The Lawn Industrial Complex Is Scamming You

by Aug 13, 2016

Thank you to Lynn's brother Matt for contributing his story to our blog.
Be sure to visit his blog for all kinds of interesting reading!

You should probably break up with your lawn, too.

I thought of this, again, the other evening as I struggled to mow my large lawn.

It's the very lawn I'm trying to at least partially eliminate in favor of perennial beds and vegetable gardens.

I spend so much time keeping the grass under control on the lawn by mowing it I don't actually have time to get rid of the lawn to put in the gardens so I theoretically wouldn't have to mow so much.

Talk about Sisyphus!

Like everyone else with a lawn, I'm a slave to it. And not a happy one.

Lawns are almost always wasted space. I think of the property surrounding a house as more "rooms" that can have personality, beauty, flair.

An expansive lawn has all the charm of an empty warehouse.

Drive though some decent neighborhoods on a sunny, pleasant Saturday. The only people you see on lawns are the people who are mowing them. Other than that, the lawns are not used.

I'm slowly expanding perennial beds around my garden shed outward into the lawn. You can see how I'm slowly digging out the lawn on the outer edges of the flower beds to get rid of all that lawn.
Meanwhile people are eating breakfast or lunch on the deck, or they've set up chairs in the flower garden and are relaxing with a cold drink.

There's kids on the playground equipment, but not on the expanse of grass. Nearby, people are harvesting vegetables from their raised beds.

Lawns are OK if you're using them to play soccer or baseball or golf or something, but other than that, why do they exist?

To make lawn care companies make money.

Let's face it. Lawns are more lucrative than gardens. Sure, you have to buy tools and plants and seeds and decorations for the gardens. But once you have that stuff, it costs nothing to weed and maintain the garden, unless you hire somebody to do it for you.

But lawns are a constant expense. You have to keep buying gas to power the lawnmower. Lawn mowers are nosier, stinkier and more obnoxious than even Donald Trump.

Yes, you can get a push mower with no motor, but frankly, those are not practical unless you have a small lawn. Electric or battery powered lawn mowers aren't great either.

Lawn mowers are expensive, and you have to maintain them and pay for repairs. By the way, a lawn mower operated for one hour is often as polluting as a car driven 200 miles.
The lawn care companies - the Lawn Industrial Complex in my parlance - have successfully built a culture that dictates the "need" to have a perfect lawn.

Which, of course means you have to buy their mowers, fertilizers, weed killers - you name it.

They've crafted a narrative that a perfect, weed-free lawn is macho, and proves you are in control. A real man. ("Too bad, ladies with your frivolous flowers" is the sexist subtext to this lawn culture or advertising regime.)

Lawns aren't great for the environment, either. Especially if you use all the chemicals some of the lawn care companies insist you use to eliminate all weeds.

As Brenda Cummings noted for in 2013:

"Many of these chemicals leach into our ground water and run into our waterways, helping to make polluted runoff the single larges source of pollution nationwide. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers causes eutrophication. (death from excessive algae grow) in rivers, lakes and ponds."

Yes, your lawn is also ruining your trip to the beach. You don't have time to go to the beach anyway, because you have to mow, and all those fertilizers you use on your lawn turned the water at the beach to a gross, smelly algae slick anyway.

God forbid a dandelion ever blooms, which, by the way, has the potential to feed a badly needed pollinating bee.

We have been so forced to "require" a lawn that people routinely insist on having them in places where they shouldn't grow. Like the Desert Southwest.

Sometimes, when people rebel against lawns, there's terrible push back. Many homeowners' associations require expansive (and expensive!) lawns, and even many municipalities do.
There are several cases in which homeowners got in trouble for growing well-maintained gardens in their front yards instead of stupid lawns.

In a recent case, a Florida couple is suing their town for a new zoning ordinance that bans front yard gardens.

The couple contends that, within reason, if you own property, you should do what you want with it, and a front yard garden is certainly within reason, as long as it's properly maintained.

I'm totally behind these homeowners!

Don't get me wrong. Having some lawn on your property is a good thing. Kids need places to run around. I know where I live our dogs want to romp on the grass, or roll in the coolness of the lawn on a hot day.

Plus lawns, if you limit them, are a good design element. They offer a break from the bushiness of flowers, shrubs and other things in the garden. Or, a narrow corridor of lawn makes a good path through a garden. There's definitely a place for lawns in any landscape layout.

It's just that we've been sold a bunch of malarkey that we all need expansive lawns with no other major features or variety to make it interesting.

Meanwhile, I guess I'll just drag that lawn mower back out and beat back that growing grass that, if I leave it alone, will hide what few perennial beds I've managed to plant.

Part of my big lawn in St. Albans, Vermont. It would look better with less grass and more flower beds, but I don't have time to add flowers because I alway have to mow the lawn.

I'm slowly expanding perennial beds around my garden shed outward into the lawn. You can see how I'm slowly digging out the lawn on the outer edges of the flower beds to get rid of all that lawn.

This used to be a steep, grassy hard-to-mow embankment outside my St. Albans, Vermont house. So I replaced the sod with a bunch of easy-to-care-for day lillies and put in a rock wall to mark the base of the slope.

Another perspective of the day lily embankment outside my house with a perennial garden under construction to the right. That new perennial garden also used to be lawn.