burning your lawn

We have a neighbor in Jackson, we may even go so far as to call him a friend, who bought a truck instead of sports car when his midlife rolled around, started and fanatically perfected a compost pile and became dad’s right-hand man in the guerrilla tree-planting business which he has since taken it over with much gusto. So it was not TOO surprising when his wife came over a few Saturdays back (when i was home) and said, “have you seen our yard today? it’s black. J burned it.” We were thrilled (we being me and R particularly), and went over to check out the ultra-mod look that the blackened grass provided in contrast to their gray house.

black grass

Now, regular controlled burning is traditional in grasslands and pastures where it is both beneficial and desirable to keep the land in grasses, discouraging weedy and woody plants from invading. Grass is the first plant to reemerge after a burn like this, hence it’s use where animals graze like on the farm pictured above. But because burning sterilizes the soil it is not often used in crop fields (although i’ve heard tales that it has been done). While it seems handy for getting rid of those weed seeds, burning off the nutrients in your field before planting seems like poor preparation. Apparently burning may also be unhelpful on lawns.

Now, no doubt J was attempting to knock out the weed seeds in his lawn while encouraging healthy new growth of the St Augustine after a long winter. We thought it was an interesting idea but also suspect it was done largely for the sake of cool experimentation because weeds are rare in a St Augustine lawn to begin with.

The next weekend I was home again (and passed the above burning farm on the way) and Felder’s column in the Clarion-Ledger suspiciously targetted lawn burning. Felder thoroughly discouraged the act in fact after seeing “a horrific scene: a lawn that had been set afire, toasted to a crisp along with some of the shrubs surrounding it.” I’m not sure if he knows J, but we can’t help but wonder WHO’S blackened lawn inspired his rant. Now, may we all be informed (:


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