Manolo for the Home » They make take our lawns, but they’ll never take…our** freedom!






They make take our lawns, but they’ll never take…our** freedom!

By Christa Terry

Full disclosure: The Beard and I have a lawn. I wish I could bring myself to join the anti-lawn movement — cars all over my town sport FOOD NOT LAWNS bumper stickers — but I can hardly keep on top of the garden I already have, which is comprised of one rhubarb, four romaine lettuces, five broccolis, some carrots, and a few onions. This is one isolated in case in which I’d rather destroy than create. Pushing my squeaky old fashioned mower over my little patch of the world is wonderfully cathartic.

Too much work to be worth it?

But while I don’t have to lovingly hunch over every inch of the thing sweating and swearing about beetles with a taste for salad greens, my lawn is not entirely maintenance free. Caring for it has brought up some interesting conundrums. I wanted to get a proper fertilizer and crabgrassicide until The Beard reminded me that we let the cats out, and they have a taste for grass. He wanted a proper power mower until I said they spewed pollution. We both wanted to pull the weeds until we read a notice sent from the city encouraging people to let ’em grow for various green reasons.


In the U.S., lawns are a sign of civility, and civility doesn’t come cheap. We spend 40 billion dollars each each keeping our lawns green, weed and pest free, springy, and walkable. The first landscape-gardening book aimed at an American audience, according to one New Yorker article, an expanse of “grass mown into a softness like velvet” was an essential part of any proper garden. What’s kind of funny is that very few of the grasses you’ll find in an American lawn are native to the country.

Well, I suppose that’s not the funniest part. I find the function of lawns quite hilarious considering that very few people I know actually use them for anything. The Beard and I will sit under our shade trees that shield our back lawn from the sun, but our front yard exists to be mown…and mown and mown and mown again. I get mad at the neighborhood doggies for putting brown patches in it, yet I use it for nothing! That’s the main objection a friend of mine has to lawns. “They don’t produce anything,” he says. “They’re pointless.”

Anyway, about that notice the city sent around…it advised mowing everything, from the grass to the weedy things growing up between its blades. The ground coverage would remain pretty much the same, and we could save ourselves from weekends spent doing backbreaking work under the sun. Supposedly, a balance between weed and grass would eventually work itself out. It’s good for the earth, the notice trumpeted, and that’s usually the easiest way to get me to agree to anything. Needless to say, we went ahead and followed the city’s advice.

I can’t say how our little experiment will turn out in the long term, but for now it’s going smashingly. All the things growing on our property provide the ground cover we want without our having to slave over the lawn. The icing on the cake is that I found out that our favored brand of lawn care has a proper name, coined by F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe in the book Redesigning the American Lawn.

We have –apparently without even trying — a Freedom Lawn, which “consists of grass mixed with whatever else happens to seed itself,” and may contain dandelion, violets, bluets, spurrey, chickweed, chrysanthemum, brown-eyed Susan, partridge berry, Canada mayflower, various clovers, plantains, evening primrose, rushes, and wood rush, as well as grasses not usually associated with the well-manicured lawn, such as broomsedge, sweet vernal grass, timothy, quack grass, oat grass, crabgrass, and foxtail grass.

If you’re thinking of following in our footsteps, I recommend a change in perspective. It’s not a weed; it’s broad-leafed ground cover! That’s not a nasty old dandelion; it’s a pretty flower here to brighten your day and bring bees to your neighborhood! You get the point — our suburban lawns are so tied in to who we are that we are sometimes afraid our neighbors will think we’re ickyyucky if our lawns don’t look like the country club green, but I guarantee* you that no one is going to notice if your lawn has a little foxtail and evening primrose mixed in.

* Guarantee does not apply if you are silly enough to belong to a HOA with all those petty rules

**I can’t believe no one called me on my ridiculous “ouf” typo!









9 Responses to “They make take our lawns, but they’ll never take…our** freedom!”




  1. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    I agree with you that lawns, while lovely to walk on, do tend to be rather useless. One argument I hear in favour of them is that kids like to play on them. Yet, how many of us have seen kids playing on a manicured lawn when they instead have the option to play in the woods, or in amongst big rocks, or in any other place that still has wildness to it? I rarely remember playing on our lawn as a kid. But do I remember running wild with my friends on the wooded trails behind our house? You betcha.




  2. Chachi Says:

    Mlle. Acadienne, not all of us were so lucky to have grown up with woodsy trails and rocks behind our homes! Growing up in the city myself, our yard was used all the time for running races, practicing cartwheels and handstands, and running around on summer evenings trying to catch lightning bugs. Now that I live in dry, drought-tastic Southern California, I have much respect for the idea that lawns here are terribly misdirected uses of water. But boy oh boy, if I ever move back to the Midwest, mama’s gettin’ herself a house with a lawn. Preach.




  3. Emily Says:

    Ah, this is why I’m ever so happy not to have a lawn. My backyard is so minuscule that we simply paid a fabulous mason to lay down paving stones and now have one massive patio, a sizeable planting bed, and tons of container plants.

    My parents, on the other hand, has a massive lawn. However, my father refuses to water it.

    NtB- Really- our city sent around a missive asking everyone not to obsess? I honestly think that’s a nice use of city funds.




  4. Twistie Says:

    Being as we’re in a significant drought situation here in sunny California, the water district has asked us not to water our lawn more than twice a week. Silly people! We are not watering the grass at all. When we have the funds, we intend to remove all the grass anyway and replace it with a nice, agressive, drought-resistant, low-lying ground cover and never mow again.

    And I want a copper lawn rhinocerus.

    Don’t ask me where one finds one of those, though. I just saw one once in a photo someone had taken of a lawn sculpture of great glory and decided I wanted it for my own. It was positioned to look like it was eating a large shrub.




  5. Little Red Says:

    Who knew that my father was so ahead of the times when he started his “Freedom Lawn” some twenty years ago when he decided that the lawn shouldn’t be watered or be sprayed with weed killers resulting in a lawn chock full of crabgrass. I was always so embarassed and I have to admit, I still am. *hangs head in shame*

    I agree that in a place like Southern California, lawns are wasteful since the true climate and geography is that of a desert. But here on the East Coast and the Mid-West, I think they are more natural looking given all the other greenery.




  6. Jennie Says:

    I’m late to the discussion but @Little Red, maybe your part of the East coast is not in drought condition but ours sure is! We are in the 5th year of the worse drought on record and cannot water lawns except Saturday or Sunday. I just killed the grass in the back of my townhouse and am putting in pavers and naturalized drought resistant ground cover and potted plants.




  7. La BellaDonna Says:

    Nature waters my “lawn” for me, and as long as everything is approximately the same height, I’m good with it. I mow (or have it mowed), because otherwise my city gives me a ticket (!), but I am definitely of the “no pesticides” school – there’s already a crisis in terms of bees* and bats disappearing (bats are my chosen form of flying pest control), and I’m always afraid of what happens when pets and toddlers mix with pesticides.

    My true lawn dream? I would love to have a miniature meadow, with all kinds of wild grasses and plants, and even a water feature – the kind that can be my own wildlife sanctuary. No mowing, and lots of little creatures living safely and happily. *sigh*

    *I don’t wish to get too upclose with the bees, myself, despite my trusty Epipen, but they are necessary.




  8. Never teh Bride Says:

    *Indeed, Emily — it was in a flyer about conscientious watering practices.

    *The key to having a proper freedom lawn, Little Red, is maintenance. It’s pesticide free and doesn’t use a lot of water, but it does take clipping and mowing. In fact, the native grasses growing in my yard grow so much faster than the usual seed mix, so I find myself working in the garden more often. Maybe “freedom” isn’t the right word…

    *A miniature meadow, La BellaDonna? That’s precisely what I want! I wrote an article once about setting up a wildlife sanctuary in one’s own backyard. Nature conservation groups will come and sign off on it so you can be sure you have the right sort of flora to support the local fauna.




  9. raincoaster Says:

    The moss on my balcony is really doing well this year. Moss does better than grass in Vancouver, and it even looks better.












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