Are you taking lawns for granted? Do you just implement them from an esthetic point of view with no regard to the environmental aspects of it? In this article, we take a deeper look as to what designing lawns really means. Turf grass is perhaps the most prevalent plant used in Western public and residential space alike. It’s always in a designer’s back pocket as a quick way to create multi-use space. But good designers think about the long-term effects of their projects, and traditional lawns can be a bad idea. Their maintenance sucks resources, helps decimate ecosystems, and wastes money.
Here are some reasons to stop designing lawns:
1. Turfgrass is the most irrigated crop in the United States According to a 2005 NASA Study, irrigated turf grass accounts for three times more land area in the United States than corn. American residential landscapes consume about 9 billion gallons of potable drinking water per day, about half the amount of water used in a given house per day. In hot climates such as America’s Southwest, an average of 60% of a single house’s water use goes to landscape irrigation.2. Gotta kill the bugs Traditional lawn care practices account for 70 million pounds of pesticides used in the U.S. every year. And pesticides cause serious environmental problems. Killing all the bugs, not just the bad ones, turns surrounding ecosystems into an unbalanced mess. Pesticides and fertilizers also pose poisoning risks for humans and other non-target species. 3. A lawn that is not often used for recreation or play is a waste … and you know it We know that a well-designed site should be used for many different purposes, and a lawn that is primarily decorative is a wasted opportunity. Lawns are great for unprogrammed use of outdoor space, but admit it — you’ve seen great swaths of meticulously mowed, green people-pasture that is completely empty most of the time. It may be pretty, but can’t we do better? Related Articles:
- 10 Practices Showing That “Sustainability” is More Than Just a Buzzword!
- Weeds, Walls and Sustainability with Steve Martino
- Rain Gardens | Book Review
Two Reasons to Keep Designing Lawns
1. Sightlines and safety Urban parks face safety problems. The more people using a public space, the more safety should be forefront in the minds of the designers. Turf grass is a flat groundcover that when mixed with trees with high branches creates great sightlines all through the space. Removing mid-height shrubs and adding flat pavers or ground covers was one of the strategies used in the monumental Bryant Park, New York City safety remodel.2. Meadows and prairies are already in style Because of the aforementioned reasons, lawns are going out of style anyway. But for a multifunctional recreation space that promotes ecological biodiversity, native plant growth, and a reasonable amount of irrigation, some designers are turning to native prairie grasses. The mixes are mowed once every few weeks, already reducing pollution due to maintenance. Yes, they look messier, but that messiness hopefully heralds the dawn of an age of better ecological landscapes. Lawns are a ubiquitous part of landscape design history; they are classic and so normal that most don’t think twice about adding one into a design. But it is time to pull this go-to tool out of our back pockets and seriously evaluate it with 21st-century data. Is it responsible to design a lawn when I know the damage it can cause? What is a better alternative for multifunctional use? How can spaces be designed to encourage sustainable maintenance? Article by Caitlin Lockhart Recommended Reading:
- Designing the Sustainable Site: Integrated Design Strategies for Small Scale Sites and Residential Landscapes by Heather L. Venhaus
- Lifelong Landscape Design by Hugh Dargan
Featured image credit: By Tonamel. Licensed under CC-SA 2.0Published in