How to create a guilt-free lawn

Leslie Welch, advanced Master Gardener from Kamloops, has recently taken out her lawn.

“It wasn’t a great lawn to begin with because I didn’t use Weed ‘N Feed,” she laughs. “I have beds in there and some xeriscape plants. I have incorporated some edibles in there as well,” said Welch. “That was kind of a fun thing to do.”

Like Welch, a growing contingent of homeowners are re-evaluating the way they look at lawns.

“There are advantages to a lawn for sure. It’s cooling. It does provide oxygen into the atmosphere. It absorbs carbon dioxide,” said Welch.
“But it’s high maintenance. And of course people don’t like weeds in their lawn. So then, they’re tempted to use Weed ‘N Feed, which we’re not allowed to do in Kamloops anymore.”

So far, 31 communities in B.C. including Kamloops have enacted bylaws banning the use of pesticides.

“People haven’t really used appropriate practices,” she added. Instead, in an effort to achieve the perfect lawn, people tend to mow too short, water more than necessary and overfertilize.

Fortunately, it’s easy to create sustainable lawns.

The first step is to have a good soil base. Building up the soil with organic matter and minerals will provide a good foundation.

Eliminating pesticides is important. Planting herbs that deter pests and attract helpful insects may help keep the pest population down.

To conserve water, Welch recommends installing a drip system. If using a conventional sprinkler, she said it’s important to practice smart watering techniques. The best time to water is either early morning or early evening and when it’s not windy so there’s less evaporation. Watering in the evening is not advisable as it attracts more pests.

Most people have lawns simply because they don’t know what to do with their yard. A good alternative is to break it up and incorporate raised vegetable or flower beds to make it more interesting.

In her book Food Not Lawns, author Heather Flores claims that people can build better communities and food security using their own yards.
“In a world where so many lack access to basic needs such as food and shelter . . . mowed grass seems an arrogant and negligent indulgence,” wrote Flores.

Whether you decide to keep your lawn or reinvent it with vegetable or flower beds, becoming more sustainable in gardening is the way to go.

If you’re interested in becoming better gardeners, the Master Gardeners are holding a training session in the fall. Learn about lawns and alternatives, sustainable landscape design, organic vegetable gardening and others. Classes run on Saturdays from Sept. 11 to Dec. 11 at Thompson Rivers University.

For more information, contact Leslie Welch at 250-828-2321.

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