Have you ever heard of a Vineyard Lawn? As the weather warms and the green shoots emerge from the warming earth, you may begin to dream of a pristine emerald-green lawn that is free of weeds. Sadly, those picture-perfect lawns have probably been achieved through chemical dependence such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
The harmful and toxic chemicals leach into our fragile waterways, contaminating ponds and leaching into the bays. Pesticides kill not only harmful insects but also beneficial ones leading to an imbalance in biodiversity.
The excessive water needed to maintain a lush, green lawn drains groundwater and can become a severe problem during periods of drought. However, don’t despair because you can have a nice lawn while protecting the fragile ecosystem of the Cape & Islands by using the Vineyard Lawn concept developed by the Vineyard Conservation Society.
What is a Vineyard Lawn?
The Vineyard Lawn is chemical fertilizer and pesticide free. Also, you’ll only need to water the lawn on occasion. Using mixed native grass varieties to create a lawn is easy and requires truly little care. With the Vineyard Lawn, you also don’t have to worry about safety when your kids and pets play on the outdoor carpet because there is no danger of chemical exposure.
A Vineyard Lawn is made up of native plants and grasses found on Martha’s Vineyard to form a panoramic landscape of stunning flora and fauna. A weed is only a weed if it is a plant that grows somewhere you don’t want it to grow. Look closely at a field of clover or a sunny dandelion and you’ll be amazed at the beauty. In the winter months, native grasses turn a stunning shade of gold.
With a native lawn, you’ll also enjoy minimal mowing. Keep the lawn at three inches or higher and spread the grass clipping across the lawn to function as a natural fertilizer.
How to Start a Vineyard Lawn
You can easily start a lovely Vineyard Garden by first preserving the trees and shrubs on your property. The roots of the trees and shrubs help hold together the soil which prevents messy runoff. You want the lawn areas of your yard to be small. You’ll mix rye, clover, and fescue grass seeds to flourishing drought-resistant lawn that is hardy and looks healthy.
When you do not use herbicides, you’ll enjoy the growth of 50 native plants and lichens in your Vineyard Lawn. Each plant will complete its lifecycle by blooming and spreading seed for the following season. Also, the native plants provide an ideal habitat for bees, butterflies, fireflies, and bluegrass.
Tips for Caring for the Vineyard Lawn
You’ll want a grass seed blend that grows well in Martha’s Vineyard. Typically, tall, or fine fescues and ryegrass are the best choice. You’ll want to avoid bluegrass which is known to be water hungry and hard to maintain without chemicals. You can purchase the special “Vineyard Mix” sold at SBS.
When caring for the Vineyard lawn, you’ll want to set your lawnmower at the highest setting so that you leave at least a third of the grass standing. Never bag the grass clippings. If you can, set your lawnmower to the mulch setting then that is ideal because the clippings are chopped small and evenly spread across the lawn for natural-release fertilizers. The clippings break down to create a nitrogen fertilizer which is a wonderful way to bolster your lawn against times of drought.
Each spring, you should add a top dress of loam to your grass. Add approximately ¼ to ⅙ of an inch. You should also add a layer of compost to the lawn every spring.
With a Vineyard Lawn, you do not want to overwater the grass, or you can kill it. Remember, the lawn is made of native plants that usually thrive on the rainfall in the area so you will only need to apply supplemental irrigation on occasion and during times of drought.
When unwanted weeds develop in your lawn then you’ll want to manually pick the weeds to keep the grass looking lovely. Add other native vegetation to your landscape to create a lovely natural oasis that is easy to care for and helps the environment.
If you would like to learn more about the Vineyard Lawn, then we encourage you to contact the Vineyard Conservation Society.