Having a sprawling lawn is part of the American dream alongside a Golden Retriever and white picket fence. Though more and more people are moving to the big city and therefore are more likely to select apartment living, this image remains. The thing about having lawns at all is that they are, quite frankly, incredibly destructive.
Growing a lawn is a pretty ornament to a home, but it also has consequences. First of all, they are the most commonly grown crop in the United States, but they do not provide nourishment for people. Lawns are thus exclusively a vanity crop courtesy of 18th century Europe and are about as useful as rabbit-shaped hedges. Not only do they not feed anyone, but they do not even provide a home for insects. This has nothing to do with the fact that they do not have that capability so much as that they are constantly under attack. Lawn owners typically strive for a perfect appearance, and so they bombard them with insecticides, ultimately destroying their ecosystem.
The thing of it is, some insects are problematic in a garden, but using the chemicals also eliminates the beneficial insects, i.e., bees and spiders. We need to make an effort to keep bees around, and yet there has been a considerable decline in this precious bug in the last decade or so. But pesticides aren’t the only destructive force in insect life. Our strange need for bright lights outside our homes is causing them to seek refuge elsewhere, and so it is recommended to put motion sensors on security lights, as well as to replace white light bulbs with yellow LEDs. This way the insects will not suffer from the shock that comes along with the obnoxiously bright lights.
Not only are lawns bad for insects, but they are also ultimately bad for the environment. The fact of the matter is, they are substantial water hogs, particularly in dry climates such as Arizona and New Mexico. As a result, a massive amount of wastage is happening for exactly zero purposes. Lawns also thrive on chemicals that pollute our waterways and degrade watershed. In a time where droughts are very real issues, it is egregious to keep them around.
But there are quite a few replacement crops that will actually be useful to you and your surroundings, so try to make an effort to uproot your lawn and grow some of them. The first step, according to biologist Douglas Tallamy, is to remove all invasive species, such as watercress, and plant native alternatives. This is primarily because native plants “support the life cycles of 10 to 100 times more insect species than nonnative plants, and a few plants (such as native cherries and willows) serve as hosts for 10 to 100 times more insects than most other native varieties.” He gives further tips, pointing out that it is advantageous for people living in all except the driest parts of the country to plant oak trees. If a meadow is what is desired, plants such as goldenrod, sunflowers, and asters should be established.
It was also stated that if every landowner in the country converted half of their lawn by planting native species, 20 million acres of what is essentially ecological wasteland into an insect-supporting habitat. We can no longer leave conservation to professional conservationists; there simply are not enough of them,” writes Tallamy. “Along with land ownership comes responsibility for stewarding the life associated with that land. The task is not as enormous as it seems. Just take care of the life on your property.”