The Lawn Goodbye?
I just finished reading Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick, something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. Pam has written a number of books, along with the excellent blog Digging.
It would be great if someone would give Lawn Gone! to every new homeowner. It’s a clear and well-written primer for those who are tired of trying to make the property around their homes look like a golf course. Pam covers a variety of alternatives to the excessive mowing, watering, and chemical warfare that the “ideal” lawn requires. These substitutes include groundcovers, hardscapes, “no mow” lawns, and even – gasp – perennial beds.
Myself, I need no persuading. For me the primary issue is that lawns are boring and pointless and at the same time a lot of work (unless you pay someone to do the work for you). Grassy paths between beds are the only lawn left in my front garden.
I do wonder in particular about the point of a front yard lawn. In all the many hours that I have spent driving through various residential neighborhoods, it is exceedingly rare that I have ever seen anyone actually using the lawn in front of their house (except for mowing it, etc.). It seems to me that the front lawn is essentially a big welcome mat, but one that is rarely stepped on.
We have more lawn in our back garden, which is useful for socializing. I still try to slice off a bit of turf and convert it into flower beds when I get the opportunity, but at this point I sometimes run into resistance from the natives.
The lawn we do have is what the science writer Hannah Holmes calls “freedom lawn”. Anything that is green, comfortable to walk on, and not excessively aggressive (I’m looking at you, Creeping Charlie) is welcome. Weeds? Weeds are in the eye of the beholder.
In addition to personal aesthetics, there are more objective reasons why the vast acreage of American lawn is a problem. For starters, it sucks up more water than we can afford to give. It contributes to water quality problems through fertilizer and pesticide runoff. It encourages pesticide use that is toxic to pollinators and other insects, not to mention birds and mammals. And speaking of pollinators – from their point of view, a lawn is essentially a desert.
Having said all that, I have to ask the question: are we making progress? Outside of the arid or drought-afflicted western states, perhaps, positive change seems exceedingly slow. Of course, lawn reformers have to overcome an entire industry built around the most destructive lawn care practices.
I suppose we should just carry on with our own gardens and hope for a breakthrough.
Do you think there is hope for lawn reform? Or perhaps you think there is no need for such a thing?