In the garden: Grass isn’t green
July 6, 2009
Green materials, green construction, green energy – green is in. Grass looks fresh and natural – what could be greener than grass?
Lawn grass is the most popular groundcover in America by some order of magnitude that gives me a headache even to contemplate. We find driving the interstate through miles of wheat or corn fields boring, but when the monoculture is in the form of an expanse of lawn, we admire it and deem it beautiful, never making the connection between those fields and our sod yards. More land in this country is devoted to lawns than to any crop and their impact on our world is commensurate with the area covered.
Groundcovers, especially lawn grasses, are not low-maintenance plants either, unless you consider, weeding, feeding, mowing, spreading pesticides and herbicides, watering, aerating and trimming low maintenance. That’s what it takes to have an excellent conventional lawn. An estimated 50 percent of all household water is used for the home landscape, primarily lawns. Honey bee pollination is as crucial for many of our food crops as water, yet pesticide exposure is implicated as a major factor in the collapse of one-third of our nation’s honey bee colonies. A substantial amount of energy is used in the production of the machines and equipment required to keep our lawns shorn and groomed, never mind the energy consumed operating them. And I personally would rather have a Canada goose in my yard than those nuggets coughed up by an aerator which look like oversized goose droppings. Does any of this make sense?
Even if that lawn is planted in native and dwarf fescue grasses instead of standard Kentucky blue grass blends, and is cared for “organically” it still takes more work than a garden, so it doesn’t even qualify as a low maintenance alternative to grubby yard work.
Lawns have their uses, just as, say, vineyards do. There’s no denying that soft, freshly cut grass, (assuming that it is uncontaminated by pet feces or chemicals), is the loveliest surface for babies and dogs to romp on. Still, many children raised in apartment buildings without lawns have grown up to be perfectly normal, possibly even kind, people, and dogs living in a similar environment are neither more neurotic nor less happy than dogs kept behind invisible, electrical fences. Interestingly, grass-based sports such as golf and football are relatively recent historically, and only achieved vast popularity when the invention of mowing machines replaced large numbers of men with scythes, which coincided with the production of cheap energy from coal and oil.
The fact is that lawns, their color notwithstanding, are not even remotely green.