Lawns - are they goodies or baddies?


I love my lawn, but don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those types that fertilise, mow and edge to perfection. My lawn never gets watered and I don’t have a grassy monoculture.  My block is mostly edible and ornamental plants with a little bit of lawn in the middle… just big enough to entertain a few people and roll the arm over occasionally… but I love that bit of lawn.

I’ve never been one for the ‘even little lawns are bad’ movement. I wouldn’t dream of replacing my modest bit of green with paving, pebbles or concrete like some garden designers suggest. I know how hot and dusty those surfaces get and I can’t bear to watch the runoff when it rains.

As far as I've always been concerned, turf helps to keep the place cool, it traps dust particles, absorbs water and filters our water supply. On top of that, grass absorbs CO² and converts it into oxygen – concrete can’t do that. When it comes to my passion of gardening, mowing gives me plenty of material for making compost.

I’ve always thought that a pretty good argument for keeping my little grassy patch… only, recent reports on the negative effects of lawns has got me thinking again.

The ABC Science website reveals that while lawns store carbon, they also emit a gas called nitrous oxide, which is 300 times better at trapping heat compared to carbon dioxide. The study also shows that “typical lawn maintenance activities” from fuel burning machines like mowers, brush cutters and leaf-blowers emits four times more carbon dioxide than grass can absorb

Another website suggests that mowing with a petrol-powered mower for 30 minutes will produce the same amount of particulate air pollution as a car travelling approximately 300 kms. Mine takes 15 minutes to mow… that’s 150kms every week!

Still, I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to my lawn. Looks like it's time to dust off that old push cylinder mower. I could do with the exercise.

Push Cylinder Mower

First published: April 2010

Related topics

Sustainable Living, All Gardens, turf, grass, co2, sustainable, lawn, mowing, GROW, Ornamentals
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