Folks, here in my usually dusty neck of the woods, we’ve finally had some decent rain, and now we’re dealing with more grass than a dodgy hippy’s campervan.
So for the next few weeks, in the time-honoured tradition of making hay while the sun shines, the ‘burbs will be alive with the sound of mowing.
And while I love the look, feel and smell of freshly sheared turf, I’ve been thinking about why we have some insatiable urge to keep our lawns perfectly manicured (particularly when the smoky mower next door blasts to life).
Like most suburb dwellers, I’ve spent a lot of time behind, servicing, cleaning, fixing, and yelling, at mowers, because I had an unshakeable belief that all children needed a yard to play in.
A ‘nice’ yard. Basically, a weed free, neatly trimmed to perfection, soft, green lawn.
Turned out what they really wanted was someone (chiefly, me) to play games with them. And, looking back, I could have spent a lot more time with the kids at the nearest park, beach or playground if I hadn’t been so busy maintaining my yard to within an inch of its’ unnatural life.
Eventually I severely reduced my mowing time by creating garden beds which covered most of the yard.
Soon the kids had swings to play on, trees to climb (fall out of), cubby houses, fruit to eat (or throw at each other), vegies (with holes and spots) and the occasional interaction with some of Queensland’s more interesting wildlife, i.e., snakes, bees, spiders, echidnas, lizards, frogs, more snakes, birds and the occasional possum… did I mention snakes?
To be honest, I was inspired by a mate in Brisbane who turned his inner-city, suburban, yard into a bush block full of native trees and shrubs with winding paths to and from the house. It was a brilliant bird habitat and a delight for adults and children to walk through, play in and explore.
He’d transformed his yard into a forest for four reasons: he liked privacy, loathed mowing, loved trees and birds and, I think chiefly, because it really pissed-off his neighbours.
When he moved on, the new owners cut down everything over three inches high and turfed the entire yard. Hello delighted neighbours. Goodbye privacy. So long birds. Toodle-oo spare time on the weekends as they pressed their noses into the mowing, watering, fertilising, clipping, poisoning, edging, planting, potting and sprinkling grindstone.
Look, they’re not lawns, they’re time sinks! Green handcuffs! Grassy Prisons! Actual Hardyards. Turf Treadmills… (ok, we get the picture, get on with it! Ed)
Unless you’re keen on lots of work, sunburn and boredom, an empty backyard, devoid of trees, where the grass outnumbers your gardens is about as exciting to look at, and play in, as an empty swimming pool (without the skateboards).
And as our summers get increasingly hotter and drier, our suburban lawns are going to get a lot thirstier. Honestly, using millions of litres of water each year to keep lawns green must be the height of stupidity for residents in this parched country.
Obviously getting rid of lawns altogether isn’t an option, but could they survive with much less water, fertiliser and poison? Certainly.
Plus, do they need to be mown so regularly? (Noisy, smoking mower, neighbour I’m looking at YOU pal!)
Ours hasn’t been mown in weeks, and I haven’t received a single complaint; yet.
Perhaps we could get used to seeing our grass grow higher than the bottom of our thongs? And, is it a crime to let some weeds grow? Especially if they’re not poisonous or spiky.
Maybe it’s time to rethink our love affair with the perfect lawn and spend more time with the children?
This article first appeared in the Regrow Queensland e-zine. Check it out!