This article is in line with the others on this blog as it propose a vegetal alternative. This time what is peculiar is that I propose a vegetal alternative to another vegetal product: lawn.
Most suburban houses are surrounded by a lawn. It could be seen as a symbol of the control on the immediate environment in pseudo-harmony with nature. A lawn is undoubtedly more ecological than asphalt or concrete pavement but it remains nevertheless a pressure on the environment.
A lawn is essentially grass shoot which must be prevented from reaching maturity; this requires a human interventions. During the growth period, every 2 weeks it is necessary to allocate, for its maintenance, part of a fine weather day; maybe an entire one if you have a large property. Lower-maintenance turf seeds have been introduced which, according to the manufacturers, necessitates only one cut per month. However, most commuters opt for the Kentucky Bluegrass grass variety (Poa Pratensis) with conventional maintenance requirements. Just for fun, calculate how much time per year you feel you spend to pamper your lawn.
Grass maintenance and the environment
To mow the lawn, few people choose a manual push mower. The motorized mowers’ cacophony causes perturbations in the neighbourhood’s quietness during nice weekend summer days. Noise is also a form of pollution.
Apart from the harmful emissions of the mower’s engine, the environmental impact of having a uniform lawn extends to weed killers, lombricides, insecticides or fungicides, as well as various fertilizers (phosphates, nitrates, etc). To keep a bright green lawn, some owners even go so far as to sacrifice a precious resource, drinking water, which itself requires its share of chemicals for treatment.
But what else can you do to keep the land domesticated and avoid living in the middle of a fallow field (which many municipalities prohibit)
Since 2008, Linda and I have a no grass policy around the house. This decision brought several life improvements:
• First we save lots of time in maintenance, especially combatting weeds.
• We can leave for many weeks, and the property does not look unoccupied.
• We save money on chemicals.
• Less pollution in the neighborhood.
How did we achieve this
Necessarily, the ground must be covered with something because of one of nature’s fundamental law: never to leave the ground uncovered (unless there is a chronic water shortage or permanent extreme cold).
We chose to reproduce the forest ground covered with plant debris. We went to get tree bark (mainly hemlock) from the sawmill in a neighboring locality. If you have a pruner among your acquaintances this could be an helpful option. Shredded branches constitute an excellent ground cover. One must be careful however to avoid shredding from diseased trees carrying parasites, such as the emerald ash borer; we would not want to contribute to their spread.
If you already have a lawn but want to apply this concept, you must first cover the grass with an opaque and airtight canvas throughout the growing season (from spring to late August) to eliminate any grass, good or bad(1).
After removing all traces of latent plants, about 5 cm of shredded tree bark or branches is sufficient to protect against the emergence of unwanted herbs. Planting trees and shrubs, naturally found in the environment, will finalize your landscaping transformation.
In conclusion, the replacement of grass for a more natural landscaping, which follows more closely nature’s principles, gives an extra respite to our planet … as well as to the house owners.
Note: I recommend to read “Zero mauvaise herbe c’est possible” by Serge Fortier