The value of the North American lawn

The value of the American lawn

Parwinder Grewal, Ph.D. Urban Landscape Ecology Program, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691, USA

Introduction Lawns are a central part of landscapes throughout North America, and have emerged as the dominant land use in rapidly expanding urbanized areas (Robbins and Birkenholtz, 2003).  Lawns were cultivated in ancient China and Persia, and historians agree that the precursor to the modern American lawn was the “grassy meades” that surrounded British estates.  Originally kept short by browsing sheep, as the city parks of Auckland, New Zealand are today, these formal lawns were later maintained by gardeners using scythes.  American aristocrats copied this “manor house” aesthetic, but the invention of the push mower in 1830 placed lawn maintenance within the reach of average people, and lawns spread quickly in the American landscape.  As early as 1880, state agricultural colleges began breeding improved grass cultivars for lawns.  The next major change began during World War II, when chemical research led to the development of the first selective herbicides.  Together, the development of synthetic fertilizers and the rise of the suburban dream among the growing middle-class, led to the rapid growth of the lawn care industry.

Although the original lawns in the British estates were composed of a diverse variety of plants, today’s preferred American lawns contain only one or 2 to 3 grass species.  The simultaneous development of the golf course and lawn care industries have led to the perfection of monospecific, weed-free lawns which are referred to as turfgrass lawns.  The word turfgrass originated from the Sanskrit word, darbha, meaning tuft of grass.  Turfgrass lawns are easy to establish from seed or from the readily available sod, making turfgrass the cheapest ground cover to install.

Lawns of turfgrass provide a low-cost surface ideal for many outdoor sports and recreational activities.  Lawns are used for playing sports including archery, badminton, baseball, cricket, croquet, field hockey, football, golf, hiking, horse racing, horse-shoes, lawn bowling, lawn tennis, lacrosse, polo, rugby, shooing, skiing, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball.  Both the enjoyment and the benefits of improved physical and mental health derived from recreation and leisure activities on lawns of turfgrass are vital to the contemporary society, especially in densely populated urban areas.  Homeowners derive benefits of outdoor recreation, physical exercise and therapeutic relaxation from the care and grooming of lawns.  Apart from these obvious uses, the American lawn contributes hugely to the national economy and provides numerous benefits to the environment, human health, and the society that are difficult to quantify.  These benefits of the American lawn are explored in this article. – See more at:

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