What Can Be Sustainable About A Lawn?

For this May post I went in search of sustainable gardening tips on line and found an interesting post from Better Homes and Gardens in February of this year that I think applies. Some of you may be aghast at what you read, but for me this post helped me think about my love-hate relationship with my lawn. You see I am willing to mow it, but not willing to waste potable water to keep it green or to apply chemicals (herbicides and pesticides) that will hurt the bugs that feed the birds or even hurt the birds themselves. As a result, I find myself always feeling a bit guilty that I don’t have the “perfect” lawn that has always seemed to be the unspoken public expectation of a responsible homeowner.

The BHG article, 4 Common Lawn Problems That Don’t Actually Need Solving, eased my conscience. Perhaps it will ease yours as well or lead you to revise your own expectations about your green “rug.” Here’s a brief summary but check out the link for the full article.

  1. Rethink Clover. Clover, a legume that captures nitrogen and stores it in its root system, will grow in poor soils and needs little water. Other benefits include that it tolerates heavy foot traffic, helps prevent soil erosion, is disease resistant, flowers in spring to support early pollinators and requires little mowing to look trim.
  2. Ditch The Lawn Clippings Bag. If you haven’t gotten this message already you really should. Left on the lawn, grass clippings help fertilize the soil as they break down and keep the soil moist. This reduces time and cost you need to spend on lawn care. A big added benefit is that it reduces the amount of lawn clippings that go into our landfills. In 2017 the EPA estimated that to be about 35 million tons!
  3. You Don’t Have to Rub Out All Grubs. This is one of my pet peeves and perhaps you have seen me write about the beneficial insects that also spend larval time in the soil before. Don’t just apply grub treatments as a prophylactic measure. If you’re worried, BHG suggests digging up a square foot of turf about two inches into the soil. Five or fewer grubs? No problem. Five to 10? Maybe, but even then consider beneficial nematodes or neem oil as less harmful ways to address your problem.
  4. Make Peace (and Tea) with Dandelions. Early flowering dandelions in our yards are one of the first food supplies for a number of bee and other pollinators when they emerge in the spring. After all, take a look… What else is blooming in your yard or garden that will support them? BHG also tells us that dandelions are a true superfood! Read more here.

I know that for some a perfect lawn is a very visible sign of hard work and great achievement. It also seems to fall into the - dare I say - “manly” thing to do in terms of yard care. There’s just something about riding around on that tractor.

But following these tips may free up more time for other outdoor activities such as relaxing on the patio or taking a walk in a forest preserve with your family that might be way more fun! And why not be more earth-friendly while you’re at it!