The brilliance of brown lawns: why your grass shouldn’t always ben greener


Name: Brown lawns.

Colour: Brown, obviously.

Appearance: Much more lovely than you would imagine.

I don’t think brown lawns are very lovely at all. Ah, I see. You seem to be someone who takes pride in their lawn. Uniform length, is it? Neat stripes? Well watered?

Of course it’s well watered. Then you, my friend, are an enemy of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

What do they hate me for this time? You waste too much water on your lawn. The RHS is urging gardeners to stop using mains water to keep their lawns green, on the basis that it is tremendously bad for the environment.

It is? Yes. Watering a lawn can use as much water in an hour as a person uses in a week. With the climate heating, England could face water shortages in as few as 25 years. Not spraying away hundreds of litres of the stuff on your lawn seems like a fantastic place to start.

But my lovely grass! It will grow back. You could just wait for it to rain and it will be green again in no time. Or, better still, invest in a water butt.

You don’t understand. My lawn is my life. Well-maintained lawns are terrible things. They don’t just suck up water; they are also ruinous for biodiversity.

Really? Yes. In 2019, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report named biodiversity loss as one of the biggest threats to the future of humankind.

OK, fine, what should I do? You could let your lawn grow out a little. Even slightly longer grass is terrific for pollinators, plant diversity and absorbing greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, if you disturb your grass by mowing it, you are wildly increasing the likelihood of pest and weed invasions.

Long brown grass. My neighbours will be so jealous. Another plan would be to create a patchwork lawn. This is where you dig up your lawn entirely and replace it with beautifully coloured pockets of low-growing (and mowable) plants such as marjoram, clover, camomile, buttercups and fleabanes. Google them. They are stunning – and much better for the environment.

That does actually sound quite nice. And it will massively reduce the amount of time you spend tending to your garden, leaving you with more time to be around your family.

I’ve gone off the idea again. Fair. In that case, just buy a water butt.

Do say: “Brown grass is a sign of a healthy garden.”

Don’t say: “Are giant, knackered trampolines also a sign of a healthy garden?”, 2 June 2021