[Infographic] How to create your urban garden?
A recent horticultural report left many gasping about what the future may hold. Enjoy your lawn now because it won’t be there in fifty years thanks to our changing climate – or so we’re told. To be fair, the report is a worthy attempt to see into the future, but it bases its projections as much on our habits as gardeners as it does on science. And that’s why it kind of misses the point.
You see, lawns have been coping happily for years with changing weather patterns. Grass is nature’s most powerful, adaptable plant and I promise you that it is not going to disappear just because we get a little less rain than before.
In fact, grass is one of our super-plants, able to just shut down and preserve its energy when it all gets too hot and then spring back to life when the mercury drops a little – how cool is that?
But the gardening world is beginning to panic about our increasing dry spells. And because scare stories always hog the headlines, reports can sometimes be easily misrepresented. I don’t think that’s entirely fair or helpful.
Look, we all know what happens to lawns in extended dry periods. Some areas stay green (thank goodness for shade!) and some go brown. But when it rains again, the lawn greens right back up and we stop fretting. The same thing is happening out there in fields, meadows, verges, etc. And of course, some individual (older) grass plants don’t make it, but traditional grasses love spreading and soon fill up any spaces.
I’ll tell you why; it’s because people love pointing the finger of blame, so when we see a sprinkler playing over a lawn, we frown and mutter under our breath.
But stop for a moment – consider WHY that lawn ‘needs’ watering. It may be a small prestige lawn that has to be kept green through the summer – fair enough; but it is just as likely to be an ordinary lawn that is just in really poor condition. Or perhaps the gardener simply doesn’t realise that the lawn can happily take a rest in the heat.
And that’s what I’d like to see more of in these horticultural reports in the future – useful factual information to help people a) look after their lawns better (after all they are a vital part of our living environment) and b) to chill when our lawn takes a natural break in extreme conditions.
In any 12-month period, our lawns get plenty of water from nature. But they need our help to hold onto that water, to get the nutrition they need and to maintain a good soil structure under the surface (helping nurture the roots, absorb rainwater and retain moisture).
When a lawn starts to lose colour in the summer we leap to the conclusion that it’s because of the arid heat. This is the trigger for the magazines and TV gardeners to attack lawns as impractical (try telling that to the flora and fauna that benefit from this eco-contributor) and to urge us to replace them with gravel or plastic grass. But maybe the problem has nothing to do with heat and drought; maybe the grass is simply starved of nutrients? Or maybe the thick thatch layer is starving the soil of air and rain?
To keep a sickly lawn green in the summer requires a huge amount of water. But take a healthy lawn, and it will return to thick, green grass as soon as the drought has passed. And as modern lawn care is easy and does not use toxic chemicals, maybe that is the topic that the writers of reports and others should focus on if we are to enjoy our lawns in 50, 100 or 150 years from now.
You see, nature has a way of sorting things out and making corrections. And, with the right help, your lawn is one the most adaptable items growing in your garden today.
David Hedges-Gower is the UK’s leading lawn expert and has more than 36 years of lawn and turf experience. Professional grounds people, landscape specialists, commercial property developers and leisure gardeners – have benefited from David’s enthusiasm and knowledge.
David is a National Trust advisor and was formerly advisor to Homebase, he is a regular on BBC Radio and a favourite on the national horticultural lecture circuit.
David’s fantastic new book on Modern Lawn Care extends his love for and knowledge of the topic. This is the first comprehensive and authoritative guide to lawn care for over 40 years!
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