Since the massive proliferation of suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s, suburban residents have meticulously maintained these pristine green grass carpets, with lawn length and other aesthetic considerations applied by statutes and homeowner associations. Americans have taken their landscape aesthetics all over the world. American communities in Saudi Arabia have grass in the middle of the desert. U.S.
embassies and consulates around the world have lawns. And when the Cultural Revolution swept through China, all the grass that had been established under American and British influence was uprooted. And they may no longer conform to the realities of the world in which we live. As an independent student newspaper and the official newspaper for the city of Berkeley, the Daily Cal has been reporting important updates during this pandemic.
Your support is essential to maintaining this coverage. If I asked you to imagine the average American home, you would probably think of a suburban landscape with white fences, luxurious minivans, and rich, well-kept green gardens. Even though most Americans don't live in these types of homes, this is what most of us are unconsciously trained to aspire to live in the quintessential image of the “American Dream.”. The anxiety and pride involved in maintaining a better lawn than your neighbor's is a frequently talked about obsession, but it's still very real for many people across the country, as having a good lawn is often seen as a symbol of prosperity, discipline and freedom.
Having enough excess time and energy in your life to devote to cultivating a lawn means that you are a successful member of society, not only economically, but also in spirit and values. But where does this obsession come from? A lawn, taken out of context, is a very peculiar landscape choice. It's neither incredibly decorative nor useful and, in terms of land use, it's extraordinarily inefficient. Basically, it is a large strip of land that produces nothing except a space for recreational activities, especially for dogs, children and golfers, and often requires immense care to maintain it.
In drought-prone areas, such as California, grass is a terrible sponge for unnecessary water use, absorbing an average of 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week, adding up to 52 to 78 inches per year. To put that into perspective, Berkeley, on average, gets a total of 25 inches of rainfall per year. And, of course, there's maintenance; mowing the lawn at least once a week is generally recommended, and the average American can spend about 70 hours a year caring for the lawn and garden. If you add all that to the fact that a place like the Bay Area has an incredibly small space, the benefits of using precious land for lawns seem to be quite rare.
Lawns can be made from a variety of different grass species, which are generally determined by the region. But even with these lodges in mind, fescue, California's most popular grass, originates from a completely alien region of Europe and Asia, which is much colder and wetter than California. Despite its name, Kentucky bluegrass, the most popular grass in the entire country, is also native to Europe. Both grasses are considered “cold season grasses,” meaning they thrive in regions with cold winters and hot summers, and grow best when temperatures range between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both Kentucky bluegrass and fescue have had adverse environmental effects since their introduction to the United States in the 19th century, invading native grasslands across the country and diminishing native biodiversity. Fescue, in particular, also has the additional side effect of carrying fungal endophytes that protect the plant from being eaten by insects, drastically reducing the food available to important native insect species, and may also have adverse effects on livestock and native shepherds who They try to feed on it. Therefore, grass not only has a devastating impact on the environment, but it also consumes a lot of time, resources and energy. And what do we get in return? For many families, the backyard lawn is an outdoor space to relax and play, maybe have a barbecue or play fetch with the dogs.
But what about the front lawn, the lawn where most rivalries between neighbors are resolved and where people rarely “hang out”? Is it just for decoration? Is it simply a matter of resolving small psychological disputes and announcing to the world the successful, rich and in control of your life through your incredibly delicious green field? Turns out, historically, yes. Grass originated in Europe in the 16th century, when French and English castles wanted the land that immediately surrounded their property to be free of trees so that soldiers could see if enemies were coming to attack. These fields used to be filled with thyme or chamomile, and the cattle that grazed kept them short. Sometime in the 17th century, the practice spread to other smaller, richer landowners, who perhaps wanted to replicate the status and feel of a castle in their own homes.
They began to maintain heavily sheared pasture fields around their homes. Instead of using livestock to keep them properly cultivated, they went on to do manual labor, such as the scythe. Since a large piece of land dedicated to a lawn meant that the labor needed to maintain it could be paid and he wasn't bothered by the loss of income from not planting a more productive crop in place of grass, grass became a way to demonstrate his wealth and power. Grass arrived in the United States around the same time it gained popularity in Europe, and during the first half of the U.S.
UU. Demand for pasture began with the first settlers, who found pasture unsuitable for grazing in the northeast and requested shipments of European pasture so that their livestock could survive. By the 18th century, all types of imported grasses had colonized the American continent together with colonists, causing many farmers to rely on imported grass varieties instead of finding native varieties that could adequately meet their needs. In the 19th century, grass became available for residential use.
However, during the 18th and early 19th centuries, grass was not at all common. Instead, many homes had a flower garden in the front and an enclosed patio in the back. However, the popularity of vast tracts of green was increasing in Europe, inevitably prompting wealthy Americans to follow suit. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington enjoyed the aesthetic gardens implemented in Monticello and Mount Vernon, respectively, and images of the green fields in these places became widespread and began to gain popularity among other wealthy landowners.
There are many alternatives to grass that may be more appropriate for California's climate. Xeriscaping, or the practice of using drought-tolerant plants as decorative landscaping, is becoming increasingly popular, as homeowners try to keep their front yards clean and elegant, while reducing their water costs and environmental impact. Xeriscapado can include non-native plants, such as certain succulents that work with local environmental conditions, or it can even incorporate plants native to the Bay Area, such as deer and sticky monkeys. If you like to spend time and energy taking care of your lawn, functional gardens, such as those filled with food or medicinal plants, can also be a great use of outdoor space, which can benefit not only you but the entire community, if you choose to share your harvest.
If you're looking to fill the space with something simple and elegant, but requires little maintenance, there are many different types of more drought-tolerant ground cover plants that don't require as much work as grass, such as Angelina sedum or the ice plant. If you want an area for children to play or do other activities, you can implement mulch, pavement, or durable ground-covering plants, such as clover or yarrow, which can thrive in California with minimal maintenance and little or no watering once they are established. And of course, if you absolutely need grass, you can use more drought-resistant and low-maintenance grass species, such as buffalo grass, blue grass or sheep fescue, which require a fraction of the water normally needed by fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. No matter what your reason for wanting a lawn, there is a better option that is more constructive for your space, time, energy and environment.
Let's stop the madness and cure California of this obsession once and for all. Stop growing grass and start using your land productively, whether for the local ecosystem, the general environment, the community, or even for yourself. And of course, all that grass inspired innovations in mowing. With the rise of suburbs in the United States after World War II, the perfect lawn became a powerful symbol of the American dream.
Whether it was a large strip of grass cut into sharp diagonal stripes or a more modest sample of grass and clover, a lawn expressed the national ideal that, with hard work, sacrifice, and perhaps a little help from Uncle Sam, homeownership and a piece of land could be accessible to all Americans. And while the first American landowners had appropriated some of those values, by the mid-20th century, the nation had developed its own, less elitist, image of grass. That evolving story would be shaped by the G, I. Bill, pervasive homeownership, egalitarian ideals, technological advances in harvesting, golf courses and the saga of race.
A well-maintained lawn became a physical manifestation of that dream. A thin lawn serves as a framework for a home, explained Abe Levitt, who together with his two sons built Levittown, housing communities in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that came to define the homogeneity of flourishing suburbs. It's the first thing a visitor sees. And first impressions are the ones that last.
Olmsted's idyllic, limitless lawn had to be perfectly maintained. Grass is the owner's main contribution to the suburban landscape, the piece of the park that he himself conserves, wrote Robert Fishman, professor of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan. For a culture increasingly obsessed with golf in the 1950s, the perfect lawn rose to become an icon of the American dream, wrote Ted Steinberg, professor of history at Case Western Reserve University and one of the leading scholars of American turf. If the beautiful grass were a brilliant emblem of the American dream, it could also mean the ways in which racism and systemic inequality shaped the American landscape.
At the very least, the new, fresh supergreen gardens offered an escape from the monochromatic life of cities, a uniform landscape of bright colors that reflected the aesthetic and racial uniformity of the suburbs of the 1950s, Steinberg wrote. But this exclusion didn't mean that African Americans didn't embrace or understand the importance of the perfect American turf. John Lewis, the late congressman and civil rights activist, used to tell a story from his youth about playing in a dirt yard at his aunt Seneva's shotgun house in rural Alabama. From time to time, he would go out into the forest and take branches from a dogwood tree.
And she would make a broom. And he called this broom the broom of brushes. And I cleaned this dirty patio very clean, sometimes two and three times a week. Lewis, a giant of the civil rights movement, clearly understood how the juxtaposition of the dirt yard and the “green, manicured grass” provided a jarring picture of race in the United States.
In the 21st century, there has been growing concern about the use of pesticides and water on American lawns, the way they waste precious water and poison the groundwater table with chemicals. Twice a week, we collect our most fascinating features and deliver them directly to you. Improvements to the lawnmower and the water supply made it possible to spread grass cultivation from the northeast to the south, where the grass grew less. And finally, in the post-World War II era, there was a boom in the construction of working-class housing that implemented front gardens to imitate upper middle class housing, bringing grass to the working class.
The image of lawns shifted from focusing on technology and virility to emphasizing aesthetic pleasure and the health benefits of maintaining it; lawn care company advertisers assumed that women would not respond positively to images of efficiency and power. Due to concerns about pesticide use, fertilizer use, climate change and pollution, a movement developed in the late 20th century to demand organic turf management. Don't miss any posts and stay up to date with the latest tips and news on property management, lawn care providers and lawn care. Over time, women were cultivated to view lawns as part of the home, as essential furniture, and to encourage their husbands to maintain a lawn for the reputation of the family and community.
The prevalence of grass in films such as Pleasantville (1999) and Edward Scissorhands (1990) alludes to the importance of grass as a social mechanism that gives great importance to the visual representation of the American suburb, as well as to its practiced culture. In addition, Americans are reported to use 80 million pounds of fertilizer and pesticides on their lawns every year. A neighbor whose lawn is not in perfect condition is implied to be morally corrupt, emphasizing the role that a well-maintained lawn plays in neighborhood and community relations. Pressures to maintain lawns are also legal; there are often local or state laws that prohibit letting weeds grow too big or leaving a turf space especially neglected, punishable by fees or litigation.
This idea is becoming increasingly important in the context of viable grass alternatives, such as gardens, low-maintenance vegetation covers and, more generally, xeriscaping, a landscape conservation technique that, in addition to its ecological aspects, can be much more cost-effective than traditional grass. . .