I think it’s been pretty well established that lawns are environmentally unfriendly. They require massive amounts of water. Fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides get carried off by rain (or overwatering!) into storm drains and streams and can contaminate wildlife and environments many miles away. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, homeowners in the U.S. use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops.
Worse: According to a 2013 study, “Detection of herbicides in the urine of pet dogs following home lawn chemical application,” the detection of lawn chemicals in the urine of pet dogs was widespread – and that lawn chemicals persisted on the grass for at least 48 hours after application, and even longer under certain environmental conditions. It’s been established that exposure to herbicide-treated lawns has been associated with significantly higher bladder cancer risk in dogs.
And yet: What’s better than playing with a dog, or watching a dog or dogs play by themselves, on a blanket of nice thick green grass? Especially in the heat of summer?
I just read an article in the New York Times (“America’s Killer Lawns”) that provided some helpful ways to make lawns less toxic.
No beautiful lush lawn at my house…
For what it’s worth, I’ve never had a gorgeous lawn – probably because I’ve never engaged the services of a lawn-care company, not used fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides on my grass. I wouldn’t feel good about using any of those things, even though I’ve certainly enjoyed playing or exercising on publics lawns and sports fields that almost surely DO use those chemicals. Every home I’ve lived in as an adult came with an existing crappy lawn, one containing as many weeds as grass species (my husband insists on using air-quotes when discussing our “lawn,” because he doesn’t think the collection of plants that dwell in front of our home constitutes turf in any way). At our last home, we stopped watering our “lawn” during the worst summer of California’s drought, and neither restarted nor, I have to admit, replaced it with alternative landscaping. It looked perfectly Dust Bowl-esque in the summer, just awful.
Like our past homes, our current home came with a front yard featuring lots of grass, as well as lots of other weeds and clover. It’s partially sun-baked and partially deeply shaded. Some species of plants thrive in one location and not in the others. But for the two summers we’ve lived here so far, we have kept it watered and mowed, and both the dogs and I really enjoy it, even if it’s not thick or lush or smooth or even. It’s cooler and softer than anything else outside in the summer! Also, it covers a wide swath of space; if we removed it, I have no idea what we’d plant or how we’d begin to landscape or hardscape it. For now, anyway, it is what it is.
Lately, I’ve been watching videos of a trainer I know working her young puppy on a smooth green carpet of permanently installed artificial turf outside her home and have been coveting a training space like that. But I don’t know that I would ever pull the trigger on an expense like that, either.
What about you? Do you maintain a lawn for your family’s enjoyment? Or do you live lawn-free? If you have given up grass, do you miss it?