S is for Sustainability this Earth Day. Yesterday I introduced Tom Benjamin who designs sustainable, low maintenace landscapes to an attentive audience at our local ‘Little e’ (not the Big Eastern Exposition in Springfield) where the theme was saving energy. The topic was Reduce Your Lawn and Increase Your Leisure. Since I have been writing about low-mow landscapes I was interested to hear how Tom calculated the benefits.
There are many. The first benefit, according to my husband, is less of his labor. But Tom pointed out that there are 40 million acres of lawn in the US. That is an area larger than the state of New York. Most of those lawns are fertilized, dosed with herbicides and irrigated. There are financial costs to all those aspects of growing a lawn, but there is also an environmental cost. Lawns use more fertilizers than farmers, and the run off from those fertilizers wash into our water systems. In addition, lawns do not support any wildlife, insects or birds.
In addition, an hour of power lawn mowing produces more air pollution than 5 automobiles driving for an hour. And, of course, there is the gas and oil that it takes to run a power mower.
So, the question is, if we are looking for sustainability in our domestic landscape, how can we accomplish this. First there is hardscaping, patios and walkways, but make sure some of those use permeable paving materials. We want to keep as much rain as possible on the land where it falls.
We can plant shrubs and trees and groundcovers that are drought tolerant and will not need irrigation. More money saved. Using native shrubs, trees and groundcovers will also support the web of life. Sustainability means supporting biodiversity. This is a big topic and fortunately there are a number of books that can help gardeners make sustainable decisions when they begin to reduce their lawn. After the talk The audience spent a few minutes looking at the books I had written about. Energy Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for Your Home and Garden, by our own local Expert Sue Reed is a book that Tom uses as a text in his teaching. Beautiful N0-Mow Yard: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives by Evelyn J. Hadden and Lawn Gone: Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternaatives for your Yard by Pam Penick deliver tons of information and inspiration. In her book The Edible Front Yard: the Mow-less, Grow More Plan for a Beautiful Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler takes a delicious tack on reducing lawn. I also want to mention Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping with Colorful, Low Maintenace Ground Covers by Barbara W. Ellis. All of these books will give you ideas about ways to increase the sustainability into your landscape and garden.
How much lawn do you need?
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