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Green Living Idea: Lawn Alternatives
By: Jen Fontaine
Thanks to Beverly Wise, who sent us a note asking us to research this area; I’ve barely scratched the surface with the preliminary notes below, but it is an important topic, one that I hope we’ll all be able to think about when planning for our outdoor goals in 2018.
When I go for an afternoon walk on a lovely summer day, I often see people mowing their lawns; but I don’t remember once in two decades seeing people enjoying their lawn; so it’s a mystery why people compulsively maintain these spaces that don’t seem to enrich our pleasure in life. Apparently, the lawn habit came across from Europe, where open grasslands signaled the wealth of aristocratic landowners. But the habit took root in the U.S with Scottish settlers. Now, lawns apparently cover up to 50 million acres of land in the country. The NRDC site below provides some further sobering statistics: “Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides.” The authors of this site go on to emphasize the harmful effects of pesticides; and they remind us that every acre of lawn means an acre where diverse habitat is unavailable for pollinators and other plants and animals.
So it’s worth looking for alternatives to your water-greedy lawn; there are options, which can be practical in different areas of your property:
- Plant natural turf grass that is left to grow wild.
- Plant low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming.
- Use native plants as well as noninvasive, climate-friendly ones that can thrive in local conditions. Many options are available for ground cover; they require a bit of nurture when getting established, but then need little support once established, and low-growing varieties don’t need mowing.
- Devote some space to edible plants-vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs.
You can change as much or as little as you like, even just modifying the shape and size of your traditional turf lawn, to reduce the stress on resources and on your personal workload. But it’s worth giving a thought to the third option above: namely, looking at alternatives besides the lawns that many of us have taken for granted for decades. The second site below covers some information about ground covers, which can provide a low-maintenance way to keep your yard green without the hassle and environmental cost of a traditional turf lawn. I hope we’ll have more to share about ground covers in future postings.
It has been great hearing from people in the UUCNH community; please do keep sending notes, suggestions, and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share Your Idea: To share your own experiments in home or garden, or to send us any other green tips that have worked for you, please email email@example.com.