What is your attitude toward lawns?

What is your attitude toward lawns?

  • Lawns are great! – but I prefer to pay someone to do the work.

    Votes: 3 4.4%
  • I pay for landscaping mainly for the sake of property value, HOA concerns.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Lawns are great! – I do all the work myself.

    Votes: 8 11.8%
  • Lawns are ok – I mow it myself.

    Votes: 16 23.5%
  • Lawns suck! – But I mow it anyway to avoid the ire of my HOA/neighbors.

    Votes: 4 5.9%
  • Lawns suck! – I let my lawn go to seed/dry out like the Sahara.

    Votes: 5 7.4%
  • I keep my yard too full of various plants to have much if any room for grass.

    Votes: 16 23.5%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – but would do the upkeep if I had a lawn.

    Votes: 2 2.9%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – glad to not have to worry about a lawn.

    Votes: 7 10.3%
  • I live in an apartment/condo – think lawns are better suited to public parks.

    Votes: 7 10.3%

  • Total voters
    68
  • Poll closed .

jaws

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#41
Luca said:
Lots of alwn space and idneed the concpet of teh suburbs in general is a shining example of game-theoretical unachievability of collective optimality through individual seeking of other-cosntraiend optimality.
Can you elaborate on that?
 

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#42
natski said:
Ok this may be a dumb question but im going to ask it anyway- as i think it may give this thread some perspective...

Why do houses have lawns? I mean from what i can think of they are basically seen in the 'burbs or large estates (that wealthy people own- for lack of a better term). The question i pose is the existance of lawn in the 'burbs, a way of creating a false notion of class?
and then what would the impacts on this notion if indeed people did not have a lawn in the 'burbs?
The main reason people have lawns in the burbs i beleive is to create more space so it's less city like. But when you loose the physical closeness of the city, you loose the social closeness as well. And you still need to create country clubs to make it more "rural"
 

natski

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#43
burnham follower said:
The main reason people have lawns in the burbs i beleive is to create more space so it's less city like. But when you loose the physical closeness of the city, you loose the social closeness as well. And you still need to create country clubs to make it more "rural"
Hmm i dont agree. I think if anything it is a status symol- just as lucas and i were discussing earlier. I wouldnt equate lawns to social closeness at all.

Sounds like you are running a new urbanist /anti sprawl theory here- which i dont think has much bearing to this thread really
 
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#44
natski said:
Ok this may be a dumb question but im going to ask it anyway- as i think it may give this thread some perspective...

Why do houses have lawns? I mean from what i can think of they are basically seen in the 'burbs or large estates (that wealthy people own- for lack of a better term). The question i pose is the existance of lawn in the 'burbs, a way of creating a false notion of class?
and then what would the impacts on this notion if indeed people did not have a lawn in the 'burbs?
I agree, natski. Who doesn't want to emulate the rich? If you visit suburban Miami, you will probably see more fountains than you ever have - in front of small, modest-sized homes. It is possible to drive by rows of 4,5, or sometimes even 6 single family, 120 sq meter (1200 square feet) houses, all with their own fountains located in the middle of their circular driveways. Visitors from almost anywhere else think it is incredibly tacky since even nowadays, having a fountain is a thing that almost no has but the rich. My theory on why this is: Miami is heavily Cuban, and many Cubans were wealthy / upper middle class before having their property seized by Castro and coming to Miami. Many want to recreate the mansion/elegantrowhouse/apartment they had in Havana, and they WILL put in a small pool, a fountain, and an elegant iron gate (at the expense of having almost zero yard space and almost no lawn) around their 1200 square foot house even it if is located in a purely middle class neighborhood of other very modest homes. There is a joke in Miami: How can you tell if a Cuban family lives in a certain house? -The fountain in front is taller than the house itself (exaggeration, obviously, but you all understand the point).
 

dobopoq

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#45
I'm learning a lot from this thread. Jaws earlier comments about lawns as too public for family use, yet too private for community use is pretty much my attitude toward lawns. Although I grew up in a suburb, I have lived my adult life in urban areas where the only grass was in public parks.

Obviously, a lush green lawn is a more desirable surface on which to engage in numerous leisure activities than is a dirt yard. Natski brings up a good point about lawns as a mark of class. But they are more than that. That we decide to grow and maintain a green lawn is an independent decision above and beyond that of choosing to live in a neighborhood whose density is such that private cars are a neccessity. Most people think of the lower density of Suburbia relative to the city as coming from houses being detached and often only 1 or 2 story. But what is often overlooked is that a great deal of suburbia's reduced density comes from individualized front lawns. Suburbia exists as a relief from the chaos and noise of the city. Yet the very thing that makes suburbia possible (cars), accounts for a great deal of the chaos people seek escape from. Hence the setback. Sure setbacks exist in suburbs because land is cheaper, but they also remove the inhabitant from the awareness of their connection to the urbanized civilization that employs them.

So if I may make an analogy - As the sun blocks out our awareness of the stars during daytime, so too, lawns block out suburbanites awareness of the concrete jungle after every evenings commute home.

I have much more to say but will let some others get in now lest my post grow tiresome.
 
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#46
natski said:
Hmm i dont agree. I think if anything it is a status symol- just as lucas and i were discussing earlier. I wouldnt equate lawns to social closeness at all.

Sounds like you are running a new urbanist /anti sprawl theory here- which i dont think has much bearing to this thread really
I think it does fit because I think one reason people sprawl is so they have more room to show off thier wealth. Who wants to live in a city where all people know is you live in a nice address, not that your lawn is the size of a minor league baseball field. But being showy as such seperates you from the people around you. Ask people who have large properties in most denser areas, and I'm sure you'll find them to be less involved in the community. I'm not saying people are trying to isolate themselves, I'm just saying it's symptomatic. But my real point was that people have bigger lawns to not feel so "claustrophobic" with thier nieghbor right on top of them and what not. You can build a really big house with a great garden to show status, lawns must give something else too, because you can poor with a really big nice lawn
 
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#47
To most people, lawns equate to having space, and having space equates to having "made it" in the United States (thus the idea of a large, suburban house over a luxurious central city condominium). I like lawns, but I think it is boring and nonattractive to have a huge front yard with nothing in it but grass. Lots of grass does not say "wealthy" to me, but well manicured hedges and shrubs, intricate flower arrangements, and lots of color, maybe a small pond, statue, or fountain - all do. So do different types of colored mulch and stones to add some variety - green, green. green is monotone. As someone who is a gardening enthusiast, I know what costs money and grass is cheap to both plant and maintain. If you can afford to spend $500,000 on a huge house in the Midwestern suburbs with nothing in the front yard except for GRASS, then you should be able to spend $10,000 more to properly landscape the front and sideyards and make it actually like like you DO have money. One of my biggest complaints about tract home developments (sprawl) is that not enough money is spent on trees and landscaping!
 

otterpop

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#48
I do not agree that front lawns are not private enough to be used by the household. I am my neighbors use our front lawns. My son plays on it. He and I look for bugs on it. I enjoy it on a cool evening while I read a book. It provides a place for deer to graze and robins to find worms.

Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed? I utilize public land all the time. I can use my yard to my enjoyment and just because my neighbors and passerbys can see me does not diminish my enjoyment. Same with my backyard. People can see me and my family as we enjoy it as well.

Yards, front and back, are great for me. One of the reasons I bought a house was to have a yard of my own. To enoy. To do with what I please (within the parameters of civic decency and zoning).

Lawns provide economic opportunity for 12-year-old boys who want a little pocket money. Saves mom and dad a few bucks and teaches the kid some work ethics.

I certainly do not advocate pouring a lot of chemicals on your lawn or wasting al ot of water keeping it green and perfect. I use home-generated compost and only water my lawn in July and part of August.

Lawns are great. I like them. I do not see them as a symbol of suburbia or American decadence. It's grass, bushes and trees.
 

bud

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#49
Decoration

Lawns should be small, in strategic locations as a beauty spot or a soft little place to lie on - pools and fountains of water would be a part of this such as a Japanese garden.

Maintenance of large lawns is one of the biggest sources of air pollution due to mower exhaust. The yard should be should be put to productive uses such as fruit trees or vegetable gardens or native wild-flowers if you prefer along with native trees and shrubbery. I like to see houses set far back on the lot.

Large lawns satisfy the desire to conform, to be normal. Why not fence off a large part of the front yard with only a narrow strip of grass along the walkway and driveway to the house to be seen from the street?
 
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dobopoq

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#50
otterpop said:
I do not agree that front lawns are not private enough to be used by the household. I am my neighbors use our front lawns. My son plays on it. He and I look for bugs on it. I enjoy it on a cool evening while I read a book. It provides a place for deer to graze and robins to find worms.

Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed?
Notice the irony of this question.

I think front lawns are fun for kids up to about the age when they might be expected to mow them. By 12 or so, the safety of suburbia becomes too isolating. Teens stuggle to find role models in subdivisions that are almost totally bereft of twentysomethings/i.e. young adults. How can they can they mature to adulthood when all the commerce and work of the adult world is far away? For teens to become civilized adults, they need to be around society which is best experienced in an urban area.

By fragmenting open space into individualized plots of grass, sports are hampered. Sure you can enjoy your front lawn - not minding that others can see you, but are others free to enjoy your lawn? Public parks provide for a larger scope and variety of activities than private front lawns. And when houses are close together (because they don't have lawns in the way), parks can be situated such that they are in close proximity to a large number of people.
 

Luca

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#51
jaws said:
Can you elaborate on that?
Game theory (the one example most people are familiar with is the "prisoner's dilemma") strongly suggests that under certain conditions individuals will make choices that are utility-optimizing from their singular perspective but, by virtue of being universal or at least very common choices, in the aggregate they are not utility maximizing. In plain jargon-free terms, it's the old "what if everyone did that" argument.

In the specific case I mentioned: aping the landed gentry.

As long as poor transport/very long workdays/lack of income made it possible for a tiny minority to enjoy both sylvan quiet in a country estate and presence in the city for commercial and social purposes, it was indeed idyllic. Imagine if 99% of the people were forced to live in a dense, urban center. And imagine you, 1% of the people, live in a nice, 5-acre plot with a beautiful mansion surrounded by fields and forests. Only 1% has cars, there is little or no congestion. You can live on your country estate and pop in (and park) downtown in a matter of a few minutes. You may even have a nice townhouse if you want to spend more time in town. Your mansion can be relatively close to the city center and still be immersed in countryside, since the remaining 99% are jammed within a tighter area surrounded by farmland/nature. Sounds great.

Now let's reverse the percentages. Sprawl/suburbia. The product of 99% trying to do what only 1% can get away with. So you're no longer surrounded by nature but rather by other suburban houses. You can no longer live within easy driving distance, but through hours/miles of grinding traffic, etc.

The LAWN, specifically, is part of the fantasy of an English country mansion which, to be shown off properly and have vistas, will be placed in a commanding spot, surrounded by fine lawns and maybe low-rise formal gardens, with more naturalistic gardens to the back and sides. If you’re going to pretend that your ranch-style sheet-rock shack is Castle Howard, you MUST have a nice big lawn in front of it.

Again, if you’re ever seen an area of ‘terraced (town) houses, a house within it that has a low wall and a lawn around it looks positively baronial and of course set back from the road, etc. IF they are ALL like that, they just look like ramshackle, street-wall-less agglomerations.
 
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#52
On traditional residential streets, I don't think there is anything at all wrong with small setbacks (5'-20') from the sidewalk, and they work very well as a space to separate the stoop or verandah and the street. This makes using the stoop or verandah more inviting; able to watch and connect with the comings and goings of the street. (Set too far back, however, and the connection is lost, and each house is no longer part of the aesthetic whole of the street, but rather an individual mini-estate.) Anyway, residential streets like these usually have such narrow sidewalks that if there were no building setbacks, there would be little room for reasonably accomodating both sitting residents and walking passerbys.

Of course the reason for setbacks (front lawns) gets skewed in the contemporary suburb, where stoops, verandahs, and human activity have been replaced by garages, and all connection to the street is lost. This is where front lawns become wasteful and stupid.


I agree that grass is unnatural and wasteful. My wife and I have started turning up the remaining sod in the front of our house (aprox. 33' x 9') and replacing it with shrubs, tomatoes and cucumbers, flowers, etc. Eventually we hope that half of our backyard space (aprox. 33' x 33') will be devoted to something other than grass.
 

otterpop

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#53
dobopoq said:
Notice the irony of this question.

I think front lawns are fun for kids up to about the age when they might be expected to mow them. By 12 or so, the safety of suburbia becomes too isolating. Teens stuggle to find role models in subdivisions that are almost totally bereft of twentysomethings/i.e. young adults. How can they can they mature to adulthood when all the commerce and work of the adult world is far away? For teens to become civilized adults, they need to be around society which is best experienced in an urban area.

By fragmenting open space into individualized plots of grass, sports are hampered. Sure you can enjoy your front lawn - not minding that others can see you, but are others free to enjoy your lawn? Public parks provide for a larger scope and variety of activities than private front lawns. And when houses are close together (because they don't have lawns in the way), parks can be situated such that they are in close proximity to a large number of people.
Actually there is no irony in the question at all. Irony is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language. Actually the question was rhetorical, anyway.

Sports are not hampered by my yard or anyone else's. There are parks in my neighborhood. There are parks all over town. My son and his friends can play in my yard. I would prefer that. I can keep an eye on them. I don't have to follow them to a park, while I have stuff to do at home.

Are people free to enjoy my lawn? They can look at it. The postman cuts across it six days a week. Can they use it? Of course not. It is my private property. Neither can they come into my house, make a sandwich and plop down in front of my TV. Or take my car for a drive. That is my stuff.
 
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dobopoq

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#54
otterpop said:
Actually there is no irony in the question at all. Irony is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language.
FWIW, your question of "Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed?" is ironic considering that your view is in support of "private" lawns. I realize that you're saying that you don't find your front lawn to be too public to make use of - which is good. But the larger point is that since it is your own private lawn - albeit in public view, you are enjoying something that is in fact not available to the public at large.

I confess, I did not enjoy being expected to mow the lawn as a kid :-@ , and I would hardly be the last person in the world to be called lazy:-o . But on a social level, I object to large front lawns as subjecting teenage kids to a cocoonlike embrace of the nuclear family at the expense of the development of a wider web of community ties. I subscribe to the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. As a rule of thumb, my personal preference is for neighborhoods where the ratio of building height to distance to houses across the street is > or equal to 1. This is obviously an urban level of density with narrow streets and little if any setback. In the realm of single family detached houses, I think setbacks get ridiculous as soon as they exceed the height of the houses. But that's just me.
 

otterpop

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#55
dobopoq said:
FWIW, your question of "Why does space have to be private to be enjoyed?" is ironic considering that your view is in support of "private" lawns. I realize that you're saying that you don't find your front lawn to be too public to make use of - which is good. But the larger point is that since it is your own private lawn - albeit in public view, you are enjoying something that is in fact not available to the public at large.

Oh I see your point, although the apparent misunderstanding between you and I is the different meanings of the word "private"

I meant "private" is the sense of not secluded and in the public view. The question did not address public vs. private. Nothing ironic about that rhetorical question as it was posed, though easily misconstrued. But I see your point in the larger sense. The misunderstanding is ofcourse compounded becuase elsewhere in my posts I used "private" in the sense of not publicly owned.
 

jread

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#56
This has been an interesting thread.

Now, while I agree with homes being close to the (narrow) streets in a more urban setting, I still think it is necessary to have one's own backyard. Sometimes I like to bbq or just sit outside in my own little world. I like having a safe area for my dogs to run around and play.

Also, while lawn grasses are unnatural, they are not a waste in my opinion. From an ecological standpoint, lawns do a lot to break down pollutants before they enter the groundwater, prevent erosion, cool the area around them and make a very safe surface for sports, etc. I definitely don't think that a lawn is needed when it is not being used, but I do think it has its purposes.

As for this forced social interaction that a lot of people seem to support, I want nothing to do with that. I don't see why everything has to be shared and why it's so important for everyone to interact with one another constantly. People generally annoy the hell out of me after awhile and I like being able to get away from them. I don't mind a friendly chat with the neighbors when I'm outside, but I like my alone time in the yard.
 

mendelman

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#57
No one is saying that the concept of grassed outdoor area is wrong. Many are just saying that excess grass is unnecessary (though what constitutes 'excess" is subjective).
 

jread

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#58
mendelman said:
No one is saying that the concept of grassed outdoor area is wrong. Many are just saying that excess grass is unnecessary (though what constitutes 'excess" is subjective).
Agreed. Now if we can just get the HOA's to stop believing that everyone should have a perfect turf in front of their homes :(
 

dobopoq

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#59
jread said:
Agreed. Now if we can just get the HOA's to stop believing that everyone should have a perfect turf in front of their homes :(
Yeah, this I really can't fathom. I think it's even more ridiculous than say how the Yankees require all their players to be clean shaven. Besides its leisure value, and class symbolism, a neatly trimmed, lush green lawn affirms one's mastery over their environment - namely nature. It is the epitome of our reptilian/canine territorial natures.

CLAIM AND MARK YOUR TURF
FOR ALL TO SEE AND SMELL
LET IT BE KNOWN TO ALL WHO PASS
IT IS YOU WHO RULES THE GRASS!

People can't very well invest in their communities, when their busy worrying about their property values. Why must efforts to do something unique/nonconformist with a front yard be trampled under foot by the HOA Gestapo? Yeah, that broken down pickup truck in the front yard is a decent clue I might be a redneck, but hey, maybe I've decided to memorialize my son's DUI with an art instillation I call - "Teenage Wasteland".
 

jmello

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#60
crisp444 said:
My theory on why this is: Miami is heavily Cuban, and many Cubans were wealthy / upper middle class before having their property seized by Castro and coming to Miami. Many want to recreate the mansion/elegantrowhouse/apartment they had in Havana, and they WILL put in a small pool, a fountain, and an elegant iron gate (at the expense of having almost zero yard space and almost no lawn) around their 1200 square foot house even it if is located in a purely middle class neighborhood of other very modest homes.
I don't agree. While a few of the Cuban refugees in Miami were upper-class, the majority were solidly middle class and/or working class before they fled to the US. I recently had this same discussion with my Cuban-American family members in regards to the new Andy Garcia movie about the Cuban Revolution, which was criticized for "not showing enough class conflict." Many of those involved in the debate disagreed with the film critics' one-sided view of pre-Castro cuba, citing their own middle-class families and communities in and around Havana.

Also, how do you explain the prevalence of fountains and statues in front of many Italian- and Greek-American homes? Do they suffer from the same-fall-from-grandeur syndrome?
 
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