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A Brief History of Lawn

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A Brief History of Lawn
photo © Jamie Burke

Early Lawn History

Lawn as we know it, began as grazing pasture in Europe during the middle ages. Basically the area around a house was 'mowed' by grazing animals. Native grasses would have been mixed with wild flowers and other plants.

Europe

By the 1600's the 'English' lawn had become popular among the nobility. Sprawling acres of closely scythed turf was a luxury and a status symbol. During the same era, a village green was often located in populated areas. The village green was used for communal grazing and eventually developed into a gathering area for recreation and leisure of common people.

United States

The early American yard was more likely to be a small vegetable and herb garden with some pasture for grazing. It wasn't until the early part of the 19th century that turf began to gain prominence in America. Urban parks began to develop based on the village greens of Europe. Large, landscaped areas of turf and trees where people could gather, became common throughout the country. Sprawling, highly manicured lawns became the ultimate status symbol among the American nobility of robber barons and industrialists.

Post War Lawn

The advent of the modern lawn begins after World War II. The creation of suburbia and post war innocence towards chemicals aided the burgeoning American obsession with the perfect lawn. The perfect lawn became an integral part of the suburban, post-war landscape. Modern lawns are now part of a multi-billion dollar industry and turfgrass covers an estimated 32 million acres of the United States, making it the largest irrigated crop in the country.

Controversy

The modern American lawn is adjusting from years of chemical abuse and misuse. Over-fertilization has resulted in nitrates contaminating water supplies through run off and leaching. Poor regulation and misuse of pesticides has wreaked havoc throughout the country. We are seeing now, the standards of the modern lawn slowly adjusting to meet the current realities of trying to achieve perfection.

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