Rethinking The Connecticut Lawn

Many Americans view a stand of millions of uniformly trimmed grass blades, unencumbered by errant dandelions, crabgrass and other weedy greenery, as the ultimate status symbol … right up there with driving the cool car, wearing the fashionable dress, or using the latest electronic gadget.

To obtain the great lawn most Americans head to the grass seed and chemical sections of the local hardware or big-box store. Why? That’s what advertising tells us to do. Too many of us buy into the mantra that ‘four steps’ is the only way to the great American lawn, and we expend too many hard-earned resources feeding and watering then mowing and mowing and mowing.

An estimated 85% of American homeowners fertilize their lawns, most with chemical fertilizers in water soluble form. With more than 63,000 square miles of the continental U.S. covered in lawn, a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus – the N and P in NPK ratings on fertilizer packaging – ends up in storm drain systems, streams, and other waterways such as Long Island Sound. Lawn fertilizer run-off has become such a large contributor to declining water quality that many states have, or are considering, banning or limiting nitrogen and phosphorus lawn applications.

But there are alternative ways to build healthy lawn and this is the topic at the next Connecticut Horticultural Society educational meeting this Thursday, February 16, 2012. Horticulturist Tom Christopher will explain how to turn a lawn what he calls “an eco-villain,” to a landscape feature that is “sustainable, low-maintenance and environmentally friendly.”

Think about it … a lawn is nothing more than a large expanse of garden planted with a single type, or few types, of greenery.

A lawn is a garden and, like any other garden, is most vibrant when the right plant, or seed, is planted in healthy, living soil.

Tom Christopher, who is also a member of the CHS Board of Directors, promises to share how to select turf suitable to Connecticut’s climate and soils, and how to start thinking “more imaginatively” about lawns.

Whether you’re like me, in the great American lawn minority …


happy with a lawn that’s anything green cut to one level.

Or like my husband and sons …


pining for a Fenway Park-like lawn … I’ll bet you come away with some new thoughts about the great Connecticut lawn.

Sound intriguing? Head to Emmanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Dr., West Hartford on February 16. The meeting begins at 7:30 pm. It’s free for CHS members, non-members will be asked for a $10 donation. Full-time students with a valid ID may attend for free.

Garden thoughtfully … even when  your garden is a lawn.

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4 comments for “Rethinking The Connecticut Lawn

  1. February 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

    The Feb. 16 talk sounds really good, I won’t be there — we are leaving on a trip tomorrow. There should be lots of good info on imaginative ways to have a lawn. We won’t ever rip all of ours out, although we are reducing some areas as new gardens are built and others expanded, but we will always have some grass!

    • joenesgarden
      February 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Laurrie, Sorry I’ll miss the chance to see you. I hope to pick up Connecticut-based suggestions to inccrease the health and decrease the maintenance of existing lawn. I’ll pass on any good info. Have a great trip.

  2. February 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Joene, how was this talk? Any interesting things to share? I just could not get there-too much happening here.

    • joenesgarden
      February 27, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Diane, the talk was very interesting. I hope to have a follow-up post about it soon.

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