Friday, 21 March 2008

How Green is Your Lawn?

Photo: Caribb

Late March is generally the time when most gardeners start giving their lawns some extra attention and no doubt many will be out now, during the Easter break, tidying up and getting things ready for the coming seasons. They'll rake, aerate, weed and feed as they look forward to a summer where they can enjoy the lush, green carpet laid out before them. But just how green are our lawns? Environmentally green, that is.

An average back garden lawn is actually one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the environmental damage we do whilst at home. In our quest for the perfect lawn, we use vast amounts of water, artificial fertilisers, pesticides and weed killers. Then there’s the energy used every time it’s mowed with an electric mower. Some still even use petrol driven lawn mowers!

A well-manicured lawn also offers very little to help sustain our wildlife.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that our towns and cities would be far less pleasing without any lawns but do they have to be so perfect? Does it matter that there’s clover growing amongst the grass, giving bees plenty of sweet nectar to drink? Will the odd dandelion really make a huge difference? If you cut their heads off as they appear, they won’t seed and spread so shouldn’t cause too much of a problem. And daisies look lovely in a lawn. In fact, my mum mentioned just the other day that you rarely see daisies growing in lawns anymore whereas when she was young…

When it comes to mowing, did you know that just one hour with a petrol driven mower is the equivalent of a 100 mile car trip? Although the energy usage from a small electric mower is negligible it all mounts up over time, and there’s no denying the noise pollution they create. If your lawn is small, why not switch to a manual lawn mower - you’ll be harming the environment less, saving money on energy bills, getting exercise outdoors, and you won’t be disturbing your neighbours as they try to relax in their own gardens. That’s gotta be good, surely?

Weed and Feed style fertilisers are harmful to the environment and really shouldn’t be used (I’ll be disposing of mine); there’s been enough publicity about herbicides and pesticides that we should all know the consequences of them and weed and feeds are no exception. A balanced, natural lawn fertilizer and no weed killers is the answer if you want a ‘green’ lawn.

Photo: Nutmeg66

But let’s say you really can’t stand those dandelions. Well digging them up won’t work. Just a tiny piece of root needs to be left for it to grow again and if you break the root in two, you’ll actually be propagating it. If only the plants we want in the garden were that hardy! Putting salt in the middle of the leaf rosette kills them but it has to be done before the plant starts developing its flower stem. Other than that, it seems we’ll just have to live with them. They’re actually quite beautiful when you stop thinking of them as weeds, and bees and ladybirds love them for their pollen.

Then there’s water. Apparently a modern lawn of average size accounts for a massive 30% of domestic water usage during the summer months. That’s a LOT of water!! Drinking water! If you must have a lawn, at least install a waterbutt so that you’re not depleting our precious water supply quite as much.

Thankfully I only have a very small front lawn and have no intention of ever having a well manicured lawn at the back. Until I can afford to pay somebody to come in and landscape my garden (mud pit), I’ll just chuck a load of grass seeds out there, mix in some wild flower seeds and let it do its thing. With some shrubs along the fences and a few climbers, preferably native ones, I think it’ll be okay. Who knows, it may even stay that way :-)

Sharon J


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K said...

I hope to get out in my yard this Easter weekend! Good reminder. I am new to organic gardening (a miracle grow girl in the past). P.S. I wanted to let you know that I decided not to blog anymore. But I enjoy yours and will keep checking in!

tpe said...

Hey Sharon J, nice to find you here in your new bloggy home.

I must admit that the sight of a well-manicured lawn has always made me wince rather. I've never really properly understood why people need their grass to look like astro-turf. Why not, you know, just get astro-turf? That sort of thing.

Anyway, I don't treat the grass in my garden with anything at all. When it gets too long for comfort - in the middle of summer, usually - then I borrow some horses from the farmer guy up the road and they cut it for me, quietly and without needing filled up with petrol.

Not an option open to everyone, true, but it makes me feel smug as all hell. Hurrah.

As for city lawns - give them a haircut twice a year. Three times, maximum. Just leave the grass be, really, and give it some room to breathe and enjoy itself.

It's a brave fool who feels he can tame nature. And possibly a blind one, too.

Kind regards (and happy Easter) etc...


Anonymous said...

must admit, as I blogged recently, the lawn is the only area on our land we use petrol to maintain it, everywhere else we do by hand, including logging etc. (we are working on reducing lawn and turning into veg bed)

but that figure of 1 hours lawnmowing = 100 mile round trip just has to be wrong. the tank of our mower only takes about 1/4 gal, and goes for longer than an hour

Gavin said...

Down here in sunny Melton, Victoria, we are on water restrictions and have been for 8 years. We are not allowed to water lawns and can only water garden beds twice a week from 6-8am. It makes lawns unobtainable, and for that I am very glad, and I agree with your sentiments. I got rid of all my lawn area 2 years ago. I think that the only people with lawns around my town are the ones with too much free time on their hands, and they recycle grey water from the washing machine. Where there is a will there is a way, I suppose.

happyhippychick said...

I have always preferred lawns with daisies and clover in... much nicer to lie on in the sun for one thing as they smell lovely and you get that proper summer feeling with the getnle hum of beees... roll on summer

New Leaf said...

I am just desperate to see something green on my lawn! When we moved into our new pad last year, there was not ONE blade of grass in the back or front garden, just mud. We've seeded it about four weeks ago and we've just seen a whisper of green (and a few weeds) poking through. I'll be happy with anything that looks remotely like grass!

jimmy said...

Thanks. but I think your getting alittle carried away here. The word Organic does not mean safer. Alot of people like to atack thing they know nothing about.

Pamela said...

We live in an area where where we are required by covenant to keep our lawns green. We do it the best we can and try to not use chemicals