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Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Unhealthy American Fascination with Trophy Lawns

Over the past few years we've starting hearing more about how the fashion industry and Hollywood have created unhealthy idealized body types for American women. But this unrealistic ideal is not limited to the beauty and fashion industries.

This Spring I must have gotten two or three pieces of junk mail each week from various lawn care companies that wanted to regularly dispense herbicides and fertilizer on my lawn from now through the Fall. No thanks. I'm happy with my imperfect lawn. In fact, if I could talk my wife into it, I would plant my front yard as a meadow with native grasses and wildflowers and convert my backyard to a wood lot too shady for grass to thrive.  I'm just not willing to pay for unhealthy chemical treatments for my lawn the way some people are willing to pay for plastic surgery, liposuction, tanning salons, and breast implants.

For those who really want a fake-tan sort of lawn, there are even companies that will spray paint your lawn green (http://lawnpaintpros.com) or companies that will sell you paint for either your lawn or your mulch if you are a DIY-er (http://www.lawnlift.com).  Why not?  Golf courses sometimes paint their fairways before big tournaments, and outdoor, "natural" turf football stadiums certainly do it for games later in the season.

Photo:  Good Nature Organic Lawn Care (www.whygoodnature.com)
I suspect that the majority of lawn-obsessed homeowners who are not living under drought-imposed water restrictions simply go through the weekly cycle of mowing low and watering without giving it much thought.  In my observation, most homeowners and most professional lawn mowing services mow their lawns entirely too short for the health of their grass.  Most turf grass experts warn that cutting too much off the length of the grass blades at once and consistently cutting the grass shorter than 2.5 to 3 inches unnecessarily stresses the grass. Stressed grass has shorter roots, so its roots are unable to reach moisture deeper in the soil column. So it requires more frequent watering to prevent browning.

Photo: www-mda-state-mn-us
Lawns may need supplemental watering if they don't get enough rain each week. That can be accomplished on an as-needed basis with a garden hose and a sprinkler attachment. Or, for people who have invested a lot of money in their lawns, an automatic lawn sprinkler system will certainly help you protect your investment. I think automatic sprinklers can also cause a lot of extra work if it's not used with common sense. I have a neighbor whose sprinkler apparently is set to water twice a day, regardless of precipitation. We live in Pennsylvania, not Arizona. So the result of my neighbor's overwatering, and frequent fertilization, is that he has to mow his lawn with his expensive zero-turn radius mower (with a grass vacuum attachment) twice a week. I don't water my lawn, and I mow with my Craftsman mulching push-mower once a week. And I mow to a 3-inch height. My lawn looks lush more often than it looks scorched.  It is far from perfect. But I'm happy with the appearance of my lawn and the level of effort required for that look. I'm not participating in a lawn competition. If my neighbors chose to do so, that's their business. I just hope they are putting that level of effort and money into their lawns because it's their passion and not because they feel like they need to compete with their neighbors for some unrealistic ideal lawn. I wonder whether some of them wouldn't rather be spending their time and money on their families rather than doing battle with Nature over their lawn's appearance. I hope they realize they have a choice.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, I agree there's definitely a sensible happy medium when it comes to lawn care, and some people take it too far. Among the reasons not to overdo it are of course the environmental and cost implications. I read that 60% of household water is used on watering lawns. Sounds crazy, but when you consider the likes of your neighbour and their unnecessary sprinkler activities it starts to be quite believable, unfortunately.