Grow Where You’re Planted Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,065 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,688 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Garden Gate/Grow Where You’re Planted Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I took a good, hard look at my lawn. I narrowed my baby blues and really considered and contemplated. And then I marinated in the knowledge of what I learned …


Photo by EliOrni via Wikimedia Commons

That manicured, square shaped piece of grass in the front of your house? The one that—may I venture to guess—is not getting much use, takes up a lot of water to keep green, needs mowing at inopportune times, and doesn’t seem to have a point in life. Am I being impudent? (Look who’s been brushing up on her grammar. Over here! Pick me!) Perhaps you’re not as bad as I am at neglecting the space out your front window, but if you are, let’s chat.

Front lawns are pretty enough, I suppose. But they’re a surprising amount of work for a little patch of green. All that watering and mowing and removing of crabgrass or dandelions (although I like to let ‘em live if I ‘fess up. I’m a closet dandelion lover).


Lawn Mower Girl via Wikimedia Commons

But, Jane, you say, I need a place for the kids to play! Can’t roughhouse in a garden, can they? Well, says I, let’s be honest. Half of us are guilty of spraying our patches of lawn with toxic chemicals just to keep it pretty and green (and keep the homeowner’s association from frowning at us). Did you know that 100 million pounds of pesticides are used on lawns and gardens each year, many of them highly toxic to humans and pets? The CDC studied over 9,000 people nationwide and found pesticides in ALL of them; the average person tested for 13 of the 23 pesticides tested.

Do we really want the rugrats playing on all that nastiness?

There are lots of alternatives to just plain grass. Let’s explore some, shall we, my little chickadees?

  • Raised beds for veggies

Photo by B. Blechmann via Wikimedia Commons

  • Rock garden
  • Wildflower patch

Photo, Bureau of Land Management via Wikimedia Commons

  • Shrubberies (go all Edward Scissorhands)

Photo by Mat Fascione via Wikimedia Commons

  • Cobblestones in a pathway or even a mini labyrinth maze
  • Fruit trees
  • Lawn art (doesn’t have to be kitschy … although it could be!)

Photo by April222 via Wikimedia Commons

  • Move some of your backyard life into the front. If your chickens have a pretty fabulous coop and they like to visit with the wandering pedestrians, move them out front. Have nice patio furniture? Don’t hide it in the back; be sociable and put it in the front. Kids have a swingset? I bet it would do your senior citizens heart’s good to watch them play from across the street.
  • Herb plants, such as thyme, rosemary, mint, oregano, basil, etc. They smell a-MAY-zing when it rains! (And—helpful hint—they are perennials. Yay!)

Photo by vizpix via Flickr

  • Groundcovers such as: Irish Moss, Creeping Jenny (gosh, just the name alone makes me want some), Pretty Lamium, Blue Star Creeper, Green Carpet, Stone Crop, Creeping Wire Vine, Viola, Fleur de Lawn, Black Scallop Bugleweed, Chamomile, Pink Chintz, Elfin Thyme, Snow-in-Summer, Hardy Ice Plant, and Clover. Check to see which ones are native to your area and go crazy.


One of the neatest things about ground covers? A lot of them can really stand up to traffic! This isn’t your granddaddy’s lawn, with your stereotypical elderly person shouting at the neighborhood whippersnappers to get off his lawn! No way, my peeps. This is my lawn, with your stereotypical well-dressed doll shouting at the neighborhood whippersnappers to come on over! I have tea!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What fun garden ideas. That castle looks like Downton Abby. Is it? The photo of the old push lawnmower looks like the one we had in the 1950s at home. I remember my Dad and brothers cutting the yard with it. Properly sharpened, it was pretty effective.

    • MaryJane says:

      I think it is the estate in Downton Abbey. That’s what I thought anyway. That’s my push mower I’ve had for some 30 years. I think newer push mowers are easier to use and more light weight. Good morning Florida Red Barn/Red Tractor Girl Winnie!

  2. Frightening statistics on the pesticides used on lawns ! Well, i have about an acre of ” lawn” here on the farmette, ( the rest is heavy woodlands and the glacier monster rock beds ) I bet only 10% is actual grass altho some of the weeds look downright grass like. I tried some of the creeping herbs like thyme but only a few varieties thrived here on the mountain. My so-called front yard is what I call the ” black hole of calcutta”- deep, deep shade and occasionally some dappled sunlight.Huge, old growth trees across the road in those 50+acres of woodland and my own big shade tree as well. I have planted 3 huge clumps of elephant ears that do just fantastic there and of course the native ferns too. Some wild raspberries thrive and one pathetic azalea. The hedge next to the victorian porch is the unkillable privet which I am trimming back hard for winter to let in the light ( what little there is ). The woods and vines encroach upon the lawn and I try to beat them back as best I can. And there is the ever present invasive Japanese knotweed, the plant that will survive any nuclear holocaust along with cockroaches. the middle of my “lawn” is now my large raised beds vegetable garden. That is so much better than grass. Oh and I love my garden stepping stones that say things like: ” Never let your memories be greater than your dreams” and ” live one day at a time” .

  3. Deborah McKissic says:

    Ohh…love this! I am a member of Kitchen Gardeners International…plant your veggies in your front yard if that is where you want to!…I loved the raised bed photos…I have different varieties of thyme (there are over 300 types! I have about 12) planted in the walkway cracks going to my greenhouse..and, it smells so wonderful when you step upon it! I have creeping Jenny…a runaway from a barrel planted with my front yard…when we had our deck built on the back of the house the builder..also a landscaper, asked about reseeding where they messed up the grass…grass? I have grass? ha ha..he said he noticed I loved it as long as it was “green” ha, when he redid the one small area around the lower deck I named it “the green, green grass of home”…it is where the grandkids and I lay and star gaze…so soft…but, alas..the only “real grass”…the rest of the yard I call “multiple weed”! I am a gardener..I have rain gardens at the ends of all my downspouts on my house..the rain goes into the gardens..full of blue flag iris, and other rain garden plants…I so enjoyed all the photos in this post…I would never use any pesticides or chemicals in a yard that hosts my grandkids! They eat snacks from my raised veggie beds..who would think of using pesticides? Irrigation to me is hooking up the overhead sprinkler for the grandkids to run through! Or, water ballons…..

  4. Cindi Johnson says:

    We had a mower like that when I was a kid. My favorite mower, though, was the one I snagged from Grandma’s house after she passed. It looked very much like the one pictured but the wheels were solid metal. Oh that heavy beast was heavy and hard to push! It’s no wonder she let the grass area under her big backyard tree thin and die in the deep shade and declared that spot of dirt a “good place for the boys to dig and play”.

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