The Grumpy Gardener – Lose that Lawn

The Grumpy Gardener – July

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In his regular column for French News Online, professional gardener Mike Alexander asks whether given the huge investment in time and money, striving for that perfect lawn is really worth it.

I once had a client for whom the lawn was an obsession. The rest of the garden could be in total disarray but the lawn had to always be immaculate. This obsessive behavior reached quite alarming proportions and if he had visitors he rarely talked of anything else.

A Striped Lawn but is the return worth the investment? (Credit: Wikipedia)


What’s more, though he never said anything, you could see by the pained look on his face that he did not like people actually walking on his prized patch of green. 

This all ended rather badly when his Bull Mastiff decided to bury a bone one night. It was not just an ordinary bone either. Judging from the size of it, and I am no expert in these matters, it was a thigh bone from a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a creature of similar size. The client never fully recovered from the shock.

The lesson I learnt from that unfortunate incident is that lawns are really not worth obsessing over. That is particularly important here in rural France where vast fields of dandelion and other lawn loving weeds are definitely going to put a gardener under constant pressure. This year’s wet spring has added to the woes of lawn owners. Whilst I can do most garden jobs in the rain, mowing is one area that requires dry weather and I have watched in horror as clients lawns have rapidly grown taller and taller.

Once in a while, on a seemingly sunny morning, I will optimistically haul my mower into the van whilst ignoring the one or two little clouds that have begun to gather on the horizon. By the time I arrive at the chosen lawn the first few drops of rain have begun to fall and these too are laughed off as just a passing drizzle. No sooner have I unloaded the van and fought my way through the first swathe than the skies have opened and I end up squelching my way back uttering obscenities whilst leaving behind a lawn that looks like Don King with a center parting.

Many people are under the impression that lawns are the most easy to manage part of their gardens but in my opinion they are usually the most labour intensive and expensive areas. When you total up the cost of fertilizer, fuel and weed killer the figures soon mount. Add to this the time taken in mowing, weeding, feeding, spiking, edging and top dressing and pretty soon you see that this is an area that can really dent your garden budget, particularly if you are a fanatic about its appearance

Another thing that I have against too much lawn is that they form an almost environmental desert. Whilst beds can be havens for huge numbers of wild life species, the lawn sustains very little fauna and many of the creatures that do thrive there soon become hindrances to the well being of that snooker table green effect..

Flowers and shrubs offer more havens for insects and bio-diverse gardening than do lawns (Credit: Wikipedia)

I would not be without some lawn and I am certainly not advocating their total eradication but I do encourage a reduction in size. Unless you are planning to start a base ball team you may want to consider reducing your lawn and filling that space with any of a number of other options such as beds, orchards, or even wild flower areas. Nature will thank you and if you are really lucky your miserable gardener may just turn out to be slightly less grumpy than you thought he was….OK probably not.

If you’re gardening in rain-soaked parts of France and want to know when Mother Nature is going to give you a break for some heavy duty mowing, the French weather site Meteo de France offers a remarkably accurate hourly breakdown. The “Will it rain in the next hour” link can be found on the forecasts it provides for every town and village in the country.

To access the highly localised forecast and the rain feature first go the to the main website, look for the previsions tab and choose your region from the dropdown menu. From the next list of options choose a département thereafter select a ville. Below the three day forecast that shows up for the village or town find the link that says Va-t-il pleuvoir dans l’heure? Click this and a graph (see below) shows up with the amount of time you have to mow the lawn before the next storm breaks.
If its all yellow (no rain) you’re in luck …  for that hour anyway:


The French weather site has a very accurate predictor of rain each day for every town and village in France and broken down on an hourly basis


Previously – click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses
Grumpy Gardener April - It's War Out There. Click to view
Click to read this article
Prune When Finished
Herald of Spring…
click to read Grumpy's july  tips
You’ve got to be quick!
Un-thirsty Lavender
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Grasp the Nettle
Star Jasmine – Madrid
To read this August 2011 article - click here
To read this August 2011 article - click here
Jihad – on Bunnies Ears
Autumn Arrives
Designer chic or neccessity? - click here for full story
To read this article - click here
Designer Chic?
Gravity – not to be ignored!
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Grumpy contemplates the winter garden
If Winter Comes….
Hottest chilli in the world
Dogs and Daffodils... full story - click this image
The iris and Madame la Guillotine... full story - click this image
Dog Days…
Fleur de Lys
Hedge You Bets - how do YOU like your hedges... full story - click this image
To read a previous article
– click an image –
Hedge Your Bets

Grumpy Gardener

Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Writer: Mike Alexander

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