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Should We Get Rid of Our Lawns?

Posted by Susanna Haynie on July 3, 2013
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Should we get rid of grass?By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Published: May 8, 2013

We are in a drought and we are on strict water restriction, which I completely understand and adhere to. I watched as our lawn turned slowly brown and is now nearly dead. I trusted Colorado Springs Utilities as they promised that a lawn really doesn’t need more watering than twice a week. Hm. When I take a look at my neighbors very green and lush green lawn, it’s clear: I am doing something wrong, or am I 😉

To some, a lawn is their yard’s crowning glory. To others, it’s a big hit on the pocketbook and the environment. Where do you stand?

When I grew up, a lush, green lawn was every suburbanite’s dream, a sign they’d achieved the American dream of homeownership and a weed-free front yard.

Today, I still love a lawn. I love the look, feel, and smell of grass. And I’m willing to pay almost $700 a year to the people — mowers, weeders, aerators, chemical treaters — who keep my turf looking great.

But suddenly, grass lawns are public enemy No. 1. Some states are even banning new lawns because they are, basically, unquenchable. The anti-turf people say get rid of lawns.

  • Mowers are loud and polluting.
  • Fertilizers contaminate the watershed.
  • Lawns gulp tens of thousands of gallons of water every time you irrigate them.

Why I Love Lawns

I believe lawns are a friend to man and beast. And so does the EPA, which says a healthy lawn:

  • Provides feeding grounds for birds, who munch on the insects and worms found beneath grass.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Filters contaminants from rainwater runoff.
  • Absorbs airborne pollutants like dust and soot.
  • Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen, which helps clean the air.

Granted, plants and trees perform many of the same services. And many homeowners are replacing lawns with native species plants and even vegetable gardens.

One of my neighbors, who has solar panels on her roof and a Chevy Volt in her driveway, has turned her front yard into a tomato and pumpkin patch. She’s a lovely person. But her yard is a mess, with vines snaking every which way, leaf mulch and wood chips rotting in smoking mounds, wire cages dotting the landscape.

Good luck trying to sell that house.

In fact, studies show that well-kept landscaping can add 15% to the price of a home. The studies don’t parse the value of lawns alone, but a flawless, emerald lawn obviously makes a property look better and more saleable.

I realize not everyone has a love affair with lawns. In fact, my HouseLogic colleagues have different views.

She Hates Grass

One HouseLogic contributor, Lara Edge, hates her lawn in Tennessee, which “serves no purpose except to sprout weeds,” she says.

Instead of mowing “outdoor carpeting,” she’d rather grow vegetables in her front yard — the only sunny, level spot on her property. Alas, her HOA prohibits veggies in the front yard, saying it hurts curb appeal.

“The notion that you’re sacrificing curb appeal and beauty if you plant vegetables in your front yard is just plain wrong,” Edge says. “A little nurturing goes a long way in creating edible beauty.”

He Hates Weeds

John Riha, another HouseLogic contributor, loves his lawn; but the weeds love it more.

“It’s disappeared under a crazy quilt of every known type of common weed — dandelions, crabgrass, nutsedge, purslane — you name it, and I’ve got it,” Riha says.

So, instead of waging a weed battle he won’t win, he gradually replaces each weed he digs up with bulbs and plants indigenous to southern Oregon. Indigenous plants are much more likely to survive drought or cold snaps than plants imported from far-flung places. Plus, they’re pretty.

Alternatives to Lawns

If no lawn, then what? Check out these ideas:

  • Xeroscaping (rock gardening)
  • Why Fake Grass is Gaining Popularity
  • Green Up Your Lawn in a Hurry with Lawn Paint
  • Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives: Turf Grasses
  • Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives: Ground Cover

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from and originally posted on HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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