To lawn or not to lawn |

To lawn or not to lawn

by Karen Brier

When we first bought our house the lawn was brown from lack of water. I worked feverishly to get the irrigation system back online, afraid that it was dead and worried we would have to reseed or put in sod. Fortunately, the lawn was so healthy and the grass so well established that after only a few weeks of regular water, the brown turned to lush, verdant green. It was spectacular – a private oasis of green in this high mountain desert we now call home. Through the fall we kept it (mostly) cut and I missed the green over the winter.

This spring we repeated the effort of getting the sprinklers going (because I didn’t do a very good job of winterizing last year). The green crept back, though some spots took longer than others, but once again we have a beautiful green lawn. Work has been crazy, so I kept putting it off mowing, so this past weekend I got out the lawn mower and serviced it. After sitting all winter I gave it gas and oil and cleaned the spark plug. It still wouldn’t start, so I gave it a jump start with my car battery since they’re both 12 volts. (Please do that with the car off – there is too much power when the car is running.) It looks like I’ll need a new belt soon. Then I spent 10 hours weeding, mowing and trimming.

People didn’t always have such an obsession with lawns. They began as tapis vert or “green carpets” for 17th century French and English nobility. Washington and Jefferson set trends for stately homes in the US, using sheep and goats to keep the lawns mowed. In her book “The Lawn: History of an American Obsession,” Virginia Scott Jenkins says most families didn’t have lawns until suburban housing began after the Civil War and only really took off after WWII when anyone who could afford it moved out of the cities.

Now the tide is turning. Clark County has actually banned lawns. We don’t have many lawns in Ruhenstroth. Most people have xeriscaping, which is lovely and (I imagine) easier to maintain. Certainly it takes less water. So, as much as I love it, is it worth it?

There is a financial aspect. Realtors say a good lawn can add 10 percent or more to the value of a home. And don’t discount the pleasure factor – researchers say the chemicals released by fresh cut grass elevates mood and may improve mental capacity as we age. So for now, my plan is to keep the lawn, but use no chemicals and reduce the size and water needed with drought-tolerant plantings. And if anyone has any hungry sheep, give me a call and bring them over. We can sit on porch with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy the gurgling fountain and the sweep of green against our gorgeous mountain backdrop.

Reach Karen Brier at, or 790-0072.