Would you be better off without a lawn?
Since the 1950s, a lush, green lawn is every suburbanite’s dream, a sign they’d achieved the American dream of homeownership and a weed-free front yard.
Today, Americans still love a lawn. Nothing compares to the look, feel, and smell of grass. And we’re willing to pay almost $700 a year to the people — mowers, weeders, aerators, chemical treaters — who keep our turf looking great.
But suddenly, grass lawns are public enemy No. 1. Some drought-stricken places are banning new lawns because they are, basically, unquenchable. The anti-turf people say get rid of lawns.
Mowers are loud and polluting.
Fertilizers contaminate the watershed.
Lawns gulp tens of thousands of gallons of water every time you irrigate them.
The Benefits of a Lawn
According to the EPA, a healthy lawn...
- Provides feeding grounds for birds, who munch on the insects and worms found beneath grass.
- Prevents soil erosion.
- Filters contaminants from rainwater runoff.
- Absorbs airborne pollutants like dust and soot.
- Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, which helps clean the air.
Granted, plants and trees perform many of the same services. And many homeowners are replacing lawns with native species plants and even vegetable gardens.
Studies show that well-kept landscaping can add 15% to the price of a home. The studies don’t parse the value of lawns alone, but a flawless, emerald lawn obviously makes a property look better and more saleable.
The Case Against Lawns
One HouseLogic contributor, Lara Edge, hates her lawn in Tennessee, which “serves no purpose except to sprout weeds,” she says.
Instead of mowing “outdoor carpeting,” she’d rather grow vegetables in her front yard — the only sunny, level spot on her property. Alas, her HOA prohibits veggies in the front yard, saying it hurts curb appeal.
“The notion that you’re sacrificing curb appeal and beauty if you plant vegetables in your front yard is just plain wrong,” Edge says. “A little nurturing goes a long way in creating edible beauty.”
Lawns = Weeds
John Riha, another HouseLogic contributor, loves his lawn; but the weeds love it more.
“It’s disappeared under a crazy quilt of every known type of common weed — dandelions, crabgrass, nutsedge, purslane — you name it, and I’ve got it,” Riha says.
So, instead of waging a weed battle he won’t win, he gradually replaces each weed he digs up with bulbs and plants indigenous to southern Oregon. Indigenous plants are much more likely to survive drought or cold snaps than plants imported from far-flung places. Plus, they’re pretty.
Alternatives to Lawns
If no lawn, then what? Check out these ideas: