Time to Mow the Wild Onions

Time to Mow the Wild Onions
Oh merciful Heaven! Wild onions! Get the mower, quick!

It’s time to mow the wild onions, I suppose.

Last week, on our first warm day after the latest round of sleet, snow, and freezing rain, I was out for a long walk. I passed a house where an older gentleman had apparently decided he would be the first in the neighborhood to mow his lawn. Never mind that there were piles of snow still melting against his house. There were wild onions out there, and they had to go! I could smell them before I even heard the riding mower.

Which brings me to my main issue: Have you ever thought about how much money, gas, oil, and time people waste by mowing several acres of lawn? You see it all the time. People with homes sitting back from the road, and anywhere from a half acre to several acres of lawn between their house and the road. And they MOW ALL OF IT, weekly (if not more often).

I may be too “green” for most people, but the cost to our environment because people want to control every single blade of grass in sight has to be enormous. Not just in the cost of the gas, and the gas emissions. But look at the loss of habitat for birds and other small creatures.

My own dad has a 30 acre piece of land surrounding their home that he insures gets mowed twice a year. Mom insists it “keeps down ticks.” I don’t think there’s any evidence that mowing a field reduces ticks. What it does reduce is the amount of cover for quail and other small animals. Dad is always bemoaning the fact that he rarely sees quail anymore. “But Dad,” I remind him, “Quail need a place to nest and the chicks have to hide until they can fly. If all 30 acres are mowed flat to the ground, where can they nest?”

I suppose people who mow those large tracts of land have a good reason. Maybe they think it looks nice and neat, orderly, everything in its place. And its their land, by gosh, and no one can tell them what to do with it.

That’s true, and I’m all for people doing what they want with their land. But sometimes I think people mow all that ground because their neighbor does it, or because they don’t want people to think them lazy. Or because it looks like a golf course. Or maybe they want people to see their house at the top of that rise.

My own dad bought a riding mower that cost over $5,000. Add to that the weekly cost of gas, oil, and whatever he pays someone to mow (when he does’t feel up to it) and you are talking about serious money. Add in the harsh chemicals used for weed control (which ends up in streams and rivers), plus any costs for lawn food. Multiply that by the thousands of people in our area who do the exact same thing. What a lot of money and fuel!

I think the alternative–mowing the amount of lawn that you actually use (as opposed to every inch you own)–is much preferable. I know the wildlife would like it, and I just think tall weeds, bushes, and even trees are vastly preferable to large tracts of unused but perfectly mown lawns. All of that “wildness” in front of your house would also afford you more privacy.

Even more importantly (if you have the money to burn and don’t care about the cost) is this: Plants lose their water by a process called transpiration. When larger plants and trees transpire, the process cools the surrounding air. That’s why it always feels so cool when you step into the woods. It isn’t just the shade, the surrounding air is actually cooled by the trees losing all that moisture.

So, consider saving yourself some money, saving the environment from pollution, giving our small critters a place to live, and cooling your property all at the same time. And all you have to do is cut back a bit on the amount of ground you mow.

What do you think?

© Wade Kingston

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