The TGA - Turfgrass Growers Association

Member Login

news > back

13 August 2012, Turfgrass Growers Association ‘aghast’ at gardening writer’s advice to concrete over lawns

Tim Mudge, Chief Executive of the Turfgrass Growers Association, says he was dismayed to read comments by Amateur Gardening columnist, Bob Flowerdew, suggesting that lawns should be ripped up and replaced with concrete.

“Flowerdew says that drier summers and hosepipe bans will make brown lawns a common eyesore,” says Mudge, “but we say brown lawns should be a badge of honour. We’re concerned that gardeners will take his advice without fully appreciating the many benefits of having a lawn.”

“We agree that the watering of established lawns is wasteful and unnecessary, but replacing grass with hard surfaces like concrete creates new problems.”

“We advise gardeners that lawns may look brown and parched when it’s hot and dry, but the grass isn’t dead. Going brown is the natural survival mechanism of grass. When water is in short supply, grass responds by shutting down. The brown colour shows that it has stopped growing until more favourable conditions return. Grass is remarkably resilient. Increase your mowing height to 35-40mm and most lawns will recover completely when the rain finally arrives.”

The impact of grass, particularly in the urban environment, mustn’t be underestimated. It helps mitigate the impact of climate change by reducing flood risk, absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing atmospheric pollution. It also has a cooling effect, reducing temperatures by several degrees during hot weather, and studies have shown that green spaces in town and cities have a positive effect on mental and physical wellbeing.

The TGA’s response is echoed by Flowerdew’s fellow BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist, Pippa Greenwood, who said: “There is simply NOTHING to beat real, living grass in a garden, even if it is suffering from drought and a little brown! Not only is it phenomenally resistant to dry summers, it literally helps to provide the 'breath of fresh air' that makes our gardens so special.”

The representative body for the water companies has also commented on the article. Nick Ellins, Drought Liaison Adviser at Water UK said: “Mr Flowerdew is absolutely right to raise questions if he feels people can be more water efficient. Our experience is that gardeners go out of their way to use tap water wisely, trying all sorts of alternatives such as rain butts, washing up water and even that wasted cold water that initially comes out of the hot tap. When the rains come, impermeable surfaces place a significant strain on local drains and sewers. Grass is infinitely preferable to concrete, and our nation simply loves their lawns. “

To read the Telegraph article on Bob Flowerdew’s column, please click here.

Tips for looking after established and newly-laid lawns during the summer are available at from the Knowledge Base on this website and from the TGA's dedicated Twitter feed @TGATurfandWater.