‘After the Rain’ by Lizzy Newcomb for Green Pebble
There are millions of lawns across the world. They are wonderful to create homes for lots of native wildlife, and also pleasant to sit on for children, pets and people with old bones! Not everyone wants a lawn (or can have one). But for those who do, what options are there that are better for the planet, free from chemicals and yet safe, comfortable and beautiful to look out? Let’s find out.
There are many types of lawns. The typical ‘postage stamp lawn’ is a bit boring, and most garden designers suggest making lawns with ‘hidden places’, rather than just plonking down some turf in a straight line. Of course, this is not always possible for tiny gardens. However, creating focal points and curved edges, tends to soften lines, and makes the lawn more pleasant to look at, and be in.
You may already have a lawn or are wishing to form a new one. Either way, keep away from lawn chemicals, which are both toxic to people and pets (proven to give a seven times higher risk of bladder cancer in dogs, even if they are sprayed on neighbouring gardens). Secure all your garden chemicals in a sealed bag, and take them to the tip. Dangerous for you, your loved ones, wildlife and the planet. You can easily create a nice lawn without ‘junk food products’, which like with humans, just encourages your lawn to rely on them for nutrition thereafter.
If you garden alongside animal friends, see the post on how to make your garden safe for pets. This covers toxic plants (including wildflower meadows), unsafe mulches and other garden hazards. Keep pets away from freshly-seeded lawns (and pine needles). Check ears, paws and inside the mouth after walking through long grass (also take care in long grass, to avoid adders).
How to Wean Your Lawn Off Junk Food
- Whether seeding or turfing, choose a hard-wearing organic grass like rye or red rescue, which can withstand drought. Although bees love it, avoid clover near pets (toxic to them).
- Manual mowers are good exercise and don’t pollute, but buy a good one to avoid ‘tearing the grass’. In spring, use a rake to remove thatch or just leave for birds to build nests. Aerating the lawn (and raising mower blades) should prevent moss. Remove weeds naturally (with your hands!)
- You can usually leave grass clippings on the lawn. If you have a lot, tumbling compost bins are better, as too many ‘greens’ in a standard compost bin will make it slimy (unless you add more browns like dried leaves).
- Garden shears are safer for hedgehogs and tortoises. If you use strimmer, gently sweep the grass with a broom beforehand, so creatures have time to escape.
- Lawns can survive for days without water, and quickly recover after rainfall. If you do water your garden artificially, use a watering can over a hose, to save water. Ensure water butts have safety locks to avoid open barrels(stagnant water can attract mosquitoes).
- To remove brown spots on lawns from dog pee (females tend to use the same spot), flush immediately with water. Avoid artificial lawns with pets, they cool down slower, and could cause heatstroke.
- Ants usually disappear in cooler weather, and follow a sweet food source (or protein if they have eggs). So don’t leave out cans of coke, sandwiches or cake crumbs! Anthills aerate soil, and ants protect caterpillars (due to sticky honeydew secreted) so also help to feed garden birds. Spraying anything will kill them. Just grow mint (in a pot so it doesn’t get out of control – ants dislike the scent so will move on). Avoid growing mint near cats.
- Garden moles are a sign of a healthy lawn, and their hills make excellent potting soil. Sonic devices rarely work. Lawns that ‘go a little wild’ are less likely to be visited by moles, who love nothing better than a manicured lawn (as the earth is softer for their spade-like paws to ‘breast-stroke’ through to find worms!
Finds for the Zero Waste Lawn
- Rain Can (UK) is made from recycled plastic to hold 7 litres, in pretty colours. With an easy-fill design, this is designed to collect rain, and includes a frog ladder, to allow creatures to escape!
- Burgon & Ball Watering Cans (UK) hold 5 litres, made from galvanised steel and carry a 5-litre guarantee, hence the hefty price. The single graceful handles slides easily through the hand, and the emptier it gets, the more it tips. The oval shape gives knees a wide berth, and there is a removable rose for fine watering.
- Grazers (UK) makes non-toxic calcium-based sprays to humanely deter pets and wildlife. The range can also be used to deter wildlife from eating grass by making it unpalatable (so don’t use for pet rabbits). Also sold in bulk form, it’s widely used for gold courses and bowling greens, to keep grass in pristine condition. Apply just after mowing, then leave 5 to 7 days, before you mow again.
- Natural Grower (UK) makes eco-vegan fertilizers that can be used on lawns (they recommend keeping pets and children away for 24 hours, to allow the liquid to soak into the roots). To avoid small particles of organic matter blocking sprayers, they recommend not using a fine filter, or use a watering can with a coarse rose. Feed monthly from March to November.