The East London Garden Society

Lawns as Polycultures

Polyculture Lawn

When we let our lawns grow wild, allowing dandelions, plantains and all other kinds of weeds to exist, we facilitate a polyculture. This has a mix of different roots systems, flowering cycles, leaves (or blades) and resilience to drought. The polyculture lawn isn’t just one type of plant, which for some reason has been deemed desirable, but a mix of textures, shapes and colours.

Even a largely wild polyculture lawn will have plenty of edible elements to it. Lots of commonly found weeds are edible, nutritious and quite tasty. In other words, when a lawn is left to its own devices it becomes an herbal lawn.

Not only does this kind of lawn potentially supply food, it also eliminates the need for fertilizers and herbicides. In addition, pollinators like bees and butterflies are big fans of most weeds. Therefore, a wild polyculture lawn is much better than the carefully maintained lawn.

For those who don’t want to grow a garden, cultivating an herbal lawn is a better option since it combines herbs and grass to create a landscape of cultivated foraging with the appearance of a typical garden.

The key to producing an herbal lawn is clearing out small patches of grass and replacing those spots with desirable (and potentially edible) herbs, particularly low‐growing items. Apart from dandelions and plantain, yarrow, mallow and clover are common edible weeds that can be encouraged. Additionally, more kitchen‐familiar items like thyme, Roman chamomile, mints and wild strawberries can be cultivated.

As the years go by, the herbs can be encouraged to spread. They can either be harvested to eat or just enjoyed for colour, aroma and all the other fine qualities a mix of plants have.

An herbal lawn is a fantastic compromise for those who want to cultivate food and help the bees but cannot or are hesitant to build raised beds in their outside space. An herbal lawn can potentially provide food, as well as quality animal fodder and improved biodiversity. More importantly, it is a much more economical and ecological way to have a lawn.