Other than having the last name “Monsanto,” nothing is more likely to get you reviled in the blogosphere than to say you like lawns. It just isn’t PC, especially on the Left Coast. Grumpy doesn’t care. He LOVES lawns. And if you live where having a lawn makes sense, here is why you should love them too.
Lawns make sense in areas where it rains enough that you don’t have to go broke watering. In north-central Alabama, where Grumpy lives, we get about 54 inches of rain a year. In many years, Grumpy doesn’t have to water the grass once. However, in low-rainfall areas like Austin, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, you should either eliminate a grass lawn or make do with a teeny one.
Benefits of Lawns
1. Aesthetics. A lush, green lawn is beautiful. In garden design, it supplies vital, “negative” space around which all other plantings are organized. Without some empty, negative space, the yard looks like a jungle. With it, the your garden now has a frame or a stage.
2. Comfort. Ever walked barefoot a cross a bluegrass lawn in summer? It felt good, didn’t it? A picnic on the lawn is so much better than a picnic on the mulch. The comfort doesn’t stop there. In summer, grass plants act as tiny natural air conditioners. As they transpire moisture, they cool the air. That’s why suburbs with lawns are often 8-10 degrees cooler on a hot day than the concrete and asphalt cities they surround.
3. Recreation. A nice lawn in the front or back yard provides the perfect place to toss a football, jump through a sprinkler, throw a party, or garden without getting muddy. Where would you prefer your kids play? The street? The sewage treatment plant? Your cactus, yucca, and agave collection? Or the lawn? Grumpy opts for the latter.
4. Water quality. Despite what you’ve probably been told, a properly maintained lawn does a great job of filtering nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus before they pollute streams, lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Grumpy has nothing against farmers, but the fact is that farms contribute the lion’s share of nutrient pollution to these bodies of water, not lawns. Lawns also do a great job of controlling erosion. After a heavy rain, compare the color of the water running down the gutter from an empty lot to that coming from a healthy lawn and you’ll see what I mean.
5. Air quality. Grass is a plant, just like a tree. It releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Grass absorbs other air pollutants as well. It also traps dust particles. I’ve never seen a dust storm in any place covered with grass.
6. Ease of maintenance. The biggest lie in gardening today is that lawn care is too much work. What baloney! The amount of work it takes to maintain a lawn pales beside that it takes to maintain the same size vegetable garden or mixed flower border. With a lawn, all you basically have to do is water and mow. And mowing is good aerobic exercise.
Coming This Sunday!
In Sunday’s blog, “Don’t Hate My Lawn — Part Deux,” I’ll discuss how to be an environmentally responsible lawn owner and combine grass with trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables without killing the planet. In the meantime, I have a question for you. In which of these front yards would you rather hang out?
Or this one?
I rest my case.