Tag Archives: lawn mowing

Cop tickets man for mowing his lawn

Too bad this Oklahoman chose to crank up his gas-guzzling mower at 0430 hours (oh-dark-thirty), but the whole case sums up how inane the very idea of having one’s own turf farm has become. A waste of time, gasoline, energy and a whole lot more. Read about the Oklahoma debacle here.

Lincoln, Neb., to plant more native grass, mow less

This is a good move for a city built on what was once tallgrass prairie. Too bad such a money- and wildlife-saving program doesn’t spread to municipalities like those here in Pennsylvania. That would make too much sense, after all.

Man charged with DUI, of riding lawn mower

Americans are infatuated with their lawns? Yes, even to the point of drinking and driving. Take a look at this video, from Tennessee, of a cop stopping a guy on a riding mower. Driving while intoxicated, of a lawn mower?

A whirlwind tour through a noise-polluted city

Burlington, Vt., is far from being an overly noisy spot. I can think of many, many other municipalities that could easily vy for the overall top honor. But this is a great in-depth look at just how noisy the world really is — thanks to our machines and profligate consumption of gasoline. In my many, many stays in and around Burlington I have found it to be a relatively quiet locale AND one that’s very friendly toward pedestrians and bicyclists.

The lawn: Mow or less?

My latest newspaper column:

I’m back in the long-distance walking mode these days, both for the non-polluting exercise and for the visual exploration it affords. The newest addition to my extensive collection of outdoor field guides is proving helpful: “A Field Guide to Roadside Technology” by Edwin J. Sobey.

Trekking onto the rural countryside, though, yields few surprises after the first few times out: A stream polluted by coal-mining discharge, lots and lots of asphalt, the usual signs warning motorists to slow down, and lawn mowers, lots of them.

Lawns are a big part of the American humanized landscape and for wildlife they are biological deserts, offering little even for native pollinators like bumblebees and butterflies.

One encouraging trend in the other direction, though, is the recent decision by a Vermont college to let nature play a bigger role in its landscape-management program. And saving money is just part of the equation.

“They’ve downsized the lawns at Middlebury College this year,” began a recent article in the Free-Press newspaper of Burlington, Vt.

“The college removed 20 acres from its 75-acre mowing inventory this spring. Grass, wildflowers — and yes, weeds — have been allowed to flourish, flower and go to seed, said Tim Parsons, Middlebury’s landscape horticulturist,” Free-Press writer Joel Banner Baird wrote.

To many homeowners, nothing beats the look of a neatly cropped expanse of turf.

Yes, they require regular and noisy fossil-fueled mowing; yes, they tend to shed polluting nutrients into nearby streams; and yes, biodiversity takes a hit in a lawnscape — with fewer birds, bugs and critters of all size.

“Parsons translated Middlebury’s no-mow plan into annual savings: a 1,000-hour reduction in labor; 670 fewer gallons of fuel burned; and six tons of carbon dioxide removed from the college’s energy budget.”

Parsons sold the project on the basis of ecological soundness. His enthusiasm, however, extends far beyond theory.

In his blog, “The Middlebury Landscape,” he writes: “While at Middlebury we pride ourselves in having beautiful grounds, ecologically it’s a desert. Large shade trees and lawn give next to no habitat for pollinators, migrating songbirds, insects, amphibians, even what I call the ‘rotters,’ the worms, fungi and other organisms responsible for breaking down dead plant matter.”

Parsons and other Middlebury College staff chose the trial plots on the basis of their relative isolation from student activity, the Free-Press article continues.

“Yet the zones attracted the attention of Emily May, a senior and environmental studies major who spent much of last month amid the unkempt growth.

“Her survey of no-mow fauna and flora included about 30 species of wildflowers (mostly non-native) and about as many species of pollinating insects (mostly native, including six or seven types of bumblebees).

“May found a corresponding dearth of biodiversity in the closely cropped lawns. And a narrower aesthetic.”

“You’re just not going to see butterflies on mowed sections,” she told Sobey.

“No ticks attached themselves to May during her research. But, bowing to concerns over the potential for their spread in high pasture, administrators have instituted a twice-yearly cutting to disrupt the bloodsuckers’ life cycle.

“The college will also mow 5-foot-wide swaths along sidewalks and paths that edge the wilder sections.”

Ongoing discussions with the college community and its neighbors will shape policy on less-mowed sections of campus, said Luther Tenney, Middlebury’s assistant director of facilities.

“The parameters are definitely not set in stone,” he said. Close-shorn buffers will be maintained out of consideration to adjacent property owners, he continued (mice and mole populations were a concern), and reunions and commencement might dictate periodic re-establishment of traditional lawn.”

Public response to the summer’s mower-free zones has been positive, at a ratio of about 3-1, Tenney said.

“Tenney said shifting landscapes of Middlebury College must hew to a long-range master plan that takes into account viewscapes, educational value and carbon footprint: The less-mowed zones might grow, but they would not be allowed to morph into untended shrubs and scrub trees.

“Some of the lawns could evolve into forest,” Tenney said. “But a more manicured type of forest.”

Can a lawn be “green?”

Lawn-lovers who want to make a difference should consider visiting Lawn to Lake, a consortium of Vermont and New York agricultural and environmental groups that collects useful information for lawn owners: www.lawntolake.org

In closing, remember that we all live in a watershed, whether our home is in lawn-happy suburbia or in an urban location. Even if you live far from a lake or river, your lawn and household maintenance can affect water quality.

A “watershed” is the surrounding land that drains into a water body. For example, rain and snowmelt running off the street in front of my home eventually flows into a small stream. In urban areas, many municipal storm drains send untreated runoff directly to lakes and rivers. On a large scale, much of our region lies within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed.