Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rethinking Lawns

                I’ve always had my doubts about lawns. My parents had a house built for them in the late 1950s. We moved into a house on bare red Oklahoma clay. My parents worked for years to turn that clay into a lawn. Eventually they had a beautiful Bermuda grass lawn that needed watering, mowing, and all the other chores that maintaining a lawn entail. Eventually, as my folks got older, they installed automatic sprinklers, which were high quality but, like the lawn, also required maintenance. I wondered what was the point of a lawn.
                When I moved back to Kansas City I had a guy mow my lawn. He had the equipment, and he was in and out of the yard in less than twenty minutes. Shortly after I moved into my current house I saw him toting a container of some sort to the back yard. I asked him what it was, and he said it was fertilizer. I said, “So you’re going to charge me to fertilize my lawn so it will grow faster and you can mow it more often?” I told him it was green enough. Nine years ago I fenced in the front yard and started a pollinator garden. Last year we decided to start another pollinator garden in the back yard with the hope getting rid of the grass. We’re getting there. Dan is managing the yard with a weed whacker, saving the weekly mowing costs. The yard is a hit with the neighbors, and more native/pollinator gardens are popping up in the neighborhood. We can’t claim credit for these, of course, but I think more people are questioning the effort and expense of lawns. And we’ve all heard of honeybee colony collapse disorder and the problems monarch butterflies are having finding milkweed, their only food source.
                So, think about the money you’re pouring into your lawn and consider whether you might like to keep more of it and have more time to spend on yourself or your family while doing something for the environment as well.
                It’s time to rethink lawns.

© 2018 Larry Roth


  1. Amen to pollinator gardens. Just finished a wonderful book: :Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them" by Paige Embry. Really a fascinating little book - who knew there are 4000 species of native bees? As the book notes, in addition to the 4000 species of native bees (most of which do not sting) there are certain birds, bats, flies, wasps, beetles, moths and butterflies who are all lumped together as "other pollinators". And the pictures are amazing.

    For me it boils down to this. Do you want a lawn? Or do you want food? Yes, the pollinators are just that fundamentally important. Plus, the joys of watching them at work beats lawn care in a walk.

  2. Thanks, Jay. As more of the planet is covered with homes, buildings, and concrete, it's going to be more important to provide food for those pollinators who provide us with food.