It's really time to rethink the green carpet myth of the American Lawn. Psychological theory links the lawn to prehistoric times so hunters could see their prey across the savanna. Some say the flag on the golf putting greens is a metaphor for prey. It's like comfort food.
Actually, the history of a fancy lawn began in 18th century Europe with a romantic idea of ancient Greek Arcadian fields. Landscape designers, particularly 'Capability' Brown in England, built large planes of grass with naturalistic vistas. (One private park had 30 acres of lawn.)
A freedom lawn allows for the growth of wildflowers, which brings color and fragrance to a lawn and property.
Washington and Jefferson liked the style. Olmstead spread Brown's grassy vistas all across America. Today, lawns are a familiar, neat landscape, unifying street and road scenes, for sports, for firebreaks and to keep Mother Nature's wilderness at bay.
The lawn mower was invented around 1830 and technology replaced sheep, deer and gardeners on their knees. By 2000, it was estimated that over 50 million Americans mowed 20 or 30 million acres of lawns. And that's a lot of grass.
The truth is we spend more time and money per square foot-mowing, fertilizing, watering, treating and worrying about lawns than any other part of the landscape. It's a pride of ownership, you know.
For a perfect lawn, fertilize 3 or 4 times a year. Mow regularly, at 2-3", taking off 1/3 of each green shoot. Water when dry. Treat insects, weeds, and crabgrass with pesticides. Edge neatly. Over-seed. And maybe buy a riding lawn mower. (A sod farmer once said to me," There's testosterone in them there tanks.")
For an acceptable lawn, do as many of the above as you care to. Over seed on Labor Day. You can fertilize a couple of times a year, May and Labor Day, but do use organic fertilizers which are much less damaging to the environment.
For a freedom lawn, mow when needed to keep it as neat. Enjoy the weeds. After all they are green and most are wild flowers whose names you may not know. Buttercups, violets, dandelions, Canada mayflower, clover, cinquefoil,
hawkweed, English daisy.
If you leave the grass clippings on the lawn to decompose into nutrients, they equal about two fertilizings. There are some new lower care grass mixtures (mostly fine leafed fescues) that need less mowing. And lighter green annual crab grass is perfect for summer houses.
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