Why do we have grass lawns anyway, and can we do better?

August 8, 2021

I pass by dozens of grass lawns every single day, and for a long time I never gave them any thought. But recently I have been observing and questioning these perfectly maintained landscapes.

Why do so many of us want to attain the same exact ideal of glorious green grass, and what exactly is the history of the grass lawn? 

Aesthetics may be one thing, but what purpose does a lawn consisting of singular species of grass even serve?

Sure it's nice to look at, and it's nice to walk and play on, but certainly there is more to it, let’s find out!

Why do we have grass lawns anyway?

Historically lawns originated as a green space surrounding castles!

These grassy areas were maintained by grazing sheep. During times of war these grass lawns, free from tall vegetation, allowed the people inside of the castle to see enemies coming from far away.

The grass lawn started with aristocracy and made its way through society's elite as history went on.

The “formal french garden” was introduced in the 17th century at the Palace of Versaille. This design included “the green carpet.” 

It was from there that the “green carpet” aesthetic spread throughout Europe among nobles and the elite to be seen as a symbol of status, and eventually made its way to America.

And to this day, a lush green over manicured lawn is STILL seen as a status symbol!

So that’s it, basically the only reason almost every suburban house has a green grassy yard is because hundreds of years ago the european aristocracy thought it was cool.

But I think we can do better now! 

Lets backtrack a bit back to the sheep maintaining the lawn.

Animals grazing on pasture have a number of benefits. Not only does it feed the animal but the animal also feeds the soil and the plants via manure, and the cycle goes round and round.

A beautiful green pasture, maintained by sheep or other ruminant animals, is green because it is a healthy symbiotic relationship between the animals and the land they graze.

To try and achieve that aesthetic without ruminant animals in our little square yards seems silly.

The ideal grass lawn is just that, an ideal. 

Honestly, it is kind of an unrealistic ideal as well. It takes so much time, money, and labor to achieve the “green carpet” look that only those who can afford to keep their lawn maintained with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and consistent watering can have it.

Why waste all that time and money on a monoculture?!?

That kind of grass provides very little if anything to the environment. 

We can do better!

I envision a world where we turn our yards into food producing gardens, or a safe escape for wildlife filled with native plants and edibles, or a biodiverse pasture of different grasses, wildflowers, and herbs!

I want to see yards that are a unique expression of the people living there. I am putting out a call to end the cookie cutter “green carpet.”

That may have been fashionable back in the 17th century but it is now the 21st century and we are not french aristocracy!

Our planet needs our help, we have taken so much and it is time we all start to give back. One simple way to do that is to let go of the ideal of the green lawn. 

Nature doesn’t thrive on that and neither do we. Let’s give the earth and our communities something we need, nourishment and food.

Your yard can be so much more!

Enjoy the food,

-Sara

And The Beiler Farm Team

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