Does eco-friendly mean lawn-less?

Gardening experts offer tips and tricks for a lush, eco-friendly garden in our waterwise gardeners' roundtable.

Credit: iStock / travelpixpro

Carol Pope: The question of whether or not to include a lawn is being asked more and more nowadays. Here are a few questions pertaining to that—and you may have a lot to say about this or just a little, depending on whether or not you support the idea of a lawn.

Is an eco-friendly landscape a lawn-less landscape, or is there some compromise here for people who would like to have some grass for recreation areas?

Paul J. Tukey:

In our campaign, I always tell people that if the only time they see a part of their property is on top of their riding lawn mower, or behind their push mower, then they should ask themselves: “Isn’t there something more interesting you can do with that part of your property?” Many other forms of landscaping are better for your wallet and the environment.

More from the Waterwise Gardeners Roundtable:

Lush lawn, waterwise lawn?

Reform a guzzler garden

Waterwise quick fixes

Recycling garden waste

Waterwise tips for new gardeners

A healthy-looking lawn

Herbicides and pesticides

Growing food on less water

Eco-friendly ponds

Having said that, I would never advocate eliminating grass entirely, nor would I ever install artificial turf, which is an environmental nightmare. When you do grow lawn, make sure you have enough good topsoil in place. Grow regionally appropriate species. If you don’t walk, run or play on your lawn, consider growing one of the truly slow-growing and drought-tolerant species, such as Buffalo or Bahia grass. Keep your mower blade as high as possible in the heat of the summer (unless you’re growing Bermuda grass or seashore paspalum). Always mulch your clippings back into the soil; definitely don’t bag the clippings.

Nan Sterman:

I’ve come to think of recreational lawns as I do swimming pools: They are best as community resources than in individual backyards. Pools and lawns belong in community centres, parks, etc. where they will get the most use—and really fit better than in a backyard.

Funny enough, I find that when it comes to couples, women typically want to get rid of their grass while men usually argue to keep it…