Sometimes old ideas need to change

Recently there was an interesting post on one of the social media outlets many of us visit about the common home lawn, and why we have them?

I reposted the item, but the next day it was gone, which may mean the accreditation was incorrect, but the basic gist was something that was worth some thought.

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The meme questioned why we work so hard to maintain a non-native grass lawn that is a monoculture, (the cultivation of a single crop in a given area), and use a significant amount of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in the process? I might also add the question about the amount of water poured onto lawns just in Canada in a year, let alone worldwide?

Certainly the idea of pesticide use is one we need to consider for something non-essential like a lawn, when we are increasingly aware of the importance on bees in pollinating food crops.

Moving forward, it is rather obvious water is going to become a resource we will need to manage better, in particular potable water. It stands to reason lawns will need to be a long way down the allowable usage – some might argue the outright wastage – of our water resource.

So why do we spend so much time and resources to the grass in our front yard, a space we rarely use for more than looking at?

A little Internet search and I found this at

“Turns out, the grass lawn as a status symbol has its origins in European aristocracy. The very first lawns were grassy fields that surrounded English and French castles. Castle grounds had to be kept clear of trees so that the soldiers protecting them had a clear view of their surroundings. It wouldn’t do for enemies to be able to sneak up on the castle through the forest.

“It is believed that such lawns were deliberately cultivated around English and French castles starting in the 16th century. However, it’s thought that chamomile and thyme were commonly used at this point for these deliberate lawns, instead of grass. Both are great alternatives that require less maintenance than traditional turf grass.”

The same site also noted; “a man named Frederick Law Olmstead, the “father of American landscape design”—who you might know as the man who designed Central Park in New York—was also designing suburbs where each house had its own little lawn. This further popularized the idea that houses should have grass lawns.”

So the lawn had a historic basis, but today is something that is culturally ingrained, but having little more than an aesthetic reason for existing. It is not unusual for people to follow societal influences from buying diamonds rings at engagement, to celebrating a made up holiday such as Valentine’s Day, but in the case of lawns the use of the water resource and application of chemicals makes it a questionable practice, especially as society questions how farmers grow their crops.

Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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