A Call for an End to Primpy Lawns


| 7/27/2010 10:58:02 AM


Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, herbicides, pesticides, lawn-free, lawn chemicals, lawn mowing, water quality, wildlife habitat, landscaping, gardening, Reggie McLeod, Big River,

Lawn fertilizer application

Despite signs of progress, the de-lawnification of America is going pretty slowly. Although the green and alternative press is bursting with stories of backyard gardens, frontyard gardens, rain gardens, prairie restorations, and other turf-free options, it’s clear from mere observation that most American homeowners still think that a flawless, chemically treated monoculture lawn is the way to go.

Reggie McLeod, the publisher of Big River magazine, which covers the Upper Mississippi, is fed up with it. “This column may get me in more trouble than any other that I have written, but I’m going public with my challenge to primpy lawns,” he writes in his editor’s note in the July-August Big River:

I have never understood why people feel compelled to dump toxic chemicals and fertilizers on their lawns, then drench them with water, which, by the way, washes a lot of the chemicals and fertilizers into the groundwater or into the sewers, both of which lead to the lakes, streams, and rivers.

And then? Well, this massive load of nitrogen and phosphorous create algae blooms that degrade water quality and wildlife habitat. McLeod concedes he once bought into the green-lawn myth, as a teen selling Scott’s products door to door. But he’s now an unrepentant hands-off groundskeeper: He has a lawn, but lets it do its own thing:

bryan welch_5
7/28/2010 10:15:01 AM

Or maybe we should even learn to eat the dandelion! Thanks for bringing this piece to our attention, Keith!


tod lewark
7/28/2010 9:30:50 AM

People are increasingly isolated from nature, and don't understand it, and develop warped notions of how everything works and ties together. They are such control freaks, they can't leave well enough alone, which leads them to mow too short and too often. Nobody needs more lawn space than what it takes to walk around the house, and perhaps play croquet or something. A lawn is not a golf course. If tall grass worries you, go help a farmer put up hay. If you're afraid of snakes, move to an apartment. If you're afraid of dandelions, see a shrink. The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in his lawn will find great relief in learning to love the dandelion. -- Liberty Hyde Bailey, Manual of Gardening, 1910