Much of the world seems to be suffering from drought and problems that are a result of chemical residues. Although some lawn services exist that base their practices on the use of organics, most utilize an array of herbicides and pesticides that end up in our water systems, ultimately causing medical conditions for thousands, if not millions, of people.
Organic lawn care is much safer for our children and our pets and it’s also better for our wallets. The fertilizers applied by chemical lawn care companies stimulate rapid grass growth but, unfortunately, it is at the expense of root growth. This means that the lawn is more susceptible to drought stress, disease, and grubs. In addition, the salts in those so-called fertilizers kill the helpful micro-organisms in the soil. It costs money to combat these problems.
Who decided that lawns have to be perfect? Why can’t they be full of lovely white clover or a carpet of violets
in May or creeping Veronica with its tiny blue flowers in June? This obsession with perfect lawns had to change in 2009 in Ontario when the province enacted legislation that banned the use of pesticides and herbicides. I’m not fond of an overabundance of dandelions but I can live with some.
Why do we plant grass on steep slopes? Mowing is very difficult in these situations. I suspect that the answer is money. It’s cheaper to seed a hillside than plant it, at least initially, but in the long run, the maintenance costs of labor, equipment, and power will be higher. When I was in the Netherlands last summer at the gardens of Palais Het Loo, I saw this specially designed machine for mowing steep hillsides. In this case, it makes sense because the formally designed gardens are a piece of history. Communities that have minimum acreage requirements should be giving serious consideration to limiting the amount of turf allowed while encouraging the installation or continued existence of natural areas such as meadows and prairies.
We should also be considering the amount of energy that we consume in cutting the lawn and the amount of pollutants that enter the air we breathe as a result. At the beginning of the 20th century, everyone used push mowers. The only energy consumed was human energy. In that sexist era, the husbands pushed the mower and their waists were much slimmer than they are today. Even now, if the family hasn’t hired a lawn service to cut the grass, the mower owned by the family is probably gas powered.
If the property is big enough, the mower has morphed into a riding mower that consumes even more gasoline and requires no expenditure of calories. So, my question again is: How much lawn do we really need?