Why do houses in the United States have grass?

You may not know, but maintaining a lawn requires a lot of work and dedication. To make it perfect, you have to be very careful when it comes to fertilizing, watering and cutting. In American culture, a well-trimmed green lawn in front of a residence is considered by many to be a status symbol. The above statement is so true that an unkempt pasture can lead to problems with the most fussy neighbors.

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House in the United States with Turf

But how did this tradition of keeping a front yard covered in grass come about? Why do many residences in the United States struggle to maintain it? Today, we’ll finally understand why Americans are so obsessed with growing lawns in their residences.

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Lawn and the aristocracy in Europe.

In the history of human civilization, grass first appeared as a status symbol with the European aristocracy. In the past, castles in France and England were surrounded by large grassy fields. The appearance of creeping plants was not accidental, since the vicinity of the castles had to be kept free of trees so that the soldiers had a clear view of the threats. Without large trees, grasses sprouted naturally over the fields.

French and English castles began deliberately cultivating creeping herbs around castles in the 16th century. Although at that time the fields were covered with chamomile and thyme, rather than the lawn itself. The choice of these plants made a lot of sense, as they require much less care than traditional grass.

Castle with lawn

Lawn as a status symbol.

Grass belongs to the grass family, a group of herbaceous plants that encompasses more than 9000 different species distributed around the planet. In the 17th century, lawns began to become popular among the wealthy. An ambitious landscaping project in the Gardens of Versailles introduced a “green carpet” (tapis vert) for nothing more than aesthetic ambition.

Before long, the European elite adopted and popularized the practice, which initially used grazing animals to keep the lawn short and eventually led to the emergence of a new profession, with people dedicated exclusively to lawn maintenance. Without the lawn mowing technology we have today, it took a lot of manpower to pull up and collect harmful weeds in large fields. That’s why a grassy field that’s in good condition, clean and free of animal droppings, became a status symbol.

Gardens of Versailles
Gardens of Versailles in Paris, France.

A number of factors contributed to the popularity of grass. In 1830, Edwin Budding developed the first lawn mower device that became popular in the late 19th century. The invention put an end to expensive labor, so grass as a decorative element became more accessible to ordinary people.

Houses with grass.

Subsequently, Frederick Law Olmstead, “the father of American landscaping,” began designing suburban complexes where each residence had its own lawn. Thus, the idea that houses should have lawns became even more ingrained in American culture.

Individuals who decided to move away from the industrialization that prevailed in the cities dedicated themselves to creating their own green gardens, an environment that contrasts with the monotony of concrete. To make the job easier, they acquired industrially made lawn mowers to keep their gardens in pristine condition.

As if that were not enough, golf was beginning to become popular in the United States and the proper practice of this sport requires a green and lush lawn. This led to the popularization of the type of grass we know today. At the dawn of the 20th century, the United States of America Golf Association (USGA) commissioned extensive research on turf cultivation and maintenance, all with the aim of popularizing the sport in urban areas.

Levittown and lawned houses in the United States.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Abraham Levitt founded a large suburban housing complex in the United States called “Levittown.” This man and his sons created the first suburb where yards covered in healthy grass were already installed even before the new owners arrived.

Levittown Long Island
Levittown, Long Island, New York.

Lawns were so important to these neighborhoods that new owners received pamphlets and brochures about the importance of keeping the lawn in pristine condition, with specific recommendations for keeping it green, lush, and free of harmful weeds. Better yet, properties in Levittown were designed to be relatively cheap and very popular, with more than 17,000 units laid out in sprawling suburbs, a project that helped set a standard that other real estate ventures in the United States followed.

The inhabitants of Levittown and other settlements received the proposal so well that the lawn became a general feature of American suburbs, a phenomenon that continues to this day. According to some estimates, 8 out of 10 residences in the United States have lawns. And the industry dedicated to the creation and maintenance of these areas moves around US$ 40,000 million a year.

The problem of water and grass.

Irrigating all wheat and corn plantations in the United States doesn’t even come close to the amount of water used to maintain lawns in residences. If we take into account the water consumption required by this custom, grass would become the main “crop” in the United States.

House with beautiful garden

About one-third of all public water is used to irrigate lawns, and it can be as high as 70 percent in the driest regions of the country, according to statistics released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although grass is listed as an attractive aesthetic resource, in terms of water resources it can represent a serious problem.