Lawn Care Tips From Eric Holthaus

Guest laugh by David Middleton

Being that this is the time of year when I have to start spending entire weekends on yard work, I almost agree with Mr. Holthaus on this one…


SCIENCE
Get Rid of Your Lawn
It’s a waste of land, and it’s terrible for the environment. You can do something better.
By ERIC HOLTHAUS
MAY 06, 2019

This story was originally published by Grist and has been republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

My strategy for finding a house was probably a little different than most: I looked for the one with the smallest lawn I could find.
The privilege of homeownership is increasingly rare these days, and I wanted to make sure my little plot of land would have a net benefit to my city and the environment.

[…]

[L]awns are awful for the planet. Our addiction to lawns means that grass is the single largest irrigated agricultural “crop” in America, more than corn, wheat, and fruit orchards combined. A NASA-led study in 2005 found that there were 63,000 square miles of turf grass in the United States, covering an area larger than Georgia. Keeping all that grass alive can consume about 50 to 75 percent of a residence’s water.

Lawnmowers suck up gas and pollute the air: Every year, U.S. homeowners spill about 17 million gallons of gas while filling up mowers. We use tens of millions of pounds of chemical fertilizer and pesticides on our lawns.

All this effort, of course, isn’t cheap. Americans spend more than $36 billion every year on lawn care, 4½ times more than the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.

[…]

My lawn’s days as a grass-based environmental scourge are numbered. I have big plans for my outdoor area: fruit trees, garden space, native plants. It’s small enough that this project should be manageable, even for a single parent with two small kids.

Slate

However, after reading Mr. Holthaus’ rationale for getting rid of his “grass-based environmental scourge”, I am now encouraged to mow, fertilize and water my lawn more often than ever before.

If spending more money on my lawn will cut into the EPA’s budget, I’m ready to break the bank at Lowes Home Improvement and Calloway’s Nursery!

A NASA-led study in 2005 found that there were 63,000 square miles of turf grass in the United States, covering an area larger than Georgia.

Here’s an idea for Mr. Holthaus: Get Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to write a new and improved Green New Deal Cultural Revolution Bill… Forcibly relocate all lawns to Georgia and then cover them with solar panels! Then cover Washington State with wind turbines. This would be enough solar and wind to replace coal and natural gas! Well, except on windless nights and windless cloudy days.

‘The Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production’
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132 thoughts on “Lawn Care Tips From Eric Holthaus

    • I never water mine either. And to be fair, calling it a lawn is a bit of a push, it’s mostly daisies, dandelions, camomile and moss. It’s green at least.

      • A decade ago I used to have to water my ‘lawn’ (really a mixture of native grasses), but not for quite a while now. My cottage is rotting away for never drying out, not enough even to paint. Maybe this year.

        My wife yells at me when I call it “lawn” and I even try to mow it with a reel push mower (Fiskar). But I weed it and enjoy a bit of green not hidden under the woods’ detritus. During the Fall (it is an active verb) I have to move hundreds of cubic meters of leaves just to give the grasses and wildflowers if fighting chance. I lost about half of my Snowdrops Galanthus sp. to the wet, rotted.

        • I only watered the lawn when we put it in. The soil was really terrible. They’ used the topsoil for fill and left clayey subsoil to try and grow grass on.
          The best thing I ever did was take my son’s advice and put down an inch or so of wood mulch.
          After two years the grass was growing as thick and green as a prime fairway. It still is.

          Never have used fertilizer and only spot applications of weed killer.

          Now I’m thinking, with all the rain we’ve been getting the last couple of years , to get some of the stuff they put on golf courses to retard the growth rate of the grass.

      • My contribution to my neighborhood is, after looking at my lawn, to make my neighbors feel better about their own lawns.

        • Yep, as I find from time to time at the bridge table, now and then you just have to dedicate yourself to helping other people feel good.

      • “it’s mostly daisies, dandelions, camomile and moss”
        Same on my acreage except where sections have Buffalo Grass, which is so root dense that not even dandelions can grow in it (used for sod houses in the 1800’s), & requires no watering. Trying to get it to spread over the “field” (that section not a part of the house yard which is “mostly” Bermuda). Also fun to have acrobatic barn swallows swoop within 6 feet when the mower stirs up insects (and quite the sight to see 20 to 30 of them lined up on the yard fence rail taking a rest).

    • I grew up with eight acres of lawn, which I had a great time mowing with a small tractor. It was always mulched. Never fertilized, no other chemicals, period.

      I have always had a lawn, have rarely fertilized, and never put any other chemicals down. I mulch the cuttings back into the lawn to maintain thatch against the dry (August) season and mow only when needed, which some years might only be three times—gasoline savings there.

      Perhaps if we got rid of the darn plastic gasoline cans that have insane and unusuable safety pouring devices, people would not spill so much. These stupidly awkward devices are a menace to safety as well as cause gasoline waste.

    • Lawns have a purpose. They provide a clear area across which varmints and bugs have to travel to get to your house. This creates a barrier. Tall grass and shrubbery around a house invites vermin to live and forage right up to your walls. From a practical point of view, a lawn around a house is a firebreak, as has been demonstrated by the houses in California that burn so nicely because they have no firebreaks, per government regulations (patently stupid regulations). In addition, such a lawn is a “killing zone” as one can see the enemy or varmint coming across the open area.

      I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs on 15 acres, and lots of lawn. One night, while getting a drink of water, I saw trespassers with flashlights checking out our barn and then, after turning of their lights, they headed for our house. With no lawn, they could have arrived at the house completely undetected. I’ll take a “killing zone” everyday.

      I grew up with eight acres of lawn, which I had a great time mowing with a small tractor. It was always mulched. Never fertilized, no other chemicals, period.

      I have always had a lawn, have rarely fertilized, and never put any other chemicals down. I mulch the cuttings back into the lawn to maintain thatch against the dry (August) season and mow only when needed, which some years might only be three times—gasoline savings there.

      Perhaps if we got rid of the darn plastic gasoline cans that have insane and unusuable safety pouring devices, people would not spill so much. These stupidly awkward devices are a menace to safety as well as cause gasoline waste.

      • Nice post, especially pointing out the benefits of a lawn.

        My father-in-law gave me a plastic gas can that has a trigger valve which controls flow from a hose that comes out of the bottom of the can. Other that the first time I used it, it doesn’t spill gasoline.

    • I’ve got 2.5 acres of grass, with a few trees. Out on Whidbey Island in WA State, we only get about 26″ of annual rainfall, and almost none of that is in the summer. So when my lawn goes brown in late June or so, it stays that way until September or October. It stays green all the way through to the next summer, though it only grows noticeably in the spring and early fall. I only water where there are decorative plants or trees I’ve just planted.

      So I call BS on the “single largest irrigated agricultural “crop” in America” nonsense.

    • Not fair!!! Not fair at all!!! I use an electric lawn mower!

      Leave the grass clippings on the lawn and let them decay back into soil, and you don’t need fertilizer. My tiny lawn looks like green velvet.

      Someone tell Eric that grass is one thing that keeps soil around fruit trees from eroding, and unless he has a donkey at his disposal, he’ll still have to mow it.

      What a silly!

      • And what about the worms?! Doesn’t he cry himself to sleep at night for the poor worms trapped under his tiny barren yardscape? What does “Green” even mean anymore?
        Oh! The wormannity!!

      • I have a large lot with lots of fruit trees and garden space. My lawn is also never watered and never fertilized. I use a gasoline mulching mower but I have an electric tiller for my larger garden area. I works fantastic. A 13.5 amp that I
        purchased from Sun Joe for 200.
        My last gasoline lawn mower lasted me 30 years so I don’t think I will be replacing this one before I have no more need for one. Without fertilizer and water on the lawn it does not get used much anyway. My lawn can get a little ugly in a prolonged dry spell though.
        Many birds make a living off the bugs on my lawn and garden since I use no insecticide. Crow, magpies, and robins especially like the dew worms on damp mornings. They make it a little hard to sleep past daybreak with open windows. They can make quite a racket

  1. How about it Eric, if you want to live the green life pretty sure a unit in the Trump Tower wouldn’t have any lawn to worry about.

    • I’m glad to see his opting for politically correct “indigenous plants” , I just wonder what he is going to grow in his garden, lithops and tumble weed? No potatoes, no tomatoes … most cultivated plants that we eat are not indigenous. Same for the fruit trees. Bristlecone pine?

      Good luck with cactii salads and barbary figs.

      • Speaking from the Antipodes, both [“No potatoes, no tomatoes … most cultivated plants that we eat are not indigenous.”] potatoes and tomatoes are indigenous to the Americas.
        So how tightly do we define “indigenous”?
        And how do we apply this definition to Native Americans?
        Although, since they supposedly came from Asia, perhaps they’re not indigenes of the Americas?

        • “the Americas” is two distinct continents. IFAIK, both toms and pots were imported to Europe by the Spanish when they bumped into S. Am. Later introduced into N. Am by european colonisation.

          No spuds for Eric Hothaus.

          • “All humans came out of Africa, so there are no “Native Americans”.”
            Good point, we’re all mainly (speaking from a European-Australian genetic viewpoint) mutated Africans.
            The racially “pure” reside in Africa.

        • “I believe tumbleweeds are actually Russian thistle and not indigenous”
          And obviously Demmocrats can’t accept them.
          Part of Putin’s plot, you know!

  2. But i thought grasslands were good for the envirement? Weren’t broad leaf trees bad and helped warm the planet? One week this is good the next eeek it’s bad. Spin the wheel to see what it will be next week.

  3. Lawns were not always the flat, monoculture thing suitable for tennis, croquet, etc.. In the Cambridge University Botanical Garden they have a long bed divided into periods of time, partly to show when different plants were introduced to Britain. One section is a mediaeval lawn: it’s maintained at a height of about 6 in / 15 cm, and consists of a mix of grasses, springy herbal plants, small flowering plants like chamomile and daisies, and so on: the kind of thing you can lie on happily, and which attracts nice insects. The variery, density and height of the plants makes maintenance easier, and it looks good. When I get my house with a garden, I’m going to try it out. Sorry, I’ve looked for images on the web; when I get to Cambridge I’ll take some photos.

    • A point well made…

      The invention of the lawn mower created the short suburban lawn we see today.

      (If visiting the UK, you might note there are at least 2 lawnmower museums!)

      • As normal for trollop g. it has put the solution as coming before the problem.

        Lawns were kept long before lawn mowers.
        Lawn mowers were invented to lessen the work effort to maintain lawns by owners.

  4. Very amusing, and having spent far too many hours work on mowing lawns, I tend to agree with him.

    His other idea of concentrating all of the windmills and solar panels in just one or two places has great merit.

    I think of the vast lawns of our newish Parliament house, covered with solar panels and windmills, and I am sure that we would son have a NIMBY from our pretend Green politicians.

    MJE VK5ELL

    • I grew up in Phoenix Az, we had about an acre of well kept grass, which in that climate was very high maintenance with watering, etc, and my younger brother and I spent a good proportion of our teen years caring for that thing, because Dad gave us that job (starting when I was about 12) When we went off to College, I remember us thinking “ha! Dad is finally gonna have to work that beast by himself!” because we knew he was too cheap to hire help.

      Damned if after 6 months of us finally going off, he sold that house and bought a new one in Scottsdale that had an all gravel lawn full of cactus. (xeroscaping) First time we visited, he told us “well you didn’t think I was going to mow that thing, did you?”

      in all fairness, the xeroscaped yards can look very, very good when they’re done well.

      • I’m going to try cryoscaping my Western Canadian prairie yard. Having trouble finding anything that grows in ice. Maybe by the time I’m 120yo some lichens will show, or mosses, or mooses. The caribou can move in and do the mowing (all but the one in the freezer). Going to clear it with my snowblower – refuse to shovel the yard. A couple of glacial erratics will add character – diversity and inclusivity you know. Besides, the rocks from Nunavut were here first.

  5. … grass is the single largest irrigated agricultural “crop” in America, more than corn …

    Oh I doubt that:

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Corn_belt.svg

    That’s a lot of corn. Probably a lot larger than Georgia

    The US is the largest corn producer in the world, with 96,000,000 acres (39,000,000 ha) of land reserved for corn production. Source: Wikipedia

    Um let’s see, 96,000,000 acres divided by 640 acres per square miles comes to 150,000 square miles and the LINK Holthaus put up said:

    According to a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there is now an estimated total of 163,812 square kilometers, or more than 63,000 square miles,

    So Eric Holthaus didn’t fact check what he wrote.

      • SJW’s in general..

        Look at this article in the Graun:

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/07/cambridge-university-britain-slavery

        where we find such gems as :
        “well beyond its two best-known universities. Among the institutions with a history of slavery connections are the Bank of England, high-street banks (RBS, Barclays and Lloyds), railway companies, insurance companies and even the Royal Mail. ”

        Gosh even the saintly Post Office was elbows deep in the salve trade… when you check the source given what they mean is “employed after the abolition act 1833 a number of people who’s families had received compensation…” i.e the actual involvement of the Royal Mail was nil.

        and:

        “the British government paid out today’s equivalent of £16bn to former slave owners to “compensate” them for their loss of “property”, a national debt that took until 2015 to be paid off. Yes, that means the descendants of slaves here in the UK were, until just four years ago, paying off slave owners for their ancestors’ freedom.”

        Willickers those poor West-Indian migrants… made to work like blacks to pay of whitey…. The truth? looking here http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8265/CBP-8265.pdf and here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/476031/response/1153635/attach/3/Scan.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1 is that borrowing for slave compensation was moved from dedicated loans to main debt and then refinanced multiple times in the “4% Consolidated Loan (1957 and after) in multiple issues between 1833 and 1927. There is no actual record of how much “slave debt” was redeemed or carried forward at each issue it’s entirely impossible to state how much if any of it was carried by Afro-Caribbean taxpayers….

    • Yup, I call BS on that too. I doubt the adult child has ever even seen a center pivot irrigator pumping 1,000 gallons per minute over crops all day every day during the summer.

    • What is wrong with having all of this acreage devoted to lawn? Are we starving ourselves by this indulgence?

      Per Steve Case / Wikipedia: We have 96 million acres of corn. Indulge me a bit and allow me to round that up to 100 million acres (approx 4% fudge factor).

      Calories per acre of corn, by an old source: 3 million (MO Cooper and WJ Spillman 1917: “Human food from an acre of staple farm products:” – since this is over 100 years, I claim back the 3% fudge factor in acres under cultivation).

      So, multiply acres per year by calories. We get 30,000,000,000,000,000 calories per year.

      Assume a planet population of 10 billion. Assume we want a diet of 2,000 calories per day per person, 365 days a year (indulge me and ignore leap years).

      For a 2,000 calorie diet for a year for one person, that is 730,000 calories a year.
      For a planetary population of 10 billion people, we need 730,000,000,000,000 calories per year.

      Our USA corn production per year / calories for 10 billion inhabitants per year:

      730,000,000,000,000 / 30,000,000,000,000,000

      So, it seems we have plenty of food for each person on the planet, just with USA corn production.

  6. Wildflower ‘meadows’ are becoming quite popular in the UK. The grass and flowers are allowed to grow until July/August and then are cut and allowed to dry out to let the flower seed fall out, then the ‘hay’ is removed and composted. From then on it is cut occasionally until growth slows down.
    The only problem is the soil is often too fertile and the grass crowds our the desired wild flowers. The only flowers that survive are the thugs such as nettles, docks and thistles.
    It is interesting how much you can alter the botanical composition of grassland by giving it different cutting treatments.
    At Merrier Wood Agricultural College a piece of agricultural grassland was turned into a lawn by regular mowing.
    I have done the same myself, as well as doing the reverse process by treating the grass as a hay meadow.
    Much the same difference was caused by intensive sheep grazing on the ẞouth Downs where a short springy turf was produced, much favoured by walkers.
    Walking through hay meadows is not looked on favourably byfarmers! It flattens the grass so it cannot be cut properly by the mower.

    • In addition I don’t water my lawn, dry weather provides a break from weekly mowing.
      I cut the grass with a mulching mower, so don’t need to apply fertiliser as the nutrients are recycled.
      I don’t cut too tight so the weeds have less chance to germinate, and with any docks, thistles and dandelions that do make it through the turf I cut off the tap root just below the rosette which weakens and eventually kills them over time.

      • Here in East Texas, our average rainfall so far this year should have been 14 inches; so far we’ve got 26″, and 4 – 5 more inches coming in the next few days. Every lake is overflowing, a bunch are shut down because all the docks and ramps are under water.

        Why is he so worried about running out of water?

  7. I agree that lawns are a boring PITA. All summer long, we have some kind of flowers in bloom. The crocuses are just at the end of their show. Some of the flowers in the front bed are coming into bud.

    We have a bunch of native plants, some of which were volunteers. That makes maintenance much easier. We have lots of insects, birds, and a bit of wildlife but, frankly, I could do without the skunk.

      • I’m pretty sure I don’t have skunks, so when I see the below ground yellow jacket nests destroyed I have always assumed possum.

  8. Does this mean that we should outlaw golf courses? The president won’t like that.

    • Glad you mentioned golf courses. I read somewhere, possibly on this site, that golf courses consume more water than fracking rigs. Let’s frack instead of whack would be a good green slogan?

      • Golf courses, if managed well, can be a boon to the environment. In Florida, many contract with local water treatment plants to pump their excess treated water out of the treatment plant onto the course. Thus the signs on all the golf course lakes about being treated water, do not drink. Most have retention ponds that are designed to have water flow through an area of native plants which filter out most of the pollutants. These water areas are abundant with wildlife. You just have to watch out for the gators sunning themselves on the banks during colder weather.

        • Local rules question: Don’t you get a free drop if your ball comes to rest against an alligator? I’d assume that sensible rule would be in place, but then how do you obtain the ball for a free drop?

          [The mods wonder if it is truly a “free drop” if the alligator drops an eaten ball. .mod]

          • 1-4/10 Dangerous Situation; Rattlesnake or Bees Interfere with Play
            Q. A player’s ball comes to rest in a situation dangerous to the player, e.g., near a live rattlesnake or a bees’ nest. In equity (Rule 1-4), does the player have any options in addition to playing the ball as it lies or, if applicable, proceeding under Rule 26 or 28?
            A. Yes. It is unreasonable to expect the player to play from such a dangerous situation and unfair to require the player to incur a penalty under Rule 26 (Water Hazards) or Rule 28 (Ball Unplayable), although these Rules remain an option, if applicable.

            Then there is this 🙂

    • The local small airfield has a municipal golf course lined up with the main runway rather than zoned Residential / apartment complex. Thought it was rather wise when I first saw it.

  9. “…63,000 square miles of turf grass in the United States…”
    —–
    That’s a whole lot of carbon sequestration.

  10. How the hell I train my putts without a lawn with a hole ?

    BTW, is synthetic grass better for the environment ?

    • no! it breaks down releases arsenic in some of it, I read ovals in america were off limits due to that. it provides NO cooling is scratchy underfoot and pretty useless in high traffic areas.
      our greentard headmistress ripped our local schools oval up for synthetic the kids have nowhere to sit and the yards very hot in summer and a sodden mess in winter as theres nothing soaking the water up like grass roots did, and the rash/burns from kids sliding falling on it also meant a lot of kids wont play there unless its forced sport.

  11. Given his position on climate change i don’t find much wrong with what he says in the article above (there are plenty other things he says that i don’t agree with) ,at least he is making some effort to practice what he preaches.

    • Making some effort may be commendable. Shame he’s still ignorant and stupid about it, but hey, you can’t expect a greenie to understand stuff.

      I read on WUWT years ago that grasses (probably native prairie and similar) take up more Carbon Dioxide than do trees on whole. Grasses grow much faster than trees do and there is so much more of it, so this makes sense to me.

      Personally, I’ve destroyed most of my garden and planted grass. It’s quicker and easier to maintain than gardening.

  12. For me, the most important benefit of lawns is giving distance between my neighbours and me.

    This person is advocating for agenda 2030 ( or whatever it’s called these days), but in a sly and deceitful way, where we’re all assigned a small box as a dwelling in state prescribed locations. Provided we behave ourselves and obey all the rules.

  13. I understand perfectly how he is ‘a single father’

    Question remains, how did he *ever* get to be a father?
    Was somebody drunk at the time?
    Or high on sugar of course…..

  14. It’s not like I love yard work, but I’ve thought of replace it with asphalt and painting it green. Then add potted silk flowers. Here in Ohio we have had the perfect growing weather. Mr grass grows a olittle over an 1/2″ every day. I’m tried of cutting grass.

    • In some places I place a big tarp over the grass and weeds and leave it for a couple of weeks until everything dies. Repeat as necessary. IMO cutting grass is a noisome curse.

    • The only thing I really hate about mowing is the wrestling with tree branches, especially my Monkey Puzzle tree. That thing hurts! And when the walnut trees are heavy with nuts, they’re a right pain.

  15. Lol i have a garden like that: semi wild with lots of bushes and a small plot with wild grass.

    It’s ways nicer to walk barefeet then those mowed lawns

  16. I have a large lawn area and enjoy watering, fertilising and mowing. After reading this article, I’m now thinking of adding some livestock 🙂

  17. We heard this same stuff in the 1960’s, I think from Erlich or Nader. We were told to end the monoculture of grass and grow corn to avoid mass starvation. I am not making this up.
    In Boston they stopped mowing the State House lawn. Then they got snakes and rats.
    I lived through this nonsense.
    Oh, they said lawns were a hold over from British imperialism.
    Let’s check back in 5 years and see how his garden is doing.

    • I just posted a note, above, about whether we are starving, and if converting lawn to cornfield would be needed to solve the problem.

  18. I’ve long been a fan of xeriscaping. Mostly for the aesthetics and bird habitat. If others adopt it because they are deluded, I’m fine with that as long as their front yards have more visual appeal.

  19. We don’t have a lawn per se, but open areas interspersed with flower gardens and trees. The part I call the yard gets mowed perhaps 4 times in all – basically late May or early June, then probably early July, and some time in August, and a final cutting in Sept. The grass (many different varieties) is liberally laced with dandelions (which we love), and other wildflowers including an area of milkweed which I leave (for the Monarchs and bees), and it all can get quite tall – sometimes 3′ or more. My DR Mower doesn’t care, and won’t clog, even if it’s wet. I also have other areas I may mow once a season, and some I may mow every 2 or 3 years. The grass and flowers just do their own thing, without my help – no watering or fertilizing. Any cut grass I rake up (I don’t always) gets composted. The crabapple trees provide food for wildlife. That’s not all, either. We recycle, mainly because the local dump became a recycling center, and it’s “free”. Our trash is clean – we compost, and any non-compostable garbage goes into plastic containers and is kept frozen until the next trip (we only go every 2 or 3 months). We also don’t fly – ever, and our driving is minimal, perhaps 1,500 to 2,000 miles a year. We don’t eat red meat, and only occasionally, chicken or turkey or seafood. I don’t barbecue. There’s plenty more I could mention. And yet, despite all this, and despite the fact that our “carbon footprint” is likely way lower than a lot of True Believers like Eric, we would be deemed evil “deniers” because we not only don’t believe any of the CAGW nonsense – we laugh at it. Go figure.

  20. how much gasoline do they spend driving to the gym to get a comparable workout? How much effort into carbon capture? What do we do with the recovered lawn space? new rooftops or parking lots?

  21. I hated my lawn – didn’t water it and loved dry spells so I didn’t have to cut it as often. My wife vetoed astroturf and rocks over landscape fabric. I got fed up with it and 30 years ago I built a new house in the middle of an old growth forest. (You wouldn’t think you could find such land in northern Delaware. ) Had to cut down 10 or 12 big 80′ high trees (couldn’t do that in CA, but I wouldn’t have had any grass in that desert landscape) so I guess it wasn’t such a green idea. No more grass to cut, but the day long leaf harvest each fall is impressive.

    • Love my lawn. Love mowing the emerald green and keeping it clean. I use very little fertilizer and it goods good midday shade so not a lot of watering. I pluck weeds by and by and large and mulch. I like mowing in my bare feet in the nice cool, emerald green carpet. And it looks great right now.

  22. Mine is at its best right now – before the first mow. After that, all bets are off. I’d prefer to let it grow, but the city wouldn’t allow it. Goats would be another alternative that the city wouldn’t allow – but they’d be good for the lawn and save me gas.

  23. I think people underestimate the value of the average urban lawn. You’d be surprised what’s going on. They are an invaluable resource for feeding birds, hedgehogs, amphibians…… Fungi, insects, worms, slugs…..

    Obviously every thing in moderation, most people do not blitz lawns withe chemical and ‘manicure’ them, and a variety of garden habitat is best.

    Petrol mower fumes are the work of Satan, but then BBQs fumes come straight from Satan’s arse.

  24. Keeping all that grass alive can consume about 50 to 75 percent of a residence’s water.

    Eh? I never water the grass. Nature does a fine job of watering it all on it’s own.

    We use tens of millions of pounds of chemical fertilizer and pesticides on our lawns.

    Again, never use the stuff on the lawn.

    Lawnmowers suck up gas and pollute the air:

    Yes, the lawnmowers do suck up the gas, but the benefit far outweigh the cost. I get the exercise from pushing the mower round the yard to cut the grass and the planet’s plants get the benefit of the extra plant-food that is released into the air. win-win.

  25. Let’s put aside all the dislike for this guy for a moment. What he says has a lot of truth in it. 2 cycle mowers pollute the air. People tend to over fertilize their lawns which eventually runs off into local waterways. The same with pesticides and herbicides. They always end up in the water. In the Las Vegas area new lawns are a no-no and there is even a rip it out payback system to get rid of existing lawns ….. they use too much water.
    I did away with my lawn years ago. My front yard faces due west and is exposed to the Sun all the way until sundown. I am on a well system and couldn’t justify wasting all MY water in a losing battle against the Sun. I replaced the front lawn with cypress mulch and native plants and cactus that once established do not need to be watered. I added shell walk ways all around those plants. I liked did so much that I did the same for the back yard. Large bougainvilleas rim the entire back yard making it private and keeping those pesky kids away. I painted my house paprika color and now I have the “Arizona” property in my neighborhood. I have an abundance of birds, butterflies, snakes, rabbits, and other wildlife that take advantage of the area. In the evening I sit in one of the many seating areas I created just taking in all the natural animal activity and enjoying the peace and quiet of it all. It should be noted that I do not live in a gated or HOA controlled neighborhood so there are not rules about how a property looks to deal with.

    • 2 cycle mowers pollute the air
      *******************************
      and in US lawnboy (last 2 stroke mower manufacturer) stopped selling them decades ago.
      now if you meant to say weed wackers/leaf blowers they are still made BUT are more efficient than the 4 cycle counterparts.

  26. “The privilege of homeownership is increasingly rare these days…”
    Single family homes have increased in number is the US ever since 1940, which was the earliest data I could find. Inserting these little throwaway phrases to support a narrative is a propaganda technique.

    I have a “lawn” of thyme. It smells like Italian food when I mow… mmmmm

    • I know someone who replanted with clover when most of his grass died. It keeps the weeds down and doesn’t grow high enough to need cutting. Plus he says he gets lucky more often because there’s always a few 4 leaf ones among the millions in the lawn.

      • Yes, crimson clover is on my shortlist for planting over large areas at my retirement farm. It fixes nitrogen and blooms beautifully.

    • How’d you do it? I’ve got a bare patch in my front lawn that I want to turn into 100 % thyme so I never have to cut it. The rest is a mix of thyme and grass which the thyme is slowly killing.

  27. I don’t get this statement:

    My lawn’s days as a grass-based environmental scourge are numbered. I have big plans for my outdoor area: fruit trees, garden space, native plants. It’s small enough that this project should be manageable, even for a single parent with two small kids.

    Fruit trees ? … Garden space ?

    Gardens don’t require water? Fruit trees don’t require energy-demanding care or water?

    How does he plan to manage the grass that grows around his garden? — goats, maybe? — then he’s got to build proper containment fences, which require more materials produced using fossil fuels, and then he’s got to care for the goats.

    And how does he plan to manage the fruit trees ?

    I just don’t see how this plan would be less resource-consuming than a lawn. Maybe if he explained in more detail, I would get it.

  28. Lawnmowing is good therapy. Holthaus could use an electric lawnmower if that would make him feel better about mowing. And like I say, lawn mowing is good therapy so that would benefit him, too.

    Holthaus proposes to remove his grass so he doesn’t have to water it, and then replaces the grass with other plants that need to be watered. I’m not sure how this makes much of a difference.

    I never water my lawn. When it stops raining, the grass stops growing, and I don’t have to mow. A blessing in disguise. Of course, we don’t want it to get too dry.

    It’s raining right now. That’s a good thing because we can store up moisture for the hot, dry summer to come. The closer we get to summer with it still raining around here, the better.

    I noticed a while back that NOAA was claiming the “severe weather bullseye” was moving east because of CAGW and was centered somewhere near Mississippi and Alabama.

    I said at the time that my observations were that the “bullseye” moved around a lot from year to year Some years it would focus in one geographic area and move to another area in other years. This is based on how the jet stream configures itself, imo.

    It looks like the current focus of severe weather is beginning in the Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas corridor and then moves east. Some years the focus will be east of Oklahoma which means fewer severe storms for us.

    But this year it looks like the fronts are blowing up over the south central U.S. Still not too powerful though. The number of tornadoes from the last front to come through Oklahoma last week was up to 30 but none of them were very powerful, EF-1’s and 2’s. They will get stronger as the temperatures climb.

    This focus will move to the east as the summer proceeds because Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas usually get a high pressure system sitting on top of us during the heighth of the summer warmth which suppresses severe weather and pushes it off to the east where moisture is available to blow up big storms.

    • Holthaus could use an electric lawnmower if that would make him feel better about mowing.

      Better yet, he could use a non-powered lawnmower. They do make and sell those as a quick google (or other search engine of your choice) for “non powered lawn mower” will reveal.

      Holthaus proposes to remove his grass so he doesn’t have to water it, and then replaces the grass with other plants that need to be watered.

      he proposes replacing grass, which you can leave to ma nature to water (if the grass doesn’t get enough water, well he doesn’t like the grass anyway, so no biggie) with other plants (a garden) which will require watering when ma nature isn’t providing enough (gardens aren’t much good when you let the plants in them die from lack of water).

  29. “My strategy for finding a house was probably a little different than most: I looked for the one with the smallest lawn I could find.”

    Right there he fails his green socialist credentials test. He should be living in a re-purposed cargo container stacked on top of other re-purposed cargo containers. Composting toilets, drink his own urine (or someone else’s, ideally). He’s not really committed, but he should be.

  30. I wonder who Eric thinks granted him the “privilege” to own a home?

  31. I miss my .5 acre yard in Idaho w/ our 3 chickens, cat and 2 dogs. Every “Earth” day I would burn a pile of tree limbs, leave the truck running for 6 hrs, drink heavily and fire up the charcoal grill for supper. (T-bone steaks, natch!)
    My conscience is clear – the back patio was built using TREX. P.S. – Want to lower CO2 levels? Duck tape the mouths of all envro-nazi’s. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  32. I’m a happy owner of a battery powered lawnmower (I have a large lawn, but no problem, I have two high capacity batteries, that’s enough for more than enough lawn mowing time for one day). AND my lawn has a lot of fruit trees on it.

    #thatgreensmugnessfeeling

  33. The best limit or don’t fertilize ad was put out by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They gave you the “choice” of fertilizing or having more blue crabs and using the excess water to boil those crabs. They did it with good humor and no lectures.

    In my area people want to have nice green lawns with fescue. We are too warm to have fescue without fall seeding, fertilizing, aeration, spring fertilization and lots of water. I decided to go back to native Virginia growth, but my wife didn’t like poison ivy. So, instead of trying to kill bermuda grass, I let it grow and now she complains about wiregrass. Wiregrass chokes most everything else out. No watering, some chemical warfare and if I want to cut grass all winter, sow annual rye.

    And we have plenty of water for doing the lawn.

  34. Meanwhile they ignore the parking lot encroachment effect on UHI which they are not allowed to talk about. They also don’t talk about the extra air miles of changing the mix of leisure time and money in the story. How does a jet trip to Hawaii compare to my small engine mower? And how does that golf resort team compare to my handheld fertilizer spreader?

  35. Eric seems to think that fruit trees, gardens, and “native species” require nothing more than good wishes and an approving glance. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have about an acre of lawns, with a small vineyard, a blue berry patch, and several ancient fruit trees. Most of them require protection from deer, meaning fencing and netting, and all of them require days or weeks of work pruning and weeding. The lawn, making up 90% of the yard, requires a couple of hours each week on my riding mower, and another couple of hours pushing a lawn mower on slopes that are too steep or fragile for the mower. If I neglect to mow, or if the mower is in the shop for maintenance, the black berries, scotch broom, bamboo and any number of companion invasive species will quickly emerge. Lots that are left to themselves become “briar patches”, thorny jungles five to seven feet tall, that serve as hidden camp sites for “homeless” vagrants who support their drug dependencies by robbing from those who prefer to live in houses. Their victims, the home owners, pay taxes in the forlorn hope that the county will provide a modest level of protection from the lawless.

    And those fruit trees are perhaps the most demanding category of vegetation, especially if you choose to cultivate them using just a few modest chemical treatments for fungus. As apples drop from the trees, some ripe, and others not, you will discover that few are of the unblemished perfection that we find in the local grocery. The ripe ones that fall on a well tended lawn may survive the fall unbruised and end up on the table a few hours later. The rest of the fruit needs to be picked up and disposed unless you want your yard to smell of vinegar, while simultaneously providing sustenance to all sorts of creatures that you really don’t want to share your house with. Our most treasured yard investment after the riding- and push mowers is a 1 ton utility trailer that allows us to dispose of the yard waste, including fallen fruit that is not simply not edible. Fortunately, the county does provide a free disposal service for the yard waste, so this is all “recycled” into compost that the county sells. But most of my neighbors are old style, and the burn pile pits are a rather common feature of many of the better-kept yards.

    Holthaus reminds me of several delusional city types who live in our rural community who seem to have a hard time grappling with reality. One fellow brags of hosting 18 raccoons on his deck with a steady diet of cat food. He lives several miles from us, but his neighbors must wonder why they suddenly have a platoon of raccoons terrorizing the neighborhood, and very few other species. If the daily ration is stopped for some reason, this will be a dangerous place for children and pets.

    Holthaus needs to spend more time with his virtual reality simulations, and less time instructing those of us who experience actual reality.

  36. I suspect this is his first home.

    My wife convinced me to convert parts of our lawn to “landscaping”.

    It’ll be easier, she said.

    So now, instead of spending an hour every 7-10 days mowing an open space, I spend an hour every 7-10 days winding my way around my “landscaping”…and I spend several hours a week mulching, weeding and edging the “landscaping”.

    Good exercise for a retiree, but not much fun for a working stiff.

    Of course Eric may be one of those limousine liberals that can hire a working stiff to do it for him.

    • Yep… Mowing is easy. Blowing leaves out of simulated dry river beds filled with well-sorted pebbles, cobbles and the odd boulder is a fracking nightmare.

    • People have been doing stuff for a long long time.

      One of the biggest reasons grass is used around the house is that, over a period of a long long time, people figured out that short grass is easiest, overall.

      Some people only learn from their own experience.

      • I agree that lawns and open spaces around homes have been around for a long time. I’d imagine early settlers in areas where there was no reasonable expectation of a response by a sheriff or deputy found that open spaces provide no cover for those who would approach a properly fortified abode with ill intent. Don’t give the bad guys anything to hide behind.

  37. Sadly, AOC is not available to write the bill this week, and probably she will be tied up for an extended period of time.
    It seems she has just discovered a new fangled gadget that her DC apartment is equipped with, that she did not know about and never heard of. She is naturally terrified, and needs to take some time learning how to operate the darn thing, and who can blame her?
    I am speaking of something she calls a “garbage disposal”.
    Apparently she will also be researching whether or not this gizmo is harmful for the environment, or if it is another of the evil plots from corporate planet killers.
    So count her out.
    In case there is anybody who is the early adopter type and already knows how to use one of these dealios, I am sure she would appreciate any tips you might have.
    I mean the thing was only invented 92 years ago, so having one of these things is about like if you already had an electric light in your house in 1972.
    You can leave comments for her here:
    https://twitter.com/stclairashley/status/1125661872479453185

  38. Funny, I always thought of lawn maintenance as a form of exercise, and doing my part to keep the neighborhood looking nice. I guess I’m not as slovenly as ERric Holthaus, and I care more about my neighborhood than he does his.

  39. 17,000,000 gallons of gas is produced from about 800,000 BBL of oil, or less than 1/20th of our average daily petroleum consumption. This would be yet another insignificant micromanagement of USA emissions.

  40. Maybe next he can tell us all how much food gets wasted feeding all of the useless pet dogs and cats so many of us have?
    You know, since he is on the subject of things people have and spend money on but do not care about.

  41. I agree with Eric Holthaus, especially about the waste of water on lawns in water-scarce states. But I’ll take a green lawn where my kids can play and friends and family can come over and recreate over a prickly and unusable xeriscape any day. I’m working out how to make the lawn portion of my yard smaller but still usable and fun, plant shrubs and trees, reduce water use, and most importantly, reduce my maintenance effort. And if anyone can tell me how to stop the %#$! deer from eating my flowers and plants and the blinkety-blank neighbor dogs (and deer) from taking a dump on my lawn, I’d love to know. Shooting one and leaving its carcass to rot as a warning isn’t an option. The smell.

    • Tannin at 10% weight/volume reduces deer feeding by 72%; as per Monteith’s S.D.Univ. thesis (2012) “Nutritional Ecology of White-Tailed Deer: Assessment … Repellent.” Tannin can be bought inexpensively by the pound on eBay.

      Sicklepod planted next to other plants can confuse deer from browsing because it has deterrent compounds. But sicklepod is quite dangerous to many animals that eat it & a safe tactic in a residential area seems problematic.

  42. We keep a green lawn between us and the chaparall for fire prevention mainly. The brush, despite the relatively dry climate, grows back in gangbusters if you don’t keep it at bay by mowing. And I want to see the rattlesnakes before they see me. Our beautiful greenspot in the midst of the dryer foothill region is like a magnet to all kinds of wildlife – birds, deer, bear, fox, bobcat, you-name-it, we’ve had it in our yard. We cultivate fruit trees, grapes, berries, flowers and a vegetable garden but eat very little of any. The animals get most of it before we have a chance to harvest anything but the excess. Not much of this abundance would exist if we didn’t have a lawn. And I’d do a lot more couch-potatoing.

  43. I worked for a number of years as an independent contract gardener in the Los Angeles area. (Basically a machine operator behind a lawn mower.) Got to thinking I was throwing away a lot of useful cattle feed. So I took a grass sample out to a Riverside chemist for nutritional analysis. Don’t remember the specific results, only that it was surprisingly (to me) high in protein. I also contacted one of the Chino dairymen, where I learned that they can’t use it because it affects the taste of milk.

    Never fear, I found a use for it. One at a time, get a Red Angus, Charolais, and Holstein calf and raise it for beef. First two, good for back yard barbecue. Holstein, good for dog food….

  44. KMA Mr. Holthaus.
    Yesterday I spent a great deal of time running around my acre and the three acres of mowed grass field behind me with my 4 y/o granddaughter. I showed her the apple trees with some budding and one already starting to bring forth tiny apples. I showed her the retention pond with frogs and tadpoles that already have legs evident. She had seen them before without legs evident. Beside the retention pond is the garden already tilled and ready to be planted. Then 30 yards further to the south is the shelter made out of cedar rough cut lumber with a green metal roof and beside that a fire pit. In my side yard is a line of old western pines. The tallest one hit by lightning summer before last when I was home with a strike that scared me, raised the hair on my arms, and was quickly followed by an overwhelming smell of ozone. And we investigated how that tree which had the bark blown off of it in a streak down it’s side was healing. We investigated it all together as I pointed out the maples, oaks, wild Cherry, Locust, and different types of apple trees to her and a couple Fox squirrels and a smaller piney arguing with each other. Then I took her to the little stable across the road with it’s grass enclosure and we fed Holly the pony apple slices.

    So Mr. Holthaus, you enjoy your dirt, gravel, asphalt, concrete. I’ll keep my own form of heaven on earth here along with my neighbors that love it like I do.

  45. most of my lawn is old cow pasture that I allow to grow a bit before mowing, never use any fertilizer/etc, and some been reclaimed into a garden.
    I’ve also planted tees to keep over heat from direct sun down and, like many others, have been a good steward of the land.
    and yes, this means I have to use some gas and a tractor sometimes. oh well.

  46. A week ago a guest on a rerun of a 1960’s episode of “What’s My Line?” revealed that his job was renting geese to cotton farmers for a day. The geese would eat the weeds and leave the cotton plants alone. Three days ago I visited tourist destinations around South Lake Union in Seattle, where there is a large expanse of lawn and walkways. It was filled with geese and goslings eating grass. So maybe “green” municipalities could hire a contractor to use geese to “mow” lawns (?). (Except they might go after flowers too.)

  47. 17 million gallons of spilled gas and you wouldn’t even know it. Ain’t Mother Nature amazing?

  48. Agree 100%. We should have come up w/a relatively maintenance-free groundcover for lawns by now. WAY too much time/effort/money wasted on grass lawns.

    • In Southern California some people plant dichondra, a form of clover. It never grows very tall, seldom needs mowing. The only problem is it’s hard to established as a lawn. It seldom needs watering and weeds don’t seem to bother it. It’s a pretty shade of green, too. It doesn’t survive in really cold climates, so I can’t grow it here in Illinois. There MIGHT be other types the will, though.

  49. Holthaus:

    “I have big plans for my outdoor area: fruit trees, garden space, native plants. It’s small enough that this project should be manageable, even for a single parent with two small kids.”

    Really?
    Where will your children play?
    Practice soccer?
    Throw footballs or baseballs around?
    Play field hockey?
    Play baseball?
    Play chase? Hide & seek?
    Play badminton, volleyball or tennis?

    Another selfish assertion that changes children in to household prisoners to only be allowed outdoors to attend school or play semi-organized sports…

    Nor has Holthaus put any effort into how much land is required to raise sustenance for a small family. Or the crops necessary to feed a family over time.
    Instead Holthaus focuses on dilettante gardening where crop harvests are small and frequently abusive.

    e.g. a typical planter with the classic “I hate to waste them” attitude and zucchini plants that produce abundantly for a brief period.
    Unfortunately many of these dilettantes fail to understand that bigger zucchini is not better zucchini, nor do they learn to can or freeze their produce. Instead friends and neighbors get stuck with the overload of large zucchini.

    Pathetic.

    • I once rented an old farm house, right in the middle of Anaheim, California. It was on 2+ acres! The owner told me it was still zoned for agriculture, and it even had some large old chicken houses. I thought about raising chickens but instead decided to grow a really good, BIG garden. I put in about 40 tomato plants, a hundred feet of strawberries, corn, beans and about 40 squash plants, both yellow crook neck and zucchini. Before planting I spread lots of fresh, supposedly composted cow manure. It didn’t smell that way.

      In a few short weeks my garden was starting to produce. I watered it daily, using a timer. At first I got squash. LOT’S of squash. I was a single man, then, so I started taking the excess with me to work every morning, filling up the trunk and sometimes the back seat in my Camaro. They were very popular with my co-workers and the man who drove the lunch wagon. Even so, I had to rent an upright freezer to hold the surplus. I also had fresh sweet corn. I learned a lot of new ways to fix squash. I also got very sick of squash! I was really glad when the plants finally stopped producing! The tomato plants all got blossom end rot, which means I was over watering them, so I didn’t get very many tomatos. The strawberries never did produce as well as I thought they would.

      That was the biggest garden I ever tried to manage, about 150 feet by 50 feet. At first I thought about expanding it to a full two acres, but I am glad, now, that I didn’t! As it was, it was far more work than I had time or inclination for. Plus there was also a front and back lawn, which required almost constant mowing. That was an interesting year, for sure.

  50. There is a pattern to these misanthropic movements.
    They want us living in as highly urbanized, isolated from nature, crowded in with others, conformist way possible.
    In our moderate density neighborhood we have wildlife, nice trees, pleasant individual gardens, diversity of residence, diversity of neighbors.
    Hoaxhaus sounds like he is basically shopping for a beehive.

  51. In ’96 we moved to Illinois from Southern California, where you HAD to mow if you wanted a lawn, and the city required you to keep up your lawn. At first I tried watering, using the same sprinklers I’d used in CA. But the water pressure here was so low they barely squirted anything out! The neighbor’s told me that they never water. I nervously tried it, fearing the worst, but, hey, they were right! In Illinois it actually RAINS in the Summer time! Since then I have never watered and the grass just keeps on growing! Of course, it needs mowing constantly. I have finally managed to get one of my grandkids to do the actual mowing, one of the girls! The boys, of course, are all MUCH too busy, playing video games and such. I have used weed and feed a few times, but it seems to me that all it does is FEED the weeds! Besides, the last time I bought a bag it was nearly $50! And RISING! I always leave the trimmings on the lawn to feed it. It makes an excellent mulch, too. I spent a lifetime learning how to manage a lawn and now I’m too old to do it anymore! But that’s OK, too, now I can just sit in the shade and enjoy it! There HAVE been times when I thought about painting it green, when it was dry and looked dead. That probably wouldn’t last very long, though.

  52. “…My strategy for finding a house was probably a little different than most: I looked for the one with the smallest lawn I could find…”

    Never heard of a condo or a townhouse?

  53. Hard to tell where this hard to believe meme came from (i.e. that more area of lawns are irrigated than any other ‘crop’ in the USA), but it seems to have been repeated ad nauseam by the usual suspects ands probably started by this modelling study:

    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Lawn/lawn2.php

    So, I’ve no problem with the people trying to estimate the amount of lawn area in the USA, but the leap of imagination it takes to then consider all of that lawn area irrigated and irrigated to the same extent as a field of maize or an almond orchard seems beyond ignorant, not to mention very unlikely.

    I’m no fan of lawns, and have only watered my lawns during severe drought. I know some people water lawns out of habit, whether they need it or not, but most people that are paying a water bill don’t waste large amounts of water if they can help it. Golf courses have no choice, but people trying to maintain a greensward around their homes in any area with a summer drought are fighting an uphill battle that they can only lose when water restrictions come into place. Xeriscaping or planting drought tolerant and fire-resistant shrubbery would be a better choice in much of the non-urban Western USA, and far more friendly to wildlife.

    Lawns may provide a clear field of fire against trespassers, as one commenter noted, but they are not wildlife friendly unless incorporated with more 3-dimensional plants like herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees. Think of a wildflower meadow in an open forest situation – wouldn’t you rather have something like that in your front yard than a flat greensward you had to mow every week it rains, water if it doesn’t rain, and pour on fertilisers and pesticides if you are a perfectionist

  54. Poor old Eric. it’s obviously not easy being being paid a climate-scientist’s wages that force you to choose between buying a house with a lawn or buying one without a lawn.

    I can envisage most of the rest of the world crying enough for him to water a golf course.

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