Many take a certain pride in the sight of their perfectly manicured lawn, but Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don is calling for an end to the tidy lawn “obsession”.
The 65-year-old told Radio Times magazine that “cutting grass burns lots of fossil fuel, makes a filthy noise and is about the most injurious thing you can do to wildlife.” Meanwhile, letting the grass grow, he said, “is probably the single most effective thing you can do in any garden of any size, to encourage, particularly, insect life, but also small mammals, invertebrates, reptiles.”
So, if your velvety lawn is starting to give you pangs of eco-guilt, here are a few ideas for transforming it into an environmental retreat that you and the wildlife will appreciate.
1. Dig a pond
The frogs, birds and insects will thank you. While being mindful of unsupervised children and pets, replacing your bowling green in favour of a pond is pretty much guaranteed to bring all manner of creatures to your yard. And watching a water feature is considerably more peaceful than hauling the mower out of the shed.
2. Sow a wildflower meadow
For our pollinators, a wildflower meadow can provide an absolute buffet of nectar, while also taking the blank green of a lawn and giving you height, colour and a range of architectural plants in its stead. Try wildflower mixes and native species such as ox-eye daisies, snake’s head fritillary and yellow rattle.
3. Fill your lawn with bulbs
You don’t have to obliterate your lawn entirely, but you could break it up a little with bulbs that’ll poke their heads up every spring such as daffodils and hyacinths.
4. Create a grass maze
Not quite ready to give up your mower entirely? Put that penchant for tidying to a different use by letting your lawn grow wild and to a good height, before cutting sections of it to create a maze. It’ll entertain the grandkids, support wildlife, and satisfy that need to continue lawn maintenance.
5. Turn your grass into a vegie bed
How much use does your lawn actually get? If your dreams of using it as a badminton court or football pitch are realised only occasionally, growing fruit or veg is something that could bring you joy all year round. It might be time to rip up the turf, buy some strawberry plants and start sowing your own cucumbers instead.
6. Introduce woodland plants
When you walk through woodland, scraps of grass intermingle with moss and bluebells, shrubs and tussocks, rocky patches and wildlife hotels (aka fallen logs). It won’t feature straight lines and sharp borders, but taking your lawn and acquainting it with woodland flora might just make your garden more compelling – for you and its non-human visitors.
7. Plant an orchard
If you’re lucky enough to have a sizeable garden, there’s no mandate saying you have to treat it like all the neighbours have theirs. Go wild. Plant an apricot or a fig; create a citrus or olive grove; invest in rare apple varieties. Use your grass as a starting point and grow upwards – make your own canopy.
How often do you cut your grass? Did you realise how bad it is for the environment? Are you going to transform your lawn?
– With PA
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