Graham Porter on lawns
Mar 20 2010 by Chris Mellor, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
ARE you looking forward to the mowing season again?
That weekly drudge up and down the lawn with the weekly question of what you do with all those grass clippings, particularly now that they are not classified as being very good on a compost heap and quickly become a smelly, slimy mess if you just pile them up in a corner, adding to your carbon footprint.
It must surely make you ask the question of whether there is any other better use for that large piece of unproductive ground, often covering in excess of 80% of the average garden’s size.
If you go back in gardening history, the lawn did not really appear on our radar until the likes of Capability Brown and his successors appeared, with their grandiose ideas about sweeping areas of grass that, with the aid of a ha ha (drop fence), appeared to merge seamlessly with the wider landscape when viewed from the large country estate’s property.
For us lesser mortals the lawn did not come into our thinking until urbanisation began in the 19th century.
The cylinder-action lawn mower was not invented until 1830, with grassed areas having previously been cut with a scythe or a temporary herd of sheep.
Now, the lawn is an accepted part of the British garden, acting for some as a status symbol and the weekly treadmill an accepted part of the domestic routines of millions of householders.
And yet, if you were to analyse the annual cost of caring for this strange green patch, you may be a little horrified, in fact you may well feel like digging it all up and planting potatoes – now there’s a possibility – Dig for Victory all over again.
Has it really taken us more than 60 years to realise this?
The costs include your electricity bill, assuming that most people use electrical grass cutting equipment these days; an annual bill for servicing and/or replacing all or part of the equipment; fertiliser twice a year; weedkiller once a year; moss killer once a year; the hire of a scarifier or spiker once a year and perhaps the odd square metre of turf or bag of grass seed to repair or replace areas of the lawn.
You may well have chosen to employ one of these new mobile lawn care companies, in which case your bill will be considerably higher, as many tasks become “essential for the perfect lawn”, according to the lawn care companies!
With the huge upsurge in the ‘Grow Your Own’ movement in recent years, perhaps 2010 should be designated the year for British people to seriously reduce the size of their unproductive lawns and increase the size of more productive land, planting a few vegetables or some fruit bushes to help feed the family and maybe friends as well if you dig enough up – it would make an interesting survey to find out the hectarage (acreage) of land currently occupied by expensive unproductive grass areas in domestic, suburban Britain.
It might also help families that are struggling to cope with the recession and give them and their families some healthy, home-grown food and some valuable fresh air and exercise.
It is also a great family pastime, sowing, planting, weeding, watering and harvesting together and then preparing, cooking and eating that delicious home grown produce.
Let me know what you think we should do with The Great British Lawn by writing to me at Graham’s Great British Lawn Debate, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Queen Street South, Huddersfield, HD1 3DU