A Brief History of Grass Lawns

Grass LawnWhat is a brief history of grass lawns doing on a debt blog? I’ll tell you…

The reason we have grass lawns is the same reason we fall into debt.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Grass lawns originated among the wealthy landowners in England. This was possible because England received more than enough rain to support healthy lawns. Furthermore, the wealthy were the only ones who could afford to pay laborers to scythe the grass (they didn’t have lawn mowers).

As you can imagine, the English lawns and gardens became the stuff of legends. The beautiful paths, the rolling meadows, the gorgeous trees–it was an environment to fall in love with.

So what happened next?

To put it simply, Americans became “green” with envy.

And so they exported the concept of the English lawn to America, despite the more arid climate in most parts of the U.S.

The lawn may never have taken such a firm hold in America without these two significant influences:

  • The invention of the push-reel mower in the 19th Century. (With the invention of the mower, one man could mow his lawn. No hired labor was required.)
  • The publicity and marketing efforts of The American Garden Club. (According to this site, “they convinced home owners that it was their civic duty to maintain a beautiful and healthy lawn.”)

And that was that.

The grass lawn became the de facto form of landscaping.

To this day, most people don’t realize grass lawns were imported to America because of envy. And most people don’t realize the incredible amount of money, water, and energy that goes into maintaining even a small lawn.

Researcher Christina Milesi’s estimates reveal a startling fact: Grass lawns are the largest irrigated “crop” in the entire U.S. It’s too bad you can’t eat a lawn when you’re hungry!

Anyway, the whole purpose of this blog post is to point out a simple fact: Your average American is saddled with an expensive lawn because Amercians became envious of the English way back when.

And your average American is saddled with too much consumer debt because he became envious of his neighbor way back when.

And we’re still paying for the price of envy years later.

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11 thoughts on “A Brief History of Grass Lawns”

  1. Thank you for linking back to the carnival! :)

    I get sad when I see all these golf course green lawns. I think of all the pesticides dumped into our ecosystem and the water wasted. I live on a farm and we don’t even irrigate our alfalfa (hay) fields. The interesting thing about many grasses is if you stop watering them, the roots will grow deeper and find water, grow stronger, and thrive. By watering grasses often (as many North Americans do), we actually train the grasses to grow shallow roots.

    The first year we halted irrigation the alfalfa was a little stunted. But the second summer the alfalfa flourished beyond the results of irrigated alfalfa. It just takes a season for the grasses, soil, and ecosystem to recover from an unnatural process.

  2. You’re welcome, Squawkfox!

    Great point about not watering as frequently. It does help grass grow stronger and heartier.

    The only fertilizers I’ve used are 100% organic. I never use herbicides/pesticides. We’ve got enough water problems without voluntarily polluting our water supply.

  3. Wow! This is a great post. More people need to not l=only question their lawn habits, but their money habits as well. Once again, nice job.

  4. @Nick – Yep. Most people have lawns. And in most cases you can’t even take the lawn out if you want to because of rules imposed by HOA (Homeowners Associations).

    There are exceptions. For instance, Phoenix, Arizona. It’s desert. Yards are landscaped with rocks.


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