A Day Late for Lawns
By Shannon Anderson
Grasses are kind of a wonderful plant. They survive in harsh conditions where trees and other plants just go "nope." It's kind of why the midwest, that gets hard winters and hot summers enjoys so much grassland.
Humans love grasses too, they are so much nicer to walk on than rocks or dirt, they provide natural cooling and keep our topsoil from shifting too much.
I grew up in the country where the grass outside my house was only really hindered by the shade of nearby trees, walking on it, and the occasional mowing it down when it became difficult to navigate. I certainly knew about suburban lawns, but I never really appreciated how much people do to get them until I had one.
Some basic facts about lawns in America:
- There are about 40 million acres of lawns, This represents half off all land used to grown corn.
- We spend $50-80 billion on lawncare, more than we spend as a nation on foreign aid.
- We use around 67 million pounds of pesticides on yards.
- Our yardwork adds about 25 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year.
- Many cities are using more water for lawns as they are for drinking (30-60%).
It can be hard to figure out what to do to save our lawns from ourselves, but the first thing you should know about the plants around your house is that they grow from the roots up. Cutting only encourages them to form shallow root systems that choke out any kind of diversity that helps replenish the soil or feed our helpful pollinator friends.
Consider cutting as infrequently as possible, or not at all in many sections. You won't even need to water once you have a naturally healthy lawn!
Yards can help us sequester carbon, prevent flooding, and keep our local bees and butterflies fed, but only if we let them grow.
If you like you can Certify your lawn as a Wildlife Habitat with NWF.
If you live in Indy, you can register your native plant yard with the City!