Great Britain was always renowned as a nation of lawn lovers. But in recent decades, the lawn has been regarded as the bête noire of the gardening media. How did this happen?
For centuries we have enjoyed cultivating pleasant green areas around our dwellings. Yet suddenly, by the end of the 20th century, we regarded lawns as fossil-fuel hungry and needing copious amounts of chemicals and other resources, making it the enemy of the environment. However, the real problem is that the lawn has never had a spokesperson to correct this misinformation - until now.
Recently the real truth about lawns has been emerging, loud and clear. People are appreciating the true value of the lawn as both an aesthetic and an environmental asset. And it's all because two myths have been exposed.
The first myth is that the perfect lawn exists and is something we all pursue. It isn’t, and if we do it is only because we are told to. The term ‘perfect lawn’ makes great sales copy for all kinds of lawn merchandise but in reality the ‘perfect lawn’ is unobtainable. During my time at the Oxfordshire golf club, I managed both men and money in unmeasurable amounts, striving for the goal of perfection. And whilst this work in no way resembled domestic lawncare, it made me realise that ‘perfect’ doesn't and cannot exist even at that professional level. Does this matter?
Of course not. I can remember in my fathers and even my grandfather's day that in spite of meticulous and obsessive attention to beautifully trimmed edges and a very short cut, there were still no perfect lawns. It didn't matter. Then, as today, our goals and desires are different in each and every garden and location. And this is the core message in my book, Modern Lawn Care. But what about the other myth?
This one, arguably, is more important because it concerns the environment. The gardening media in particular has been responsible during the past 20 years or so for making us believe that the lawn is environmentally very unfriendly. Now, I can understand where this myth first took hold; remember that this period has seen a great many chemicals being banned from Garden Centres and other sales outlets for very good reasons. But the lawn should never have been dragged into this argument.
Yes, throwing chemicals willy nilly onto our gardens can never be healthy. But good lawncare is all about harnessing nature’s power and making things work better naturally. Chemicals are part of everyday life whether we like it or not. But good lawn care doesn’t need loads of chemicals. Did you know, for example, that of the 38 also chemicals listed on the Royal horticultural Society's list of banned chemicals, only three were designed for lawn use? This suggests that the use of chemicals on lawns is not only largely unnecessary but has been exaggerated in the past.
Let's look at some other facts. Lawns and indeed grasses are a very important part of our DNA. Grass is one of our most resilient plants, covering approximately 20% of the planet. Grass is one of our more efficient systems for storing carbon dioxide. It gives off huge amounts of oxygen and protects our valuable soils from heat and erosion. It's even in our food chain - we simply could not live without it.
So, we are witnessing a welcome revolution in our gardens as more and more people learn these wonderful facts about grass and lawns. We are all beginning to see the bigger picture and to ignore ill-given advice from the past. Modern lawncare is all about different values, new values which set a higher benchmark for all of our gardening activities. Instead of focusing on perfection, modern lawncare focuses on healthy and happy plants.
Little wonder then that people are falling back in love with lawns. The future for lawns is bright - the future is green!