Guide FL Gardeners by gdf57j


									History of the American Lawn
OR: HOW THIS NONSENSE GOT STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE                           Seizing on this opportunity to push forward an “improved” lifestyle
                                                                            and supporting industry, the Garden Clubs of America, the U.S.
                                                                            Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Golf Association jointly spread

       ome scientists believe that humans may be genetically encoded
       with a need to surround ourselves with low-growing turfgrass.        the gospel of grass throughout the country in the early 1900s. Contests
       Tens of thousands of years ago in Africa, our ancestors stayed fit   were held to reward lawn owners. Garden writers focused on the
       by chasing. and being chased by, big wild animals. The African       neighborly desire to conform and acquire status. Lawns became not
       savannas, large areas of low grasses, enabled human hunters to
                                                                             No amount of flag waving can make up for the
easily stalk their prey and spot predators at a great distance.
                                                                             damage this type of landscape does to America.
    Historians, however, believe that the human desire for lawns came
about much later, in 17th century Europe, when the ruling royals
flaunted their wealth by surrounding themselves with lawn. Lawns did
a great job of showing off castles and manor homes. Lawns signaled
wealth so great that property owners could use their land as play-
grounds, rather than growing crops. Thus, the lawn became a status
    In the United States, early colonists were far too busy to be both-
ered with something as time-consuming and useless as a lawn. Their
yards were cottage gardens planted with edible and medicinal plants
and surrounded by pathways and storage areas of hard-packed dirt,
swept clean daily. And so it remained until enough wealth and leisure       Turfgrass lawns soak up more than one third of our urban water sup-
time was accumulated to start decorating the yard and creating play         ply. Every year, we drench our lawns with 67 million pounds of pesti-
areas. Not surprisingly, our immigrant ancestors brought with them          cides, nearly half of which are banned as public health hazards in
their Old World ideas – and Old World plants.                               other industrialized countries. Our lawnmowers along burn 800 mil-
    By the mid 1800s, the desire to emulate upper-crust Europe was in       lion gallons of gasoline a year, and gallon for gallon, lawnmowers
full swing. Literate Americans began to see magazine articles and           contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than cars.

    Nice home, no grass — this very respectable looking                                         just an aesthetic issue but a moral imperative.
    house in upscale Seaside, Florida, is surrounded by                                            With ever-improving technology, gas-powered
    coastal natives and beach sand.                                                             lawnmowers came on the scene and after World
                                                                                                War II, chemical weapons manufacturers turned
                                                                                                their attention to the lawn and the formidable per-
                                                                                                ceived enemy: insects. Warehouses of potent
                                                                                                chemicals turned into fertilizer and pesticide prod-
                                                                                                ucts, perfectly timed for the postwar boom era,
                                                                                                when Americans everywhere became suburbanites
                                                                                                and felt they needed lawns.
                                                                                                   Soon came scientists like Rachel Carson
                                                                                                (author of Silent Spring) to explain the dangers
                                                                                                that such chemicals presented to the public health
                                                                                                and welfare. Severe pollution and rising aware-
                                                                                                ness led to the modern environmental movement.
                                                                                                The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was
                                                                                                created by the Nixon Administration in 1970, and
                                                                                                monumental laws such as the Clean Air Act and
                                                                                                Clean Water Act followed. Thanks to these efforts,
                                                                                                the general public increasingly wants to reduce or
                                                                                                eliminate chemicals in and around their homes.
books touting the lawn as essential for beautiful homes. At first, only        Now, we’re beginning to recognize the need to conserve water and
the wealthy could afford the labor provided by hired servants to main-      preserve habitat. The average homeowner can do a lot by pulling the
tain lawns. Of course, this further cemented the idea of lawn as a sta-     plug on routine irrigation and water-wasting lawngrass. Planting
tus symbol. The push mower came on the scene in 1870 and suddenly           regionally indigenous plants that thrive on rainfall and natural nutri-
almost any property owner who wanted to could have a lawn.                  ents conserves the amount and quality of water available, and also pro-
                                                                            vides habitat for many small wild creatures. All over the country,
SPONSORED BY THE                                                            Americans are choosing less lawn, more native plants, and a healthier
Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, serving Lee,         and more sustainable landscape.
Glades and Hendry Counties.

6          T HE G UIDE   FOR   R EAL F LORIDA G A RDENERS | 2009                                 Association of Florida Native Nurseries |

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