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.
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
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 :-)