The Revenge of the Lawn


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Police said crossing that lawn is what got Mugrage killed. Martin, who lived alone, told officers he’d had several disputes with neighbors about walking on his grass…”

Mugrage had it coming. Those damn kids wouldn’t get off his lawn.


One point that the article misses is that - as with most civil religions - lawn-worship comes with pressure to conform. The deity of the lawn must be propitiated by everyone in society, lest the favor of ‘property values’ be withdrawn from all. Those who fail to make sacrifice are brought into line by the full wrath of homeowners’ associations, zoning boards, and even health and building inspectors. Try to adopt native-plant landscaping, turn your front yard into a flower garden, or even just maintain a little piece of nature, and watch how rapidly you are forced back into the fold by the full majesty of the law - lest you ruin your neighbours’ property values. Not every suburbanite with a manicured lawn, identical to hundreds of others in the neighbourhood, wants one.


I used to live in Perth, a city on the drier end of the urban water spectrum, and the sociopathic compulsion you describe could have been penned for that remote metropolis. Generations to come will have the matter taken out their hands as water resources dry up, but until people are expiring in the streets for lack of liquid I doubt much will change. I now live in Hong Kong, where I occasionally see a lawn mower for sale and wonder who on earth would buy it.


Nice one, Mark. I remember noticing your work before…

I wish I could imbue my writing with such saturated, poetic contempt.

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When I lived on a golf course, I would see the workers there come out with a truck loaded with fertilizer and hose it onto the course. Neighbors, many of them retired, also were visited by the Scott truck to hose down their lawns with chemicals.

This golf course being on a wetlands, I truly hated this drive for perfect lawns with a passion. I loved having the egrets visit my yard and all the wonderful waterfowl that lived in the wetlands, and I feared they would be wiped out by all the pesticides.

At the time I left that state there was yet another golf course community going up, with more manicured lawns and more endless stretches of grass, right in the most fragile ecosystem.


I don’t get it. I don’t. I don’t get the people who live in neighborhoods where they’re not just obsessed, but forced to maintain their yards to a certain standard by their neighbors. (It gets a little funny when HOAs and municipalities butt heads during a drought, though.)

I live in a rural setting, where the notion of someone having an acre yard being a sign of success is pretty damn funny. Still, if you look at my yard, there’s snakeholes, there’s crabgrass, dandelions, and all sorts of weeds and wildflowers growing. When do I cut it? When it gets ugly.

If any of the nearby city limits ever catch up with my property, though, I’ll have to keep it mowed. Why? The nearest towns all have maximum grass height limits, after which point they send in the highest bidder to cut it for you. This is not in an affluent area; this is, imho, to punish desperately poor people for being poor and daring to have grass. In the Midwest. Where it’s everywhere that there isn’t a field.

And of course, right now, I hear multiple mowers running; mostly retirees who have thrown themselves at having a perfect yard.

If I could replace the whole damn thing with prairie grass, I would.


And further- consider the brightly colored paint schemes of lawn mowers. These aren’t the grays and silvers of our cars. No, these are screaming oranges, greens and reds that seem to ask, “Do you see my mowing my lawn?”


Great article. I cringe whenever my brother tells me how great the treatment his service uses is at getting rid of the dandelions. I’m gradually getting him to convert space into garden.

Also isn’t Malvina Reynolds’ song “Little Boxes?”

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I see these things quite a bit.

Some of the folks around here have yards they can mow in 30 minutes with that thing, and they might have more money tied up in that mower than they do in their car, but boy howdy, look at that thing!

If it was all half-crippled retirees, I’d understand it, but it’s not.

I have:

Sure, it takes me longer, but heck, as long as I’m not using self-propelled, I actually get exercise.

And if you have to have a yard, I can’t recommend Honda enough. I’ve had this current one for about 10 years, and about all I’ve done to it is keep fresh plugs, clean air filters, and kept the carb clean. Still purrs along just fine.

I’d still replace my yard with prairie grass in a heartbeat, if I could.


One of the things I loved about our house when we bought it was that it sits above street level and NO FRONT LAWN.
We’ve had a variety of stuff in the tiers, but finally settled on succulents other than a 4 rose plants, a lime tree and a plumeria.
Still have grass in part of the yard out back, but we have a small city lot and 3 dogs. I keep the grass cut and alive, but don’t put too much effort. I don’t like to waste water and I don’t use chemicals in our yard. Everything else is patio, bougainvillea, and more succulents.


I highly recommend the Black and Decker electric push lawnmowers. No plugs, no filters, no carbs and, especially, no pulling the stupid rope.


Actually, to keep your grass free of broad-leaved weeds you wouldn’t use RoundUp (glyphostate.) That would kill all vegetation.

Use one of the Agent Orange-type 2,4-D based herbicides that basically ignore the monocots.


Oh, you’ll be able to use glyphosate soon enough. You’ll be able to gift your neighbors with RoundUp, GMO pollen, and herbicide resistant weeds (and their seeds.)

European settlers brought dandelions to America to use as a salad plant. You’re welcome, American suburbanites! Crabgrass was introduced by the US Patent Office in 1849 as a food for livestock, then reintroduced 50 years later by eastern Europeans when it didn’t catch on the first time.

Dandelion leaves aren’t actually that bad as a substitute for spinach, and the flowers and roots can also be used. I recently made a dandelion leaf pesto from weeding the garden which had an interesting slight sharpness to it. I also made a stinging nettle, asparagus and pea lasagna that was very good.


Ya, but if your neighbors use the right combo of chemicals, perhaps you can feed the entire neighborhood with your dandelions…


My neighbor on one side has 0.5 m high grass and a small orchard rather than a lawn. On the other side, they’ve gone for chickens and fruit bushes, so they have no lawn bordering my garden at all. I really don’t think either of them are the chemical spraying kind of gardeners. Both couples are pretty cool and have given me hints about which weeds are good for eating or traditional medicine, and which can be used for animal feed.

My own lawn has a lot of moss and is pretty low-maintenance, as well as needing less water once the moss was established (it helps that the garden is mostly shaded). I don’t clear all of the weeds or cut the grass too short as I find it much more interesting to see a bit of variation, and most of the weeds I leave are useful in some way or other. I also cleared a good third of the lawn to make an area for growing fruit and vegetables, so it isn’t much of a challenge to keep it looking presentable.


Dandelion greens are my favorite! They are a regular staple of my breakfast and may find their way into my lunch salad when it needs padding. There practically impossible to not grow and good to eat. Much like another hated plant/tree, the Hackberry.


Fasciation like that in the picture is most likely caused by a bacterium.


I need a culture, because I want a lawn full of those wonderful beasties!

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