Wide, green lawns are the ultimate badge of the suburban lifestyle. The manicured lawn has become the accepted front yard landscape, thanks to the urban exodus of the 1950’s and the proliferation of the suburban plot. Some clever marketing efforts at that time, by companies such as Scott’s, further solidified the turf grass lawn as the de facto American home landscape.
But the cost of upkeep for the prototypical manicured lawn is steep, both monetarily and environmentally. The emissions from power mowers, edgers and blowers, the cost of gas, fertilizers, pesticides, water consumption and your time all add to the cost of maintaining a lawn. Running a lawn mower for a half-an-hour emits roughly as many carbons as driving from Cranston to Boston 5 times. And a riding mower? Well, if you own one of those, you might as well just go outside and start clubbing every living thing, you walrus-hater.
We use an estimated 26 billion gallons of water per day, and approximately 30% of that (8 billion gallons/day) goes to water lawns and gardens. That adds up to 35,000 gallons per year per household. For suburban homes it’s about 10,000 gallons more than that.1 Anyway, that’s a lot of water. Fertilizers and pesticides find their way into the Pawtuxet via runoff. The extra nitrogen makes the algae bloom and fish angry.
OK, so you’d like to reduce the environmental impact of maintaining your lawn, but you want to keep it looking, you know, tidy. The options range from a slight alteration in maintenance to a complete 180 about the concept of what the front yard should be. Here’s a list of maintenance habits that can make your lawn greener - in the save-the-earth sense. I’ve tried all of these things with some great success, and some spectacular failure, on different sides of the same yard.
Laurel Garden Design
Thompson Organic Landscaping 401.861.3616
NaturaLawn of America
Find organic land care pros in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island using Organic Land Care’s guide
In future posts, re-thinking the front yard.