Copyright Notice

Individual articles on this website are copyrighted. Articles may be downloaded for personal use; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute, or resell any materials from this website in either machine-readable form or any other form without permission of the author and NHLA or payment of the appropriate royalty for reuse. For permissions and other copyright-related questions, please email your question to: editor [at]

Dr. Dirt
January 2015

Lawns: What Others Say

In Which Dr. Dirt exhausts himself and the literature on lawns...

One of the default landscapes in New Hampshire is the “Yawn,” consisting of a tutu of yews decorating the house foundation, surrounded by a vast expanse of lawn. Definitely a Yawn. And as I’ve belabored the point over the last three issues of the Newsletter, it’s a landscape that’s a half-step above concrete in terms of ecosystem health, and, unlike concrete, is very expensive to maintain. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to what others have been saying for decades:

“Grass is the cheapest plant to install and the most expensive to maintain.”     
–Pat Howell

“…it occurred to me that time as we know it doesn’t exist in a lawn, since grass never dies or is allowed to flower and set seed. Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”   
 –Michael Pollan

“I don’t want to say that a traveling sprinkler is the best way to water a lawn, because it isn’t. The best way to water a lawn is to live in a place where there’s enough rain, and when there are hot, dry months the lawn just stops growing and gets dusty. That’s how you should water a lawn.”   
 –Nicholson Baker

“I don’t mow lawns for the reason that I don’t shave.”
–Kevin Solway

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”
–James Dent
“Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne’s Lace.”     
–Edna St. Vincent Millay

“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.”     
–Michael Pollan

“I spend hours mowing the lawn in absolutely straight lines on my tractor. If it’s not right, I do it again.”     
–Britt Ekland

“Ruminants are a perfectly normal thing to possess when you live in upstate New York. It’s just moving scenery…It’s the way you keep your grass mowed. It’s the way to keep weed-whacking to a minimum.”
–Vera Farmiga

“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.”     
–Andrew V. Mason

“Spring hasn’t really arrived until you are awakened by the first lawn mower.”    

“As human pastoralists discovered 8,000 years ago, raising animals can be an efficient way of harnessing otherwise unusable resources such as grass.”     
–Tristram Stuart

“My dad’s idea of punishment was to dress me up in all green to disguise me as grass, and then throw me in the pasture. Cows bit me all over.”     
–Bryan Callen

And on that horrifying Steven King image, I cease my 4-month rant about lawns. There’s a place for lawns, but not everyplace, please.

— Dr. Dirt says Thanks for the web search to John Hart, Emeritus Professor of Horticultural Technology, Thompson School of Applied Science, University of New Hampshire, Durham.



Dr. Dirt, a.k.a. John Hart