Where Did the Lawn Come From?
Did you know that the modern lawn got its start in Europe? The moist mild climate there made it possible to grow large open grassy areas. The original lawns were probably grassy enclosures within early medieval settlements used for communal grazing of livestock. The livestock would graze and keep the grass cropped short while fertilizing at the same time. Talk about a sustainable lawn! Flash forward to manor houses of 17th century England. Rich land owners wanted a bucolic look, so they paid an army of workers to cut grass by hand with a scythe. Expansive lawns were the reserved for the extremely wealthy.
So how did the lawn become soon widely popular here in the United States? The growth of the suburbs in the 1950’s led to the development of the modern lawn. Cookie cutter houses on a small lots came complete with a front lawn. The lawns of these developer were meant to be weed free and kept cut short. Luckily for all those chasing the American Dream at this time they had help. The 1950’s gave us among other great inventions, the first rotary lawn mowers, and mass produced effective pesticides and fertilizers. Up until this time dandelions and clover were considered beneficial plants.
While lawns may have worked well in a temperate climate like the mid-Atlantic, the rest of the country is different story. Yet as I said, everyone wanted a piece of the American Dream, a little house of their own with a front lawn. People began to devote more and more time and money to the upkeep of their lawns.
Reasons to Reconsider Your Lawn
- Per acre, it costs more to maintain a lawn than it does to grow corn, rice or sugarcane. More than 40 billion dollars are spent on the lawn in North American each year.
- 10 times more herbicides per acre are dumped on lawns than on the fields of agribusiness.
- Phosphorus run-off from lawn fertilizer causes algae blooms that suck oxygen out of lakes, asphyxiating fish.
- 30% of the water used on the East Coast of U.S. goes towards watering of lawns. A single golf course in Tampa, Florida uses 178,800 gallons of water every day, enough to meet the daily water needs of over 2,200 people.
- Have a combined use yard, with perennial grasses, flowers, herbs and vegetables
- Plant a kitchen garden – mine is in my front yard so it is close to the house
- Encourage native plants to grow back
- Plant a variety of low ground covers such as creeping thyme and chamomile
- Try a meadow
- Use native plants
- Plant a habitat gardens
- Put in a courtyard a la paved Spanish style
- Try a wildlife garden
For more information check out American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn
About Granola Catholic: I am a mom to 3 wonderful children, wife to a great handy husband who, God willing will be ordained a Catholic Deacon in June. I teach part-time and volunteer too much. I blog about faith, family, food and all things green over at Granola Catholic.
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