Apparently, lawn historians are a thing.
The Lawn Institute, which actually employs lawn historians, says humans have kept their domestic landscapes tidy and covered with short vegetation from the dawn of time. Fortunes have been made and lost by botanists questing for the perfect grass seed, while the design of the perfect rider mower is a serious undertaking to this day.
Grass, also known as turf, is the single biggest crop in the United States — covering some 40 million manicured acres, or roughly 1.9 percent of America.
Many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) patrol their turf with tape measures to ensure that blades don’t exceed 3.6 inches — considered by lawn experts the highest grass can grow before it simply must be mown.
But Minnesota is measuring lawns by a different yardstick: the growing concern about the impact of grass on the environment. While turf helps prevent erosion and filters greenhouse gases, it also leeches herbicides and pesticides into groundwater and provides few nutrients for coexisting wild creatures, including birds, butterflies and rabbits.
The state, taking its “Star of the North” slogan seriously, wants to lead the way in rescuing the 55 species of bumblebees that pollinate its food crops.
So if you own a lawn in Minnesota you may be eligible for a grant ranging from $150-500 for letting your grass grow long and seeding it with clover and wildflowers. You will be delighting your neighboring wildlife, if not your neighboring humans.
If you don’t happen to live in Minnesota, you may be interested in alternatives to turf-based lawns. If you can do it legally in your neck of the woods, letting your grass grow long enough to produce seed is an environmentally healthier alternative to mowing.
A 1-lb bag of Dutch clover seed costs less than $10 and can cover a good size yard. Living alongside grass, the clover stays low to the ground but produces a nutrient-rich white flower beloved by bees and mammals alike. It grows like a weed which can be a real benefit, depending on your point of view.