Australia’s love of lawns harming the environment, researchers warn
The couple that sprays together stays together say lawn lovers, Anne and John Dimov. (ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia)
Researchers have warned lawn lovers that their green grass obsession could have a significant impact on the environment.
The study conducted by the University of Western Australia and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences looked at research from across the world at the impact of maintaining lawns.
Lead researcher Maria Ignatieva, from UWA’s School of Design, said she was surprised by how much space lawn took up in our cities.
“In Sweden’s urban areas, 50 per cent was covered by lawn. Similar data came from the United States,” Dr Ignatieva said.
The study found that the upkeep of lawn such as high water consumption, the use of pesticides, and the gas emitted from mowing, were all factors that had a significant impact on the environment.
“In Perth, the annual volume of groundwater for irrigating public greenspaces and private open spaces is around 140 gigalitres,” Dr Ignatieva said.
“That would fill around 56,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”
She said there was a place for lawn, but she wanted people to consider other options such as native Australians plants.
“We don’t think about alternatives and what we will do when we have no water,” she said.
It’s all in the soil
Jack Tickenoff, who has worked with plants for more than 20 years and runs a nursery in south-west Western Australia, said lawns were a beautiful thing that were difficult to maintain in Australia.
“A lot of us are built up against the coast [in WA], which is pretty much a sand dune,” he said.
“So, when we try to water anything on sand, the water just goes straight through.”
However, by preparing the soil correctly, using alternative watering methods, and reusing water, Mr Tickenoff said lawns could be more sustainable.
“We like to add clay and it just sort of fills up the porosity of the sand so it’s not going to leak all the water,” he said.
“We can use water that’s already been used — for instance, grey water out of your house, washing machine water, that sort of thing.”
Lawns a hit online
Devotees of a well-manicured lawn have also taken to social media to compare and adore lawns from around the world.
One Facebook page has attracted more than 73,000 followers and features tips on keeping a well-kept lawn.
It also features posts from residents displaying the transformation of their backyards into stunningly kept lawns.
Over the years, Mr Tickenoff has seen how obsessed people can become with their lawns.
“Something that I see a lot in the nursery here seems to be a friendly neighbourhood rivalry where people are trying to compete for a nice lawn,” he said.
Anne and John Dimov have been passionate about their lawn for 39 years.
Their house in Bunbury, in south-west WA, has an immaculate lawn that inspired their neighbours to maintain their own front gardens.
Lawn lovers say, if done correctly, water use is minimal. (ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia)
Ms Dimov said there was no competition between the neighbours, they all just had a love for lawn.
“It’s a bit of a keeping up with the Jones’ type of thing, but we’re all doing it together,” she said.
“It’s a very friendly neighbourhood. [Our neighbour] will get his hose when we’re away and water our garden and then we’ll water his.”
Ms Dimov said she did not mind regular mowing and watering because maintaining a lush green lawn made her happy.
“I just love it, I really can’t explain why, I just love gardening,” she said.