Questioning Lawns

A thing of the past?

Dan Zak, writing in the Washington Post had a great article this week about America’s love of lawns. Still in drought parched California we get clients unaware of current drought restrictions and turf installation bans. Many folks want a lush patch of grass where their dogs and kids can play. The reality is one decent sized lawn can use the same amount of water as an entire household. My dad’s gardens (on well water) are a great example- just one lawn zone used 10,000 gallons of water a month in the central valley heat, in excess of my home’s (with pool) total usage.

Here’s a good quote from Dan Zak’s article:

Lawns, still, somehow.

The planet has accelerated its revolt against us and still we tend our lawns, one part of Earth we can control. Society falters, resources dwindle and, still, lawns.

Lawns: burned out, blond and dead, in the air fryer of August. Lawns: emerald green — no, alien green — and kept that way by maniacal vigilance and an elaborate system of pipes and potions, organic and otherwise, in defiance of ecology. And for what? To have, in this chaos, dominion over something? (Lawn and order?) To drape a veil of verdancy over a world gone to seed? To feel equal or superior to Ron, across the street, whose lawn always looks like the 18th at Pebble Beach?

We’ve been sweeping our anxieties under these green comfort blankets for quite some time. A “smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban home,” wrote Frank J. Scott in 1870, around the time of the first lawn mower patent, in a book titled “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent” (Chapter XIII: The Lawn).

In California, a mediterranean climate, things will be ever drier. Stately Oaks and timeless Bristle-cone Pine are dying at increasing rates.

Low water use plants with a few accents of vegetables or a Japanese maple here or there are the new reality. And still, in Petaluma, we see lush green front lawns with stage 4 water restrictions mandating two days per week watering. Eventually things will change, if only because we have no choice.

O'Connell Landscape Blog