Eco-Friendly Sod?

I’d like to follow up on Mathieu’s thoughts of September 3 on lawns and good neighborliness, because I think the desire for “perfect lawns” is closely linked to the fact that the vast majority of new lawns in Quebec, as in most North American suburbs, are made of sod. Sod is generally composed of 100% Kentucky bluegrass. This is generally referred to as “prestige turf”.

Unfortunately, it’s a monoculture, and since we paid a lot of money to install it, we want to maintain this uniformity. But it’s going to be a constant battle to keep out dandelions and other invaders, as a monoculture is also much more susceptible to pests like bugs and grubs. Since most homeowners don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with all these hassles, maintenance companies naturally offer to apply selective herbicides and “government-approved” insecticides.

Traditional sod rolls are 100% Kentucky bluegrass. Photo: Edith Smeesters

Lawn Monoculture: Cleanliness vs. Biodiversity

This is a source of great frustration for those who pay for this service, or who spend a lot of time on all fours eliminating intruders, while their neighbor gives nature free rein. It is especially problematic in new neighborhoods where all the owners have created a nice uniformity with sod, until a newcomer decides to seed his lawn. By the time the grass is dense enough to occupy the entire space, dandelions and other wildflowers have had plenty of time to establish themselves. In the eyes of some neighbors, this will break up the uniformity of the street and multiply the undesirable seeds carried to their homes by the wind. It’s the conflict between a certain desire for “cleanliness” vs. biodiversity.

Wild plants are seen as dirty in an impeccable lawn! Photo: Edith Smeesters

Times are changing and a new generation is much more sensitive to the environment, the importance of pollinators and biodiversity. But the fact remains that it takes much longer to achieve a dense lawn by seeding than it does to lay sod, which gives a beautiful immediate effect. What’s more, if you lay sod with the idea of letting wildflowers return, it may take a few years before it looks good, and you’ll probably need to give it a boost with scarification and overseeding.

An Eco-Friendly Sod Producer

Fortunately, a few years ago, Groupe Richer, a Quebec-based turfgrass producer, decided to produce eco-friendly sod with biodiversity. Wow! It’s a revolution in the turfgrass industry! And they offer a whole range of options: low-maintenance lawns, biodiverse, with clover, for shady areas, and so on. This saves hours of labor, gives you a beautiful, eco-friendly look that avoids all kinds of problems later on, and you no longer have to wait a year to get the density you need so that children can play on the lawn soon afterwards.

This product is not yet available in garden centers, as they cannot stock a variety of rolls of grass without loss. However, Groupe Richer can certainly help you if you have an interesting project in mind. They are present in several regions of Quebec. Are there any companies in your area that offer this type of product?

Eco-Clover sod. Photo: Groupe Richer

Edith Smeesters is a biologist and a pioneer in ecological horticulture in Quebec. She has given countless conferences and workshops and written several books on the subject for over 20 years. She founded and has been president of several environmental organizations, such as Nature-Action Québec and the Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. She was a key figure in the creation of the Pesticide Management Code of Quebec, which has been in effect since 2003. She has received several awards for her involvement in the environment and is a member of the prestigious "Cercle des Phénix".

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