It is an indisputable fact that people who have them, either love or hate their lawns (unless you’re like me and don’t actually care one way or the other, except other than to make the square meterage of them as small as possible, as those eco-friendly-minded amongst us believe they are green deserts, but are also are aware that if you have kids and dogs, you need a little patch for them) and an inordinate amount of time, effort and money is spent on making them look really good. And water – let’s not forget that. Unlike in the US where it seems on the whole the water consumption issue isn’t an issue, here in South Africa we really do need to ensure that we aren’t as extravagant with our water usage. There are about 40 million acres of lawn in the United States—three times the acreage planted with irrigated corn, so let’s work out how much water may be needed. Did you know that although the average lawn absorbs water six times more effectively than a wheat field, it will absorb ten times more water on a sunny day than on a cloudy one – and that about 65% of all water used in American households goes to watering lawns? In summer, that’s about 900 litres Per Person Per Day! Well, keep in mind that grass’s weight is 75% to 80% water, so a lot needs to go into it to keep it from drying out.
So essentially, if you’re going to have a lawn, you need to be savvy in how you do it, to ensure that it doesn’t become the most expensive ‘accessory’ to grace your home. Of course, if you’re laying a lawn from new, it makes sense to prepare the soil as best as possible to ensure that the lawn is given help in being more waterwise, and of course to use indigenous varieties that handle our climactic conditions with a touch more aplomb than the overseas cousins. (And do, if you’re laying turf for the first time, install a drip irrigation system along with it.)
In the Lawn’s defence though, they are very efficient oxygen producers - about three times more effective than trees. And, their season to produce oxygen is much longer. Even a smaller sized lawn (around 15m x 15m) releases enough oxygen daily to meet the needs of a family of four for 24 hours and absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride and other toxins.
But rather than give you the 101 on how to get your lawn looking pristine (such as doing the right thing at the right time, like scarifying when winter’s almost done to dethatch; don’t mow too low; don’t water or feed species that go dormant during winter, like kikuyu in that season; use an organic fertiliser higher in Nitrogen – that first number on the bags) why not find out more about this essential garden.
What’s older than grass? Not much according to scientists that found one species of grass of sea grass that dates back to 200,000 years ago. Researchers know this species from the Mediterranean Sea to be one of the oldest organisms in the world, at least of the ones discovered so far! It’s estimated that there are over 1 million plant varieties and only about 350,000 of those have names (And no, don’t ask us to give you those names and which are suitable for your garden lawn – that’s what the good people at Lifestyle Home Garden info are there for!) Of this amount, there are over 10,000 types of grass species in the world, which is really quite incredible but this amount still only makes up a small percentage of all plant species in the world.
Grasses have evolved to grow at their base instead of their tips in order to protect themselves unlike most plants. This allows them to be grazed or burned without receiving any damage to their growing points and allows them to regrow quickly.
And that they do. The average lawn grows at a rate of about 7.5 cm per month. That’s a fair amount of mowing that needs to be done. A recent study found that about 65,000 people per year are hospitalised with lawnmowing- related injuries (I remember a friend of my father’s cutting almost all the toes of one foot off trying to Flymo a slope and slipping under it – hey, gardening’s not for sissies!). But if you use a pushmower, you can burn calories! Yes, for instance, a 68 kg person can burn around 380 calories in 30 minutes! Since a Krispy Kreme donut is 350 calories, you can burn off breakfast with a quarter acre mow. BTW, another environmental fact - the amount of pollution emitted by the average petrol lawn mower when run for an hour is equal to that of a car being driven for roughly 322 kilometres. For the environmentally concerned, or just plain lazy, that’s a great reason to mow your lawn a little less often.
The most popular lawn ornament is the pink flamingo (250,000 are sold every year).
Don’t forget, you can also go the ‘fake grass’ route, and these days there are so many great looking ‘varieties’ to choose from. And AstroTurf, which was patented in 1967, and originally named Chemgrass, is evolving all the time and becoming the preferred choice of ‘green space’ in small gardens.
However, if you do love your lawn, or want to help those who want one to be a responsible lawn owner, just get hold of Lifestyle college and find out when they’re running their next lawn maintenance course. With all the work that goes into them, getting lawns right first time, every time, is a must...