The devotion that Americans exhibit toward their lawns, borders on the mystical. No other people of the world are quite so obsessed with installing and maintaining expanses of short grass mostly around houses but also at schools, parks, golf courses, graveyards, freeway embankments and corporate headquarters. We spend at least as much on lawn care estimated to be $30 million a year as we do on books. Lawns in this country already occupy more land than any other crop, including wheat and corn. So why do we do it?
One lawn fanatic, Paul Thober of Ipswich, Massachusetts, explains his obsession this way. "It ties everything together, the shrubs and flower beds, the way a carpet brings together the furniture and walls in a room. Its beautiful the way the ocean is beautiful," he says. "You look out at it and you feel at peace."
Grass itself has evolved and today the seed is a sophisticated industrial product. More than 600 new turfgrass varieties are now being tested around the country and the goal is to find the most disease-resistant, slowest-growing (less mowing), greenest grass around.
But weekend gardeners, with their lawns filled with pesky weeds and tenacious dandelions, are the most typical lawn enthusiasts, and any pleasure they receive from their labors must be found in their pursuit of the perfect American lawn.