Let Lawns Be Natural

The preference for Wimbledonlike lawns is not, I submit, a law of nature.

                                                                          Robert Wright, “The Dandelion King

I highly recommend reading, and putting some consideration into, Robert Wright’s opinion piece “The Dandelion King” appearing in the New York Times today.  Mr. Wright raises some really relevant questions about our societies preference for perfectly manicured lawns devoid of the slightest blemish of a dandelion or a clump of crab grass.  Mr. Wright tactfully points out that in striving for the perfect lawn we are forced to use a heavy arsenal of chemicals to combat insects and “weeds” and in this game of chemicals warfare there really can’t be all that much good for the environment at large.  His proposal is that we change our mindset about lawns in general and instead of thinking of a dandelion as being a wretched scar on the face of our property (and property value), we re-evaluate the situation and come to terms with a more natural, and dare say, beautiful lawn.

I lave for some time now thought that there is something quite absurd about our societies insistence on maintaining little monoculture plots of grass on private property.  What about a virtual desert of grass is so appealing anyhow?  Our barrage of chemical insecticides and herbicides creates spaces devoid of any biodiversity, all the while pumping some seriously nasty stuff into the surrounding environment (it doesn’t get much nastier than things like Atrazine folks).  

Mr. Wright begs us to reconsider the appearance of lawns saying “and next time you see a yardful of sprouting dandelions, note that they look remarkably like things we call ‘flowers.'”  What a surprise they are flowers (and edible  . . . assuming you haven’t bombarded them with some chemical payload)!  To be honest I would much prefer to live with a yard, and neighboring yards, that provide a wide variety of plants species than find myself setting foot on the nearly sterile and uninteresting green of “prefered lawns.”

Of course there is that issue about property value, but really that is just a matter of changing hearts and minds about what constitutes a beautiful lawn.  I think people should try and take more time to reflect upon the beauty of things.  In the wild of nature you never see a field of just a single type of grass.  No way!  You see meadows and prairies filled with all sorts of diversity in life.  And look, they can be astonishingly beautiful.


A meadow


A Prairie

 So maybe give it some thought before you declare full-out warfare on the dandelions and crab grass popping up out in front of your house.

~ by Nathaniel on April 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “Let Lawns Be Natural”

  1. I hate you, Nathaniel. You throw this crap at me just as I was working to get weeds out of my lawn. I should send you some photos of how many weeds are in my lawn.

    No, seriously – this is a good read. I like the thinking and the different perspective it takes. It made me think.

    In my thinking, though, I came away with a different conclusion than Robert Wright. I think there would be some substance to this if lawns weren’t meant to be mowed; but because of our location, we have to keep short grass – if for no other reason, the wildlife around our area and the fact that we have young children that play outside. Because of snakes and rabid raccoons and foxes, I have to keep things down. While a tall yard would lend itself to my “weeds” becoming “dandelions,” the weeds in a short yard are very much an eye sore.

    So I’ll likely still work to get the weeds out; but hey, I’ll think about it a bit more before going all-in.

    • Thanks for the comment man.

      I understand and appreciate the need to keep lawns mowed in regards to specific municipal laws and so yes, it isn’t practical to allow a nice flowering lawn (and yes such lawns may prove to be better bedding for some large unwanted critters). However I still wonder about the definition of a lawn of diverse plants being an eyesore, whether cut or not. In my opinion it is all greenery. I grew up with a lawn that was quite the ecclectic mix of grasses, dandelions, clover, moss, etc. and it never once struck me as being ugly looking, even when kept well groomed with the mower. I suppose it is all a matter of taste really. And I would suggest, that if keeping “weeds” down is the desired apporach to a lawn, it should be pursued in a more environmentally friendly manner. Consideirng some of the harmful effects of chemicals like Atrazine I think I’d personally prefer a snake or two.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: