Resolution: How to Kill Your Lawn (Because Lawns Are Terrible)


Lawns are the biggest irrigated crop in America.
  • Lawns are the biggest irrigated crop in America.

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St. Louis Hills resident Danielle Meert isn't a hateful woman, except when it comes to lawns.

"Grass is not natural," Meert says. "You'd never find a lawn in nature. A lawn has no ecological benefit. It provides no wildlife habitat. Somehow, though, lawns are the socially acceptable thing to do."

Even worse, in Meert's eyes, is that lawns are the biggest irrigated crop in America, taking up more land than wheat, corn and fruit orchards combined.

Meert's biggest problem with lawns is the fertilizers and other chemicals people use on the grass. In St. Louis, those make their way to the Mississippi River, then wind up with the rest of the Midwest's runoff in the Gulf of Mexico. While earning a master's degree in conservation biology at the University of New Orleans, Meert studied the gulf's "dead zone," the thousands of square miles where all that runoff kills fish and marine life.

She recommends killing your lawn by covering the grass with wood chips and then laying a tarp over the chips, though this process can take up to two years. She's also seen people use old billboards to snuff out wide swaths of lawn in one swoop. She used "hot" piles of compost to kill her backyard's grass in record time but is going the slower tarp route for the front. Now that most of her grass is gone, Meert is replacing it with a cornucopia: cilantro, blueberries, onions, mushrooms, rhubarb, rosemary, stevia and valerian. This is not a complete list.

The giant pile of mulch in her front yard and the chickens in back have led to a neighborhood complaint or two, but the haters are few and far between. Nearby LeGrand's, Dairy Queen on Hampton and Kaldi's have all made donations to Meert's cause.

"This is the most eco-friendly house in St. Louis Hills," Meert says proudly. "Even our bricks are made from locally sourced clay." She says the yellowish orange clay likely came from the neighborhood when the house was built in the 1950s. That one, though, she can't take credit for.

In Meert's front yard there is still a narrow stretch of grass, the last remaining patch of lawn on the property. "My husband made me promise to finish all the other projects before I kill this last bit right here," she says. Rest assured — those blades' days are numbered.

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