Tackling the Tradition of Terrible and Time Consuming Turf
Okay, so I am dating myself, but does anyone else remember the 1950’s and 60’s? Do you remember the landscaping? If you do not, then it is probably because there was none. What there was for the most part was lawn and probably it was carefully manicured – a nice green carpet. That was the American ideal.
The neighborhood I lived in had look alike houses with concrete sidewalks and a maple tree planted in front of every other house on the tree lawn- that area between the street and the sidewalk that is known in Britain as a “hell strip .” There were two or three yews in the front of the house and that was it. There might be one pot of geraniums or a few annual red salvia and blue ageratum, but those were rare. Houses owned by Italians? That was another matter. Color and flowers were in abundance. Sorry to repeat an ethnic stereotype, but it was true. I loved those houses! Alas, most yards had their bright green and carefully mowed lawn and that was all.
My house as it looks today. They have added one big hemlock at the corner, but otherwise it is the same as it was in 1952.
Americans after World War II were obsessed with their lawns. It was part of the pride of home ownership: the dream of a house in the suburbs with a lawn. I could do a very long lecture on the origins of the lawn as being thought of as so quintessentially American and to be desired. Off with my history hat. I wish to concentrate on something else. Do we really need a lawn for our yard to be “complete?”
Many ads like this one touted the perfection and importance of a nice green lawn.
Aren't they having fun?
In our area, turf grass is difficult to grow and maintain. Most of us are used to cool weather grasses like Bent (Agrostis spp) and “Kentucky” Blue Grass (Poa pratensis). They are not native to North America but were brought over by the early settlers. Because of our hot and humid conditions, many grasses have been specially imported from Asia to provide us with lawns . Centipede (Eremochloa ophiuroides) and Zoysia are two of the best known. The lucrative golf course industry has led the way in the use and care of many of these grasses.
High maintenance does not begin to tell the story of these grasses. Twice a year you need to put down a pre-emergent to take care of both cool weather and warm weather weeds and then there is a fertilizer schedule dependent upon the type of grass. And don’t you dare leave for the summer without keeping your irrigation set to run unless you want a desert when you return. Many HOA’s down here sneer at badly kept and brown lawns, but what a waste of time and money - Fertilizers, man hours, more chemicals, the hum of the mower and blower sucking up energy and putting out pollution, run off of chemicals into our water supplies….
The manly pursuit of lawn mowing while the womenfolk fix dinner!
Note the green in the background-- that is a golf course. Not my yard.
Why not minimize or even do away with your lawn and plant some interesting low maintenance shrubs, ornamental native grasses, and perennials? Pollinators will thank you and your carbon footprint will be greatly reduced. Turf grass in the South is and will continue to be a losing battle unless you are willing to put time and money into the task. I will give you ideas later this spring on what to plant instead of the all hallowed lawn.
Let the golf courses keep maintaining their Bermuda or Zoysia . As homeowners, it is time for us to relax and let Mother Nature do our work.