Stop Mowing Your Lawn

Stop Mowing Your Lawn

I grew up mowing a giant, mangy lawn. My family lived on an acre of hilltop land, which we kept shaggily mowed, too spiky to walk on in our bare feet. On one side was a cornfield. On the other side was our neighbour, Mr Howland, the Ned Flanders of lawn care. He seeded his lawn with fine golf-course-grade grass, mowed and sprayed it weekly, and even rolled it flat like an off-season Zamboni driver.

Photo by Adam Kerfoot-Roberts

Mr Howland’s lawn infuriated me. I stewed about it every time I gingerly steered our riding mower around the nest of killdeer in the unkempt grass, and as I mowed along the property line, grimacing at the clear Goofus-and-Gallant contrast. After I mowed, I would tromp across our acre of brown spiky stubble and take off my shoes on Mr Howland’s lawn.

Well, well, well: It turns out that ours was the morally correct lawn. It would have been more correct if we’d mowed even less and let the grass grow to its natural height, or ceded some of the backyard to the wild field of pheasant grass. We didn’t need to be ashamed of dandelions, or brown patches, or ground-nesting birds.

As The Nib’s Ted Steinberg and Shannon Wright explain in their comic “Hate Mowing Your Lawn? Good! Don’t Do It”, the regularly mowed lawn is a recent invention, popularised in the US only after World War II. Its rapid expansion, driven by lawn-care companies and reliant on invasive species of grass, sucks up nearly 76 trillion litres of water a year, 50 to 75 per cent of home water use each summer in the US.

While lawns, like any plant life, suck up greenhouse gases, the energy spent on their care wipes out any gains. Cutting back on lawn care is one of the easiest ways you can reduce your climate-change impact. You’ll burn less fossil fuel, and the taller grass will retain more moisture.

So I win the long game, Mr Howland. And I know you were mowing over our property line.


  • “Hate Mowing Your Lawn? Good! Don’t Do It”, you’ll get kicked out of your rental property at the next inspection then you wont have a lawn at all, problem solved

  • Jesus, if you’re that paranoid, just invest in an electric mower and stop watering your lawn. We never water ours and during the dryer months it can look a bit threadbare, but it always bounces right back in the wet months. As for the horror of adding more petrol fumes, my Ryobi electric battery gets it done on one charge.

  • What about water usage in Australia. I don’t know anyone who waters their lawn anymore. Most people have either replaced normal turf with more drought tolerant species, or removed the law altogether.
    Even when I do water my plants in summer it’s mainly using tank water.

  • Americans love their big lawns. When you go around the suburbs you see these huge pristine lawns, with no front or side fences – you can tell that from this story as well, as they are using a ride on mower to mow their acre(!) of lawn, and talk about mowing along the property line (rather than a fence).

  • I dare you to try and locate dog crap in 2ft high grass (or in fact do anything in 2ft high grass).

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