Americans currently spend more than 30 billion dollars, millions of gallons of gasoline, and countless hours to maintain the dream of the well-kept lawn. An estimated 67 million pounds of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are applied around homes and gardens yearly. Commercial areas such as parks, schools, playing fields, cemeteries, industrial, commercial and government landscapes, apply another 165 million pounds.
Lawn grasses are not native to the North American continent. A century ago, people would actually pull the grass out of their lawns to make room for the more useful weeds that were often incorporated into the family salad or herbal tea. It was the British aristocracy in the 1860s and ’70s, to show off their affluence that encouraged the trend of weed-free lawns, indicating one had no need of the more common, yet useful plants. Homeowners were encouraged to cultivate lawns that would serve as examples to passersby. These types of lawns also lent themselves to the popular lawn sports, croquet and lawn tennis. From the 1880s through 1920s in America, front lawns ceased to produce fodder for animals, and garden space was less cultivated, promoting canned food as the “wholesome choice.” Cars replaced the family horse and chemical fertilizers replaced manure.
It has been estimated that about 30 percent of our nation’s water supply goes to water lawns. In Dallas, Texas, watering lawns in the summer uses as much as 60 percent of the city water’s supply.
On weekends, we increase noise and gasoline consumption to mow down the grass we have worked so hard to grow. Running a power mower for one half hour can produce as much smog as driving a car for 172 miles (E – The Environmental magazine, May/June 1992). Bizarre customs, are they not?
The definition of a “good” lawn has come to mean, a plot of land growing a singular type of grass, kept mowed, maintaining a smooth even surface, uniform in color, with no intruding weeds. The United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Golf Association and The Garden Club of America have promoted this type of lawn. Lest a weed appear, it was to be destroyed at once. Manicured lawns have become an opportunity for rivalry between neighbors and an example of man’s domination over nature.