The grass covering up most gardens in the United States creates a huge negative impact on the usage of water and pesticides, we explore some sustainable lawn alternatives.
Lawns are resource hogs. It takes a lot of water to keep your lawn green, plus there’s the energy you use to mow it regularly. On top of that, it’s not great for the environment. Lawns are a kind of plant monoculture, and grasses are usually non-native.
Yet, the lawn is a status symbol in many houses, for which house owners take great pride. However is it a sustainable practice?
The negative impact of lawn
And when it comes to the lawn care of this monoculture crop, it takes 3 trillion gallons of water, 200 million gallons of gas (for mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides are used for lawn maintenance every year.
Furthermore, these fertilizers contain large concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous, which drains from the lawns into waterways, causing algal blooms and the contamination of drinking water. Not to mention, herbicides and pesticides kill other plants and insects, disrupting the ecosystem even further. By eliminating native wildlife to the area, ultimately it has an effect in the biodiversity and creates consequences in food chains.
Naturescaping & sustainable lawn alternatives
There are some great, sustainable alternatives that use up fewer resources and give more back to the planet, creating ecosystems for birds, insects, and other living things to thrive. Below are a few things to think about as you figure out how to make your lawn a better place for nature.
Choose native plants
Instead of investing uniquely in a monoculture crop – grass – maybe you can consider adding native plants and flowers that attract birds and pollinators such as bees. By providing them a home, you support turning the tide agains their rapidly declining populations.
Furthermore, you support rebuilding the food chain, as plants provide food for bugs & bees, which are then food for other mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Overall, you will be contributing with your garden to restore the biodiversity while creating a beautiful landscape full of life in your backyard.
A wildflower meadow is one of the lowest maintenance options once you’ve got the initial work out of the way. It looks beautiful and provides an excellent place for birds, bees, insects and small animals to feed and nest.
Be aware, however, that there is more to turning your lawn into a meadow than simply scattering seeds. Most of the time, you will need to get rid of the grass first. You can do this in a variety of ways, with perhaps the easiest approach being to smother it with cardboard or plastic. You can purchase a variety of seeds for both annual and perennial native plants to create your meadow.
Raised planting beds are a great way to start teaching yourself more about gardening. You can get a kit to build your beds or you can construct your own. A raised bed means you don’t have a till, which is less work for you and better for the soil. You’ll have fewer weeds to deal with, and it’s easier to protect your plants from pests.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, consider creating a forest garden – a permaculture-based approach to growing fruits and vegetables in your backyard that makes an effort to replicate the kind of interdependent ecosystem you would find in an actual forest.
You should try to create a mix of different kinds of plants: trees, vines, ground cover and shrubs. Depending on where you live, this could mean having apple trees, blueberry bushes, kale, strawberries, wild garlic and much more.
The best thing is you don’t need a big budget to change things up, but there may be things that you want to try that will be easier if you have some money to spend. If you’re a little short and need cash, you may want to consider taking out a personal loan once you have an idea of what you want to do and what it will cost.