Before Americans fell in love with Augusta-like expanses of perfection, lawns didn't cause too many problems. We mowed them with hand mowers and otherwise pretty much left them alone. But things have changed since then, and not for the better. The problems include:
Polluted Waterways. Pesticides, herbicides and excess fertilizers are regularly washed from lawns into local watersheds, creating dead zones and harming marine life. (Learn more)
Pesticide-Treated Lawns that are Toxic to Humans and Pets. (Learn more.)
Guzzling of Water, a Resource in Short Supply. Half or more of all potable water is used on lawns during the summer and with climate change bringing longer droughts and water restrictions becoming common, this is unsustainable - and crazy. (Learn more.)
Single-Species Monocultures that Provide Nothing for Wildlife. (Learn more.)
Frequent Mowing, with Air Pollution. Most lawns are mowed regularly with gas-powered mowers that pollute the air and use fossil fuels. (Learn more.)
Overtreated and Overwatered Lawns that Waste $$ and Keep Asking for More. Pesticides, weedkillers, excess fertilizer and excessive watering don't just waste money, though - they damage soil health, kill beneficial insects, and reduce the drought-tolerance of turfgrasses. It's an addictive cycle.
Organic Lawn Care. That means using organic, slow-release fertilizers, applying only pre-emergent weedkiller, leaving clippings on the lawn, and mowing at a higher setting. Or it could mean eliminating the need for added fertilizer by simply going back to the traditional practice of adding the self-feeding wonder plant - clover - to lawns. (Learn more.)
Low-Maintenance Turfgrasses. Buffalo grass, centipede grass, clover, fine fescue mixes, or other drought-tolerant, slow-growing turfgrasses, where regionally appropriate, save a lot of resources. (Learn more.)
Reducing or Replacing Lawns. Where they aren't needed for recreation, lawns can be replaced with any mixture of trees, shrubs, and perennials, even edibles, and all of those can be beautiful. (Learn more.)
Photos clockwise from upper left: Pam Penick's Texas front-yard of regionally appropriate plants; Helen Yoest's tiny front-yard lawn in North Carolina, Ginny Stibolt's organic lawn in Florida; and Buffalograss in California.