Why is Lawn Mowing So Important in U.S. Culture?
It’s a symbol of Americana, the embodiment of a dream: a house with a white picket fence, its lawn closely trimmed. Everything is tidy. Inside the house’s doors, you have a nice family, comfortable and able to take care of themselves. The appearance is appealing. The appearance is the point.
But what does a well-tended yard really mean? Where did this practice come from? And why do Americans take such pride in their lawn care?
Neighborhoods thrive on well-manicured lawns, a green space where families can gather and play. What were the original standards for lawn maintenance? The United States has embraced cut lawns as a staple. But when did that tradition start?
The Grass is Always Greener
Suburban homeowners have been conditioned, by their neighbors and by their homeowners associations, to keep their lawns well-tended to match with the rest of the cul-de-sac. This practice grew in popularity in the 1950s during the postwar baby boom, when home designers like Levitt & Sons marketed, promoted and sold cookie-cutter houses in uniformly immaculate subdivisions to soldiers returning from the war.
The goal Levitt intended was conformity, suggesting that a patch of green grass with no weeds surrounding your house was a sign that you were doing well. Your grass should be no more than an inch and a half tall, under these standards, and neatly edged. It shows your neighbors that you care about your home and, thus, how your home looks next to others. It is a point of pride.
Maintained lawns are an indicator of socioeconomic character, as well. Curb appeal affects property values and resale values.
Thus, modern homeowners associations and neighborhoods stipulate that lawn maintenance is a must, and they can fine you if your lawn is too shabby or out-of-order.
Further back, during the 18th century in Europe, lawns began to show up more commonly in landscape designs, different from private gardens. When Thomas Jefferson was abroad in Paris, he noticed that “green carpets” had become popular. And when he returned to his home Monticello after the Revolutionary War, he tried to copy those design aspects. George Washington also brought in English landscape gardeners at his home, Mount Vernon, to emulate the look.
Images of both homes became popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, giving wealthy Americans a trend that they could aspire to. By the time automobiles arrived, homeowners were inclined to keep lawns beautiful and tidy so that passersby would enjoy the view. Lawns, during that time, were a sign of wealth, for lawns are expensive to maintain.
Still, grass remains the most popular crop grown in America, perhaps because people view grass not as a crop, but as a necessity.
Modern Lawn Culture
Lawns are still markers of success. Some homeowners are inclined to use the services of lawn care experts for important tasks, such as aeration and fertilization. Other neighbors, meanwhile, let their lawns grow wild, filled with dandelions and weeds. The standards of your neighbors and your neighborhoods may allow for this, though some people worry that the appearance of a neighbor’s lawn reflects poorly upon them.
Other factors, such as weather and drought-related water restrictions, can also affect how modern lawn maintenance is handled. Plus, cost can be a factor for many homeowners, for the number of materials needed for lawn maintenance can vary. For instance, lawns can require the equivalent of 200 gallons of drinking water per person per day.
Green spaces remain important and can soothe your peace of mind. To determine the best course of action for your lawn care needs, contact our experts for a consultation regarding the services best suited for your outdoor space.