Regenerative Livestyle Blog

Sharing my regeneration journey, enjoying living in harmony with nature

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From Lawn to Meadow

Lawn practice is changing. Public reserves are mowed less often. Many urban garden owners keep an unmowed strip of grass for biodiversity.

Lawns use up to 75% of household water use, they use and leach fertilizer and as all monocultures, lawns are not conducive to biodiversity… Not regenerative! 

Let’s revisit our views on lawns

In the news at the end of October 2022, lawns being a big contributor to climate change – there was a call to dig up some lawn to plant #trees, save on energy (to mow the lawn), on fertilizers and on water.

To regenerate more, why not plant a veggie patch (to reduce food km), mow just a footpath, grow bee friendly flowers… All adds to biodiversity, reduce carbon use and the noise for the neighbours, specially with an electric ride on lawn mower!

Grass roots act like sponge, they absorb water and retain it, reducing flooding and irrigation needs. From The Secret Life of Roots exhibition by US Botanic Garden

We grow a meadow

Here in the park of our property, once a compacted pasture grazed by horses, the grass has been growing for 15 years. It hasn’t been mowed nor cut nor eaten.

We mow footpaths with our new electric ride on lawnmower. Much more silent than the petrol one, clean and free to run, at the same price. All the mowing is done in one hour on a 2.5 hectares property.

Every winter the grass is drying and flattening. Healthy new grass grows through it in spring and summer. And it breaks down in the winter.  It is creating a thick mattress. The land is regenerating. 

  • deep brown rich soil, 
  • absorbing rain and keeping moist in summer, 
  • less work, less energy use, less noise,
  • more and more insects and skinks therefore birds

We observe that our meadow evolves over time. After 15 years, some patches remain green even in the heat of the summer when every unirrigated land is fawn. It’s beautiful and lush. It is a soft big sponge!

While it clearly absorbs carbon and water, as there is a visible improvement of the soil and biodiversity, we have no data.

The Zirkle study says unmowed uneaten grass can absorb from 25gr to 204gr of carbon per m2 per year, depending on conditions, that’s 40000m2 to 4900m2 to absorb a tonne of Carbon per year. That’s quite significant although still very vague.

I am looking for more information on how much carbon does grass capture when left to grow (not grazed, not mowed), decompose and regrow. Let me know!

We love our grass

Grass growing is a natural process creating an abundant source of matter. So we use it.

We keep a row of tall grass between the flower borders and the footpath: it holds the mulch and leaves what the birds usually scatter. Grass grows and hides the rabbit fences. 

Grass is great material to layer the compost, to mulch a small footpath or a plant. By breaking down, it enriches the soil.

Grass is not a threat nor a fight, we don’t control grass. We don’t “weed”!

To clear a grassed area to plant a tree or create a new garden, we cut out and remove the top 5cm, full of roots. Then we loosen the soil and pull more roots. And yes, that’s hard work.

Then grass regrows in competition with our plants, so we pull the roots out which aerates the soil as well. This is caring for our plants, never drudgery. I often thank the blades of couch for pointing in the direction of the roots!

It’s best to use a small tool to pull as much root as possible (specially the dandelion roots, that I clean, dry, roast and grind for my “coffee” – but that’s another post!)

We only pull the shoots we recognise, and observe what grows. Some returning annuals are pleasant surprises.

Mulching generously after cleaning an area limits the regrowth. The thickness of mulch makes it easier to pull the grass out the following time.

The first year we open a garden, we remove the grass regrowth three times, the second and third year a couple of times, then once a year. Overtime, the grass doesn’t grow back much. 

Grass is left in the background but it’s clean and mulched around the bulbs

I nearly forgot to say we do have lawn around the house! It is nice to sit or lie down. Less than 10% of the land is regularly cut and irrigated. That’s a lot of water saving and reduction in mowing time and noise (and dirty fuel usually but not in our case since our ride-on lawnmower is electric, as all our tools are).