The average American yard is expected to look like a golf course with the landscaping of a hotel. This concept, born alongside the modern subdivision beginning in the 1940’s, is tied to the value of homes in many neighborhoods and the social acceptance of homeowners within the neighborhood. As our country recovered from a devastating war and Depression, the same psychologically based propaganda used to promote the purchase of war bonds and encourage civil service was quickly given a new opportunity- get American’s to buy, buy, buy. Advertisements in print and commercials on television showed images of fretful women despaired by their lack of perfect kitchens, perfect outfits, and perfect cars. Life itself became all about image, Including the need for a perfect front yard. This obsession became so prevalent artificial grass was actually all the rage in the 1960’s.,
However, as water shortages have become more common in many parts of our country, better planning for our plants’ water needs is becoming more necessary. We also have to consider our use of pesticides and fertilizers. Insects are declining at an alarming rate. A third of all insects are endangered while Puerto Rico and Germany have experienced complete collapse of some species. Without these little bugs usually considered nothing more than pests, our entire ecosystem (that circle of life) will collapse. Our overuse of fertilizers has led to algae blooms causing die offs of fish and other aquatic animals and overuse of herbicides, specifically glysophates, increase the chance of the user getting cancer by 41%.
Buffalo Grass gets its name from the American Buffalo or Bison. It is native in the American Plains from Canada to Mexico and was a food staple for American Bison. During farm settlement in the Great Plains of the United States, it was Buffalo Grass that was used to build sod homes.
Most lawns in the Midwest are high maintenance strands of Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue. These grasses require constant watering, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and weekly mowing to produce that golf course look. Here are a couple great reasons to consider Buffalo Grass instead of typical turf grasses:
- The roots of Buffalo Grass can grow as deep as six feet compared to the typical one- or two-inch root of turf. Because of the extremely deep roots, Buffalo Grass doesn’t need to be watered as often, is pretty drought resistant, and grows more slowly resulting in less need to constantly mow. Buffalo Grass is commonly used in parks and cemeteries for this reason. The deep roots also combat soil erosion.
- This grass is happy in clay soil, has its own pest resistance because it is native and doesn’t require fertilization. Not only are you introducing a native plant to your property, you will save money and time because of its low maintenance. It won’t look like sod the first year (though can be planted as sod) it is planted and needs plenty of sun, so you can phase it into the sunniest parts of your yard.
The day could come where we pride ourselves in creating yards that support our ecosystem. Yards filled with native grasses, trees, and wildflowers create benefit to pollinators, birds, frogs and all the other creatures we share our spaces with. Until that day, we can start to make small steps towards a more sustainable future and a new definition of beauty.
Audrey L Elder