes no prisoners. After a season carting me around at full on rabbit speed, something major broke and neither Bill nor I had any interest in managing the repair, so we gave it to someone who was. So now Bill’s out shopping for a mower that can handle yours truly and my Alakan lawn. High on my list of mower criteria is that I want to reduce my carbon footprint. If Tesla made mowers, I’d be first in line to get one.

Like I said to Bill, lawn is dumb. Especially up here. There’s nothing worse than feeling all proud of yourself for mowing your acre of grass only to notice that it grew in the time it took you to put away your mower. Alaska lawn does that. Besides, it’s summer – NOBODY wants to be mowing lawns, we want to be hiking or fishing or hanging out at the beach. Not mowing.

While taking my turn to mow the other day, I was mentally composing a letter to Elon Musk to make a solid case for more humble innovations like Mow-X or Turf-X. Realizing a Tesla mower wasn’t likely to come my way, I got to wondering if could I replace this lawn with something that wouldn’t require any extra water, fertilizer, or mowing.

So I called up Homer Soil and Water Conservation for a chat with Kyra Wagner about lawn alternatives. She reminded me that a typical lawn is a monoculture crop – it grows alone and that’s not something you find in nature so any lawn alternative you grow is going to be natural and it’s going to have company. You have to work with that. I was up for that. Here’s what she suggested:

Moss Lawn
According to Kyra, moss likes moisture so if you’re considering a moss lawn, know that it’ll be soggy. “You’ll need soil with a high acidity and moisture and it won’t be traple-worthy.” So no playing a rowdy game of bocce on your moss lawn or letting your dogs play. Moss is excellent for places you only occasionally walk on and for edges of pathways.

Clover Lawn
Kyra said that White Alsace Clover is an option as a low growing grass. It grows well on its own, it’s a great nitrogen fixer, it likes poor soils and best of all, it attracts bees. But clover doesn’t grow alone, you’ll definitely have to spend some time weeding clover. On the plus side, you definitely don’t have to fertilize it, it handles foot traffic, it’s relatively drought resistant, and it likes our cool weather.

Yarrow
Yarrow was another crop Kyra mentioned. I admit, I’d never heard of a yarrow lawn and it sounds divine. It’s nice and soft, can handle a trample, and lovely and green. Considered by some to be a weed, yarrow needs little water and only to be mowed three or four times a year. It will grow taller and woodier with age, so you definitely need to mow now and again but a short mow and a re-seed every few years will keep a yarrow lawn barefoot worthy!

Tea Lawn
My amazing gardener friend, Robin McAllister mentioned that I could grow a tea lawn. I love the idea of a tea lawn! Sadly for my morning routine, the purveyors of tea lawns have moved onto other pastures. But I’m still going to look for tea lawns. That would be so fabulous. I’ll let you know when I find it.

How to Plant for No Mow Glory
I called a few of our local landscape artists to see about installing these lawns but it’s summer and I got their voice mail. Likely they’re out mowing. I’ll reach out to them when they aren’t so busy. In the Meantime, I’m going to compose that letter to Mr. Musk and volunteer for any Lawn-X testing.