Wean your lawn off junk food, and you’ll not not only get a nicer lawn, but it will be safer for pets, children and wildlife. Traditional lawns are ‘an environmental nightmare’ that take massive amounts of chemicals that use fossil fuels to cause run-off to our waterways.
Good books are Organic Lawn Care and Lawns into Meadows (if you want to do this, avoid near pets as wildflower meadows can be toxic to pets: See how to make your garden safe for pets. Avoid cocoa mulch (toxic), pine mulch (can cause punctures) and fresh compost near pets. Use no-dig methods to protect earthworms.
Lawns are good for pets, children and seniors. Chemicals on conventional lawns are not safe when noses and crawling limbs are near the ground, and dogs that live near lawns where chemicals are sprayed, have higher rates of bladder cancer. Another bonus is letting your lawn ‘go a little wild’ is that it is less likely to be visited by moles (who love nothing better than lawns that have been manicured and treated, as the earth is softer for their spade-like paws to ‘breast-stroke’ through to find worms.
Tips for an Organic Lawn
- Choose hard-wearing organic grass like rye or red fescue, which can withstand drought. Clover is also used (a flower that bees love, but toxic near pets).
- Keep pets away from freshly-seed lawns (and pine needles) as embedded seeds can lead to emergency vet trips (always check thoroughly after walking through long grass: ears, paws, inside the mouth etc: also take care walking near long grass, to avoid adders). Tumbling compost bins are good to quickly compost grass clippings, as too much in the compost bin will make it slimy.
- Manual mowers are good exercise and less polluting, but can sometimes ‘tear the grass’ if you don’t buy a good one. Lawnmower Larry has a good guide on how to choose a good manual mower, with recommended brands. In spring, you can rake the lawn to remove thatch, just leave it out for birds to build their nests. Aerating the lawn and raising blades on the mower, should prevent moss. Remove weeds naturally (your hands!).
- Use garden shears instead of strimmers (which cause awful injuries to hedgehogs and tortoises). If you do use a strimmer, gently sweep the grass with a broom beforehand, to give creatures time to escape.
- Most lawns can survive a few days without water, and quickly recover. When you do water artificially, use a watering can to save water over a hose. And ensure water butts have pet safety locks to avoid open barrels (drowning hazard) or stagnant water (attracts mosquitoes). Good brands are Even Greener & The Original Water Butt Co.
- If you dog pees on the lawn (females tend to use the same spot), you can just flush the area immediately with water, and it should avoid brown spots. It’s best to avoid artificial lawns with pets, as they don’t cool down as fast, so could cause heatstroke.
- It’s not easy to send moles elsewhere, if they can find soil and worms. It’s actually the sign of a healthy garden, and their hills make excellent potting soil. Sonic devices rarely work, but don’t harm them, they are God’s creatures. Nature in balance: garden organically and creatures usually take care of the food chain themselves.
- Ants usually disappear, when the weather cools. They usually follow a (sweet) food source (or protein if they have eggs), so don’t leave cans of coke, sandwiches or cake crumbs around. Anthills may not look unsightly but aerate the soil and ants provide food for birds, by protecting caterpillars due to the sticky honeydew they secrete. Spraying anything (even natural solutions like white vinegar with water) will kill them, if wet. Just grow mint (in a pot so it doesn’t get out of control) nearby: ants dislike the scent, so will move on.