Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Nature
5 June 2019updated 23 Jun 2021 9:15am

The strange world of expensive beauty treatments for your lawn

By Alev Scott

I have often thought that both the environment and I would be better served if I placed my paper recycling basket directly under the letter box: that way, the daily junk could fall straight into it without my needing to read it. However, on two consecutive days recently, I noticed that the junk envelopes were addressed to “The Gardener at…”, so I felt I must examine the contents.

Both mailings were from organisations offering to look after my lawn, one a national firm and one “a local independent service”. Now, I gain much pleasure from my lawn – mainly because it sets off the rest of the garden; I am pleased with it, rather than prizing it as uniquely special. In truth I have said many times that you can get away with murder in your garden provided the lawn edges are neatly cut. I do go a bit further than that, and we edge and mow once a week for much of the year using a petrol-engined rotary mower through autumn, winter and spring and a petrol-engined cylinder mower in the summer.

Most years, the whole area receives a spring fertiliser treatment (without weed-killer), but I have always subscribed to the view that feeding your lawn is a recipe for needing ever more frequent mowing. So no, our lawn certainly does not look like a snooker table baize, but if I don’t worry why should anyone else?

However, back to the junk mailings. Both firms offered a variety of treatments ranging from four separate fertiliser applications to an eye-watering season of spring, early summer, late summer and autumn/winter feeds, scarification (if necessary “back to the soil”!), post-scarification treatment, aeration, oasis treatment, SlowMow treatment, stress buster and lawn disease management. Frankly, I don’t even know what some of these mean. I wouldn’t go anywhere near this sort of offering, which strikes me as gross and unnecessary overkill that will sanitise your lawn of practically all its wildlife.

Once the lawn beauticians have departed, they make it clear it is left to you, the owner, to water it and mow. Funny really, I thought watering the lawn was recognised as a frightful waste of a valuable resource and that mowing was the chore most folk complain about. So my advice is that if you really do have money to throw at your lawn, you should use it to pay for someone else to do the mowing.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Oh yes, the costs. It’s evident from my two mowers that we have a fair amount of lawn – roughly 1,000 square metres – and I reckon the unholy cocktail of lawn sterilising treatments outlined above would cost me approaching £5,000 per year. I could buy a great deal of lawn mowing for that!

Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

A new lawn should start with careful site preparation and a good-quality seed mixture or a high-quality turf of a Rolawn standard, appropriate to the wear and use your lawn will have to tolerate. If you then follow my basic maintenance regime I believe you – like me – will have a perfectly acceptable garden lawn. It will almost certainly harbour some daisies, dandelions, clover and other local wild plants, but that to me is how an Englishman’s lawn should look.

I’m sorry, but the sort of besotted cosmetic lawn management I was being offered is totally alien to my idea of gardening. In future, I think I shall allow the literature to continue on its way to the waste bin. 

Next week: Nina Caplan on drink

This article appears in the 05 Jun 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump alliance