In the middle of my lawn, there is a big, brown gash of destruction. It is a muddy pit, carefully dug by my children and then filled by them with water. According to them, it is to attract pigs to our garden. That’s clearly the influence of that cheeky Peppa Pig on the television.
Actually, I was quite proud of my children. I believe gardens are for enjoyment and relaxation, and if that involves the creation of a muddy hole, then so be it. Also, whilst we may not lure in any errant pigs, wet mud is vital for swallows to carry out nest repairs before starting a second brood.
You may have gathered that I am not one of the stripy lawn brigade. I do admire a perfect lawn, but much in the same way I admire someone who irons their pants. It’s impressive but I just don’t have the time or inclination.
My lawn will never be a green carpet of homogenous perfection, but it is a living, diverse place to play and relax. The grass is not overgrown in a way that would offend anyone, but neither is it cut to within a centimetre of the ground every week. We also permit weeds in all their colourful chaos.
The result is fantastic for the environment. In fact, I think I can count at least six species of plant thriving in the lawn alongside boring old grass, such as dandelion, daisy, red and white clover, plantain, moss and black medic. Yes, these are technically ‘weeds’ that should be eradicated, but as threatened bees buzz happily over the nectar and pollen sources, I find myself asking ‘weeds to who, exactly?’
It is true that I’m not going to win any horticulture prizes, but my garden is healthily chemical free and I am blissfully removed from the suburban pressure of mole bashing and weed pulling every weekend. From my comfortable position on the deckchair, it really appears to be a curious obsession to wish to control our outdoors space to this degree.
Now I know that bowling green aficionados are unlikely to suddenly declare that their pride and joy will instead become a wildflower meadow, but how about a little less of the ironing pants mentality?
Less frequent mowing will not result in public humiliation, nor will easing off on the ‘feed and weed’ schedule. Instead, just leave the grass clippings in place – this isn’t more laziness from me, but sound gardening advice because the clippings contain the same nutrients as a fertiliser, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Instead of aiming for grass as a monoculture, you could seed your lawn with types of clover alongside the grass. This means you will end up with a lawn that requires little feeding, and remains a fresh green, even when your neighbour’s is parched by drought.
Not everyone will want their own bespoke pig pit. However, we can let more wildlife into our gardens if we simply relax our notion of a perfect lawn, just a little.
[first published in the EDP and EADT)