The Case for Losing the Conventional Lawn

I’m already nostalgic with this summer months. Warm days spent frolicking outside, picnics, ice cream, birds chirping and the nonstop noise of lawnmowers as the odor of freshly cut grass wafts across the garden. But that sweet marijuana odor is a chemical response, a warning sign that the lawn was wounded and now it is now open to attack by pests. And as a nation, the U.S. tosses 23 million tons of lawn clippings a year into bursting landfills — material which may be turned into fertilizer, namely compost.

Television and radio advertisements work hard to convince you your landscape is imperfect and impure in case you do not slave over it, using pesticides and fertilizers and weed killers. Pictures of suburban rabbits husbands persist, wrangling weeds and farming one of the largest and most useless crops in the world.

Lawns are a noble’s ideal, literally, and since the 1800s Americans are trying to emulate expansive aristocratic estates in Europe on quarter-acre lots. What’s the deal with lawn? And how and why should we lose any of it?

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

What is beautiful in nature can be quite subjective. A person’s idea of beauty in the desert Southwest definitely is considerably different than a person’s idea in New England. Obviously that’s OK, but I bet those notions of attractiveness are based on regional, indigenous, wild habitats, and of private experiences living in those areas that define cultural and individual ideals. It does not matter whose idea is “much better” or “right,” only that those beliefs lead to healthy people, plants and wildlife. All anglers have options that lead to the well-being of life under our care, including our very own. Prairie, forest, desert, marsh — it is all relative.

In the photo here, do you wish to maintain the lawn, or the garden? Or is the juxtaposition of the two somehow enticing? What’s more in tune with its region, and in turn, makes us into tune with our home ground?

Debora carl landscape design

If you love the look of grass but do not require a baseball area (most people do not, if you don’t live in Iowa), think about letting your grass grow longer — or switching to indigenous, water-sipping grasses like blue grama, buffalo and sideoats grama (just a few among many). Lots of areas also sell no-mow seed mixes designed to be drought tolerant using slow growth habits but that mimic traditional lawns.

Should you allow your lawn grow taller, then the roots will go deeper and the blades will shade the soil, trapping more moisture. Besides, does not the bench and grass area here look magnificent? With lawns taking up the exact same square footage in the U.S. as New York state, we have to ask ourselves: Do we actually need all of that lawn, or is it just a default picture setting? What are we sweating, spraying and searching for?

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

If you love seeing butterflies, birds and bees, then using a diversity of flowers is key. These flowers can be on trees, shrubs or perennials. Should you believe you can do with less lawn, think of tilling up some of it and overseeding with a regional indigenous seed mixture. Fall is a good time for getting seeds into bare ground, as many seeds need a cold and wet winter to germinate the next year.

Lawns are ecological dead zones, meaning the wildlife they support is infinitesimal to what a woods, prairie, marsh as well as desert could support. The more lawn you take out and replace — even with clover or other blooming ground covers — the better the surroundings will be. Cities in California and other neighboring countries are paying residents around $2 per square foot to remove lawn and replace it using drought-tolerant native landscapes or permeable hardscapes.

The EPA says lawn equipment emits 11 times the contamination as cars. If we can shrink lawns or use electric mowers and organic lawn care, then we will have not just beautiful landscapes, but wholesome ones, also.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

Clearly, as you remove lawn in your front yard, you could raise some neighborhood eyebrows — but have faith in your maverick trends. It is possible to begin small, which will assist you and your neighbors adjust; gradually extend or deepen your planting beds and borders, maybe put an island out at a corner toward the road, even split and reseed the hell strip with native grasses and wildflowers as a sort of test area. The key is to always demonstrate there’s design and objective, and not just a “weedy” patch that you “go ahead.”

Should you move all the way and reseed your complete front landscape, think about mowing a pathway which could double as another sidewalk, which reveals design purpose. Or the pathway may have rock steppers, or become mulch or dirt; the choices are endless.

You are able to perform a more formal look, also, having bigger plants at the back of beds, repeating plants, using shrubs to anchor corners — actually, you are able to do anything. Just experiment and browse the photos here at .


Have you ever heard of nature deficit disorder? I know — it sounds silly at first, however I believe it is real. I take my college classes outside, and my classmates can not recognize the call of a robin or blue jay, both quite common creatures, let alone a pine tree.

Did you know that the renowned nature photographer Ansel Adams had ADHD? Have you any idea how he slipped it? Maybe we need to get outside and photograph lovely all-natural vistas more frequently.

Woodburn & Company Landscape Architecture, LLC

What design elements can you use to invite people into nature? How can you produce an ecosystem landscape which needs very little maintenance and relies on nature to perform the work of pest and pest management? I believe in the power of site-specific indigenous plants, especially shrubs and tiny trees which require even less upkeep than perennial grasses and flowers, with their annual spring cut-down.

The more we encourage you to get outside, the more linked to ourselves, our families and our towns we’ll be. Certainly that means we’ll be happier and have more balanced lives.

More: The best way to landscape for less lawn

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