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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

Green is not the only way to make a lawn good

Metro's Danielle Paradis argues it's not easy being green and we should probably start trying.

The green lawn may not be the ideal anymore argues Metro's columnist.

The green lawn may not be the ideal anymore argues Metro's columnist.

For those of you who spent the weekend carefully cutting your lawn and dealing with the scourge of mushrooms affecting your yard due to our rainy summer, the idea of a low maintenance lawn may sound appealing.

Is it time to look beyond the green patch on the front yard? We’re more aware than ever of the importance of biodiversity and the effect humans have on animals and plant life. Climate change experts predict more droughts, and more extreme weather variations than ever before.

Edmonton is a unique city, and our civic pride can be demonstrated by a return to the types of vegetation found on our beloved prairies.

The lawn as we know it today began in England, where a prominent features was a lovely, impeccable stretch of green grass. In a way, it signified status. The wealthy did not need to grow their own food for survival, so they could afford large swaths of land and grazing animals.

Eventually, colonists took the grasses with them into the new world, and with the migration of Canadians into suburbia after the Second World War the idea of the green tranquil lawn became a fixture.

In addition to being pastoral, lawns are political. Most homeowners are subject to community standards, including length and weed control. But that carefully manicured plot, managed by pesticides, herbicides and watering schedules may finally be on its way out.

And thank goodness, because it’s all beginning to seem antiquated.

I can think of more than one friendly-neighbour relationship that has been spoiled over lawn standards. Not to mention the enormous waste of energy and water that goes into keeping this artificial ecosystem running.

There other alternatives, such as a lawn painting service in California that will use a non-toxic chemical to turn brown grass green. But, all over Canada and the US, municipalities are exploring going au natural.

Coun. Michael Walters, Ward 10, asked city staff to look into the benefits of native plants and the answer came back in a report delivered last week.

The report details the benefits of native plants: they reduce storm water runoff; decrease the need for pesticide and fertilizer, and supports local wildlife.

Edmonton already has some initiatives that encourage naturalization, including a program that plants native vegetation throughout the city.

City Council also has policies in their strategic plan, The Way We Green, to support further naturalization.

There are so many good reasons to go natural.

To convince homeowners, the most obvious path would be providing grants and subsidized plants. The report recommends garden signs for homewonwers, similar to the City’s Front Yards in Bloom program to allow the suburbanists to brag about how natural they are. 

I hope that we’ll think beyond the suburbs. While downtown dwellers may not have a lot of lawn space, outreach to condo boards, and community foundations can help to end the green lawn supremacy.

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