In the United States, the lush, well-manicured turf grass lawn has become a hallmark of a lovely home. This is a shame, because as pretty as they are, from an environmental standpoint, we can do better. Of the approximately 40 million acres of turf grass under cultivation today -- that’s roughly 62,500 square miles — about 60% are residential lawns.
The origin of the modern lawn lies in English country estate history. Broad vistas of green surrounding the mansion were provided by grazing fields. These fields were separated from the gardens by a ha-ha wall. The expanses of green vegetation were mowed and fertilized by the livestock; no further resources were needed to maintain the grassy fields. There is no question that the openness and green views are soothing and speak of an embarrassing richness of space. It’s not surprising that in an attempt to mimic these estates the turf grass lawn has evolved into a symbol of prosperity that most homeowners prize.
This love affair with lawn comes at a high price. The average homeowner spends 40 hours a year maintaining the lawn. Rainwater runs rapidly off the property because turf grass does not slow it down sufficiently. Our rivers and streams are degrading because of this and the fertilizer and pesticides it carries away from our properties. Our air is polluted from the gasoline powered mower, trimmer, blower, aerator and assorted other tools that have become the staple in our lawn care routines.
This is not to say that turf grass lawns are an inherent evil in a world gone mad. They definitely have their place in the landscape. It’s just that maybe our priorities have been misdirected. These days, many people are beginning to rethink what the role of a lawn is at home, and making changes. Alternatives to uninterrupted turf are becoming more commonplace and green, sustainable management of the lawn that does remain is becoming mainstream.
There are a number of simple solutions to green your lawn and landscape. Check out some of the latest trends.
NEXT Lawns by the Numbers