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Why you should get rid of your lawn - TNK Green

Why you should get rid of your lawn

Modern-day suburbia is dominated by one garden feature: the well-manicured lawn. It has become so synonymous with suburban living that those of us, who dare to let our properties grow wild, are sometimes judged severely by our neighbours. It is rare to find a garden without some kind of lawn. I understand why it is easier for inexperienced gardeners and property owners to install and maintain a lawn. But with a changing climate and the changing water cycle leading to water restrictions across the globe, more and more people are looking at alternatives. Maintaining a beautiful lawn has become increasingly challenging, and more people seem willing to get rid of them in favour of something else. From urban farmers or food forests to the humble cottage garden, the possibilities for a lawnless garden are endless. So first, let us explore why the lawn has become so popular and then explain why you should get rid of it.


Some historical background

The manicured lawn has a complicated history. Since the dawn of humanity, we have used grass for shelter, clothing or food, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that turf lawns gained popularity in Europe. They were cultivated mainly for public parks and recreation spaces that served the broader community and, on a small scale, in private gardens. Sports fields for Cricket and bowling gave the manicured lawn an air of comfort and relaxation.

In the 16th century, wealthy landlords embraced the expansive lawn and gardeners like Capability Brown popularised it in his sweeping landscapes. This land was not required for farming but rather for enjoyment and entertainment. Turf quickly became associated with status and wealth, a perception we still hold today.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, it remained the playground for the rich and famous, who could pay for the upkeep and labour required to keep their gardens and lawns pristine. But in the 19th century, everything changed with the invention of the first mechanical lawnmower, and suddenly everyone could have a small lawn.

It is no wonder that after the second world war, from 1945 onwards, with the boom in suburban developments in America and the restoration of Europe, the manicured turf lawn once again became the ultimate status of wealth and prosperity.

During the 80 and 90, lawns were used in strange and creative ways by designers like Martha Schwartz and Charles Jenks; with a predominant green pallet and use of stark geometric shapes, they echoed the rigidity of the environment and highlighted by swaths of monoculture planting for simplicity.

During the 2000s and the 2010s, there was a return to no-mow, wildflower, and cottage gardens that have been steadily gaining strength. Landscape architects like Piet Oudolf, Pamela Grace Burton, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, with their gentle, wild, and sublime planting schemes, have garnered a lot of praise from their piers.

In the last couple of years, with record heat and drought conditions all over the globe, people are now seriously questioning the effort, time, and money necessary to maintain their extensive lawns and increasingly looking at these designers for new inspiration.


The problem with lawns

Lawns may look beautiful, but they are food deserts for insects or birds. With no flowers, shelter, or shade, there is nowhere for insects to hide or for birds and small mammals to eat.

Plummeting insect populations and extensive urban sprawl are consuming ever more of the wild and untamed environment on the outskirts of our cities and covered with lawns contributing to this collapse and the Anthropocene.

Further, pesticides in agriculture kill even more insects and leave these valuable creatures with little respite or sanctuary in our urbanized world. Lawns are also extremely water-intensive and need constant fertilization, labour, and ongoing maintenance.

The last but not least problem is time, your time. As already stated, lawns require a lot of maintenance. Time is money, and most of us don’t have the time to spare to maintain our energy-intensive lawns. This lead to employing expensive garden services that need to come and mow the lawn every week and occasionally trim the edges of your garden beds. Most garden services are used exclusively for this task, and a lack of skills and knowledge in the field means that your garden beds might start looking a bit weedy and tired while your lawn flourishes.

Nature wants to move naturally from order to disorder. It is a universal principle called entropy. In the natural landscape, grasslands eventually give way to shrubland, and finally, forests are given enough time and favourable environmental conditions.


Benefits of a lawnless garden

Lower maintenance – No garden is maintenance-free, but once you remove your lawn and establish a perennial garden with gravel or bark walkways, you’ll discover that, except for the seasonal work that needs to be done, weekly maintenance will become needless.

No more mowing – You don’t have to get rid of it all, but if you blend your edges with wild and ornamental grasses, a slightly more raggy lawn will not look as unruly and undesirable. Needless to say that if you remove all your lawn, mowing will no longer be necessary.

Require less fertilizer – Depending on what you plant to fill the void left by your lawn, most plants when planted in fertile and healthy soil, will need no or only occasional feeding or fertilizer, not bi-yearly as required by most turf grass species.

More water wise – A regular turf grass lawn requires watering every two to three days for a minimum of thirty minutes. It doest take a genius to realize that that is a lot of water. Of course, we don’t say you have to remove all of your lawn but limiting your lawn will make a big difference in your water consumption, even if you have a borehole.

Better for wildlife – With more perennial and seasonal plants and grasses taking up the space that used to be covered by monoculture lawns, nature will return to your garden.


Dare to be different

There are so many options for a lawnless garden that no two are alike. Depending on what you want, you could invest in a small urban farm, an orchard, a wildlife garden, or a tropical wonderland. Remember to leave space to sit, rest, and enjoy your garden. Design and plant in layers or clusters and entice people to explore. That is the essence of a good garden, regardless of whether or not they have a lawn. If you need help with a master plan for your plot, please book a consultation with us via our website.

So embrace the change and dare to be different.

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