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Lifeless Lawns

Do you want to save time and money and at the same time, do your part for the environment? If you have a lawn, all this is possible.

Lawns are expensive. To first grow a lawn you have to tear out everything that grows naturally, bring in fill and enriched soil and then seed it with a monoculture of grass. This is a major expense. Once it grows, you must keep it from growing too high or unruly with pricey mowers and trimmers. You’ll also need an arsenal of chemical products to eradicate plants and insects that threaten the uniformity of your expensive lawn and you’ll need the instruments required to apply these chemicals. If you are wealthy enough, you can hire a lawn care company to do all the maintenance for you.

Lawns require a lot of time and effort. If hiring isn't in your budget, you will need to spend hours tending your turf. At the height of growing season, lawn owners may find that even a weekly shave is not enough to keep their greens looking like the perfect carpet they desire. Mowing and trimming can take hours of your summer time depending on the size of your lawn. Seeding, weeding and feeding all require yet more time.

Lawns are harmful to the environment. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have very serious consequences for our soil, our water, our pets, our children, our insects and our birds. Furthermore, the noise of mowers and trimmers can ruin an otherwise peaceful evening.

The most widely grown crop in developed countries is lawn. And yet we can’t eat lawn (besides being unpalatable, all the chemicals make it toxic). It doesn’t generate money (it in fact costs a great deal). It doesn’t make our lives easier (it robs us of many hours we could spend enjoying sunny weather).

So what would happen if we let our lawns revert to their wild state? First, we would keep more of our time and money. Then we would notice a return of life where once there was a dead zone. Insects have evolved over many tens of thousands of years to feed off the plants that grow where they live. When we remove the natural vegetation, we leave the native bees, butterflies, birds, worms and insects with an area devoid of everything they need to survive. If enough of us do this, we significantly reduce the habitat required to support wildlife and this leads to a significant reduction in that wildlife. Plants and animals need the spaces that we use for lawns. We don’t need lawns. And we do need healthy ecosystems.

Doing away with manicured grass doesn’t mean letting a thicket of brambles grow outside your front door (unless you want a thicket of brambles and then that’s fine). To maintain a pretty profusion of wildflowers, mow once in the spring. This will get rid of thatch and keep the brambles at bay. You can also mow narrow paths through the wildflowers. This will let people know that you are sensitive to the needs of wildlife and not lazy. And of course, it doesn't have to an all-or-nothing proposition. You can keep some manicured lawn if you need some for recreation or outdoor furniture.

It’s not a question of lowering our standards. It’s a question of getting our priorities in order. The inside of your house is your domain and here smooth, uniform, unencumbered surfaces are highly recommended. Your home should be easy to clean and pleasing to live in. It is after all, your home. But remember, the outdoors is a home too and we have evicted the rightful owners with our lawn obsession.

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