THE NO-MOW MOVEMENT
Combating more than what meets the eye.
The No-Mow Movement is a conservation initiative intended to create a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. The holistic approach to landscaping reduces the need for chemicals, irrigation, and regular traditional lawn maintenance.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HISTORY OF THE
- Lancelot Brown
- Founding Fathers
- The Public Park Movement
- Lawn Equipment
- The Game of Golf
- World War II
- The American Dream
BENEFITS OF THE
- Water Conservation
- Cleaner Air
- Increase Diversity
- Increase Soil Health
- Decrease Water Run-Off
- Reduce Soil Erosion
- Decrease Chemical Use
- Native Grasses
- Edible Gardens
- Ground Covers
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
THE HISTORY OF THE LAWN
The standard of the English garden among the upper classes surged in the 18th century and its success is attributable to Lancelot Brown, more commonly referred to as “Capability” Brown (capability being a term he often used).
Inspired by William Kent, Capability Brown had one of the largest impacts on British garden landscaping, resulting in over 170 of the grandest English gardens.
His style of showcasing luscious, symmetrical, and manicured greens, had conflicting views. Brown’s designs were seen as a wonder or critisized as a lack of creativity.
The conflicting views of Brown’s designs could be partially due to the evolution of garden design styles and the definition of nature. While nature during the 1700s was referred as ‘human nature’ this really meant imitating nature in a square or circular pattern and through straight lines. After his death, nature was referred to as ‘wild nature’ or ‘unaffected by man.’ While his design didn’t meet ‘human nature’ it also did not meet other definitions of nature.
Gertrude Jekyll, another influential garden design, describes Capability Brown’s work as ‘sham natural.’ The ridicule continues through the 1920s when he was embraced for his classically English style.
Washington and Jefferson, fans of the European landscape architecture, help popularize great sprawling lawns among those who could afford it and on the backs of slaves.
The Public Park Movement
In the 1830s, the public park movement started as an effort to improve the overcrowded conditions of industrial towns. While many of these initial parks were built in the outskirts of the city, The Open Spaces Act of 1877, and its amendments, brought parks to the inner city spaces for physical and moral health purposes. During the 1840s, an effort to encourage public park usage, advocates for organized sports like Joshua Major, implemented facilities in the Manchester parks for archery, bowling, and other lawn sports. In the 1880s, sporting facilities grew more sophisticated and the shift reflected in the layouts of the parks. While many public parks were seen as an amenity, it was also viewed as a way of beautifying towns. A vast array of park types were created, small gardens emphasizing horticulture, playgrounds for children, open spaces for lounging, and sporting facilities.
In a lecture by Earl of Meath, he called the need of nature and preserving and incorporating intrinsic natural and native beauty rather than have open spaces in front of ‘vast accumulations of monotonous rows of houses.’ The Town Planning Act of 1909 called for a new way of creating public spaces – prevention rather than reaction – another call for nature, but this time with an emphasis on reducing the cost of maintenance. This effort did not take off. Eventually, the financial pressures on the local governments is reflected through neglect.
The Lawn Mower
1830 | Edward Budding converts his carpet cutter into the first lawnmower.
The first American lawnmowers appears in the 1860s. Marketing effectivenss increases drastically around the early 1870s with the advancement of colored printing. Technological improvements to lawn mowers allow them to be advertised as “easy to operate” and “self-sharpening.”
1890 | Mass production makes mechanical lawnmowers available to the general public.
President Roosevelt “disregards politics for a day and pushes the lawnmower.” Another sign of normalizing lawn care …
In 1871, Joseph Lessler files patent number 121949 called “Improvement in Lawn-sprinklers.” It’s the first sprinkler that connects to a garden hose.
The Game of Golf
Early forms of golf originate on the eastern coast of Scotland during the 1400s and gain popularity with monarchs and the elite across Europe during the 16th century.
1888 | John Reid, a golfing pioneer, creates his first clubhouse, Saint Andrew’s Golf Club, the oldest golf club in the United States (not to be confused with the Old Course at Saint Andrew’s, the oldest course in the world). Within 30 years golf cements itself as an American obsession.
1916 | There are close to 750 golf courses across the United States. Just 12 years later there are approximately 5,500 golf courses. This becomes a central attraction to new housing developments.
Near the start of the war, President Roosevelt expands synthetic nitrogen production to make bombs and to grow more food.
Wartime chemicals are developed and brought home after success in intended and unintended ways:
- 2,4-D Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid
- 2,4,5-T Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid
- 2-methyl-4-Chlorophenoxyacetic acid
The American Dream
The Eisenhower administration builds the interstate system, allowing Americans to travel further distances to work.
World War 2 veterans get low-cost home loans.
William Levitt, an American real-estate developer, optimizes housing development and becomes the creator of mass-produced suburban communities.
Inspired by his love of the golf, Abraham Levitt (father of William Levitt) creates and enforces the standard of manicured lawns in his son’s mass-produced suburban communities (you can thank Mr. Levitt for your HOA restrictions). This new lawn aestetic becomes part of the middle-class American dream.
BENEFITS OF THE NO-MOW MOVEMENT
RESULTS OF THE NO MOW LAWN
Save Time & Money
Reduce the time and money spent, mowing, weedwacking, fertilizing, and watering your yard and just enjoy the butterflies.
Create a Natural Balance
Allow the return of insects and foraging pollinators. In return they’ll protect your plants from pests.
Protect our Water
By allowing native plants “weeds” to grow, you’re yard will drink more water, reducing stormwater runoff.
Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation.
Ornamental grasses require low maintenance and are resilient to cold tempertures.
Native flowers allow for a healthy soil ecosystem and pollinators by the plenty.
Native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions reducing maintenance and water usage.
IMPLEMENTING A NO-MOW YARD
Go Native Grasses
Create green meadows and river-like grassy movement to your yard.
Create a natural bouquet of wildflowers.
Increase food security and lead by example.
Modernize your home with unique textures.
SIMILIAR CONSERVATION INIATIVES
Approaches to ultimately benefit environmental, animal, marine, and human conservation.
POTENTIAL LEGAL IMPLICATIONS
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL RISKS WITH THE NO-MOW MOVEMENT?
While some local ordinances and many homeowner associations ban such a changes due to notable concerns like fire and rodent control, many concerns are merely aesthetic.
Be sure to check your local ordinances before breaking groun on a no-mow yard. There are various legal obstacles to the several forms of no-mow, which will require many municipalities to adjust their policies. But things can change!
For example, Montgomery County, Maryland, amended its nuisance laws after the locals made the case that their wild gardens improved air and soil quality and decreased stormwater runoff.
HOW TO COMBAT SOCIAL NORMS
STRATEGIES FOR NORMALIZING THE NO-MOW LAWN.
Maintain a Mowed Buffer
Consider strategically keeping a mowed edge around the perimeter of your property.
Engage Your Local Officials
Have a conversation with your city council and health department, and earn their support.
Natural Lawn Program
Register as a natural landscape lawn with your local health department.
Educate Your Neighbors
Display pollinator habitat signs and garden plant identification cards.
WHAT DOES YOUR YARD SAY?
YOUR YARD IS YOUR PROTEST.
We’re evolving as a country as we continue to protest and spread the word on sustainability and climate change; home gardeners can do their part to help nurture the health of the planet—right in their own backyards.