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Lawns – are they goodies or baddies?

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Gardeners, environmentalists and scientists alike… for years they’ve been debating one of life’s most pressing questions; are lawns good or bad? Phil Dudman is a fan of this Aussie icon, but the scientific evidence has him feeling uncertain.

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

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.

You can find Phil’s organic lawn care tips in our Early Summer 2023 (OG 145) available here.

OG 145 cover