Today I came across an advert for fake lawns and could not hold back my worries- hence this column!
I can understand why creating a low-maintenance outside space may be useful, but there are other ways of meeting your needs plus those of the wider ecosystem we are part of.
We are living in a time where pollinator populations are declining: “Levels of wild pollinators, such as species of solitary bumblebee, moth, and hoverfly, continue to decline at an alarming rate. Currently, up to 50 percent of all European bee species are threatened with extinction.”  Fake lawns have no role in our future in we are to reverse these trends.
In order to support pollinator populations and their role in pollinating our food and other plants, we need to create habitat for pollinating insects and stop activities that degrade potential habitats e.g. covering gardens with fake grass/concrete; giving our gardens to monoculture grasses with no pollinator friendly plants; giving our land to monoculture crops that only flower for short periods of time; using substances known to harm pollinators e.g. neonicotinoids.
For this reason I have long held a grudge against monoculture grass lawns. I dream of neatly mowed gardens being turned into spaces full of flowers, trees and a variety of insects- creating wildlife corridors across cities that support a range of species to live alongside us. But fake lawns… this takes things to a whole other level!
If we do not stop reversing the trend of declining pollinator populations, we better prepare for the consequence.
Pollinators (which include a wide range of bees, moths and hoverfly) help plants to set fruit and produce seeds in a process called pollination. Approximately one third of UK crops depend on pollination, and without it crop yields would drop. Farmers could pollinate plants manually but this is a slow, labour intensive and expensive process- as highlighted in the film More Than Honey. Pollinators, by contrast, are way better at doing this job and are therefore more economically valuable.
As humans have increased the area of agricultural land and therefore land that requires pollination, the demand for pollination has increased above the current capacity of pollinator populations. A focus on raising domesticated honey bees to meet this demand also ignores the issue of wild pollinator population declines. Honeybees could be viewed as ‘livestock’ that compete with wild pollinator populations.
Using organic principles to plant a variety of pollinator friendly perennial plants, flowering trees and bulbs that flower all year round is one simple step we can take to support pollinator populations. These can be planted in gardens, parks, lawns and window boxes.