A lawn can be much more than grass!
By Edith Smeesters, biologist and author
What’s Your Definition of a Beautiful Lawn?
We often compare a beautiful lawn to a golf green. But what if we changed that reference point?
What if we saw the ideal lawn as one that smells like a spring morning with all those delightful fragrances that remind us of our childhood?
Or a flowery, colorful lawn that attracts a wide range of useful organisms to control outbreaks: birds, predatory insects and more?
Or an original and sensual lawn that you can walk barefoot on without fear of absorbing toxic pesticides?
Or a lawn where your children can roll around and play without danger and that your cat can chew on without getting sick?
Wouldn’t you be proud of such a lawn?
Biodiversity Is the Key to a Natural Balance
In a meadow or a wild forest, there are always several species living in association. Plants that appear spontaneously like that are always the most suitable for the habitat. They germinate and thrive because the environment suits them. They help each other, stabilize the soil and prepare the ground for other more demanding or more delicate varieties. In addition, wild plants live in close association with other living soil organisms: insects, nematodes, bacteria, earthworms, etc. If a pest destroys a plant, or even an entire species, there will always be other species present to fill in the gaps and take over.
The “Perfect” Lawn
The concept of the ideal lawn, a perfect lawn that looks just like a golf green, that lawn care companies have been promoting for over 70 years now, is practically the opposite of such natural mechanisms. The so-called “perfect” lawn is an extremely poor environment from an ecological point of view. It consists only of grasses often installed hastily on poor, compacted soil. To survive under such artificial conditions, a lawn needs chemical fertilizers and pesticides and a whole lot of care.
Learning to Accept Nature
To have a dense, natural lawn in a healthy environment, you can improve the soil to make it more suited to lawn grasses. However, it just isn’t possible to grow only grasses. When you try, you find yourself waging a constant war against other plants that withstand regular mowing. In addition, a golf green, grasses-only lawn is a monoculture and monocultures have always been a source of constant problems insects and disease problems as well. Wouldn’t it be simpler and above all more natural to accept biodiversity in your lawn?
Food for thought!
About the Author
Edith Smeesters is the author of several French-language books on ecological horticulture such as the Guide du jardinage écologique, Éditions Broquet, 2013.
Photos by Edith Smeesters