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The Democratic Front Lawn

April 24th, 2009

“Deeply ingrained within the American phyche is the stereotype I call “The Democratic Front Lawn.” This type of lawn is a perfectly manicured swath of open turf that starts at the street and sweeps back, carpetlike, up to the traditional foundation plantings that skirt the house. It’s democratic because everyone can see it all –There’s no place to hide –yet somehow there is no display of unfettered free expression–everyone conforms to the standard lawn and foundation-planting solution. Thus, many front yards give passersby little information about the people who live there. With the size of the lots shrinking, it may be time to rethink what we do with this important zone of our house. (It’s not unlike the unused space inside many over sized houses – the formal dining room that rarely sees diners or the massive great room that is shunned in favor of a cozier den). Leaving the front yard as a bland useless space is a waste of resources and ingenuity and certainly doesn’t foster a sense of neighborliness.”

–Julie Moir Messervy (Home Outside)

I’m trying to liberate my lawn to make more flowerbeds for beneficial and edible plants. I also don’t use chemicals on my lawn so the dandelions and wild violets thrive (besides, why would you spray out those lovely wild violets pictured above). I’m hoping to eventually create a landscape around my home that is both beautiful and functional with a minimal space for lawn. Check out these photos, how incredible are these undemocratic landscapes!

What do you think, a big beautiful green carpet leading up to your home, a small patch of grass for playing but surrounded by flowers or no lawn?
(New Poll)

11 Comments to “The Democratic Front Lawn”
  1. Mangochild on April 24, 2009 at 5:23 am

    I always have hated the big green grass lawns…. in the area I grew up in, mostly everyone had the perfectly manicured lawns, always green, always perfect. It seemed very artificial to me, as if it weren’t earth at all, just another “carpet” that they maintained like the carpets in the house. Funny, I always would like to poke around in our own grass, digging holes with my fingers and seeing what was under there. Having that entire area for flowers, veg, shrubs, etc…. Now I look at those huge lawns and think, “If I could have that kind of land/space, I could plant and dig and get…..” and feel very jealous that I can’t sneak in and plant flowers or veg, and what a surprise it’d be!

    Mangochild’s last blog post.. A New Series: Growing Pleasures

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  2. Julia on April 24, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Up until recently, I’ve always wanted the big swath of green lawn. But I can’t grow grass to save my life. So I decided to plant flowers and shrubs all over the front. I also get irritated at lawns in desert like climates… it’s just not natural and wastes too much water.

    Julia’s last blog post.. The Color of Spring

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  3. Dave on April 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I enjoy having a lawn. I even enjoy mowing it. That’s not to say that I want it all lawn, in fact very far from it. I want more beds for perennials, a spot for fruit trees and grape vines, and shade. I’ve added all kind of spots for new plantings in the 2 years we’ve been here and plan to do much more while eliminating areas of the lawn gradually!

    Dave’s last blog post.. Making a Dry Creek Bed for Downspout Drainage

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  4. Chicago Mike on April 24, 2009 at 10:16 am

    For me a lawn serves three distinct purposes.

    1) the kids have a place to kick a ball, do cartwheels, run free without fear.

    2) its a place to expand the seating when we have a lot of people

    3) the lawn out front helps retain the value of my house. I know this will seem cynical to a lot of people, but its honest and real. I worked awful hard to have a nice house and I want to keep its value.

    With all this said, I think most of the lawn out back is going (or gone!) and I intend to reduce the amount out front.

    BTW – I HATE caring for a lawn, a lot of work for minimal return.


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  5. Victoria on April 24, 2009 at 10:34 am

    We eliminated our front lawn years ago. Love it now.
    We keep a small piece of grass in the back garden.

    Victoria’s last blog post.. Seedling Update

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  6. ChristyACB on April 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    My front lawn is purposefully smaller than my neighbors’. Being on the curve in the road, I could build my house forward just a smidge without notice. I keep it nice..not overly so..but nice so they don’t complain around the neighborhood. It is just right for rolling about with Beagles, kick a ball back and forth, and give that smell at night when the sun stops shining on it.

    Now the back..well…between wetlands and my gardens..nary a blade of grass can grow. :)

    ChristyACB’s last blog post.. Backyard Predatory Frenzy

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  7. Maureen on April 24, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    We took out our small patch of grass in the front yard last fall and planted lettuce and broccoli. This summer it will be tomatoes and peppers. Grass in the front just seemed a waste of space. The only lawn we have left is a small patch in the backyard (between gardens:) for the dogs to play on.

    Ditto on Mangochilds comment about seeing big expanses of grass and imagining what it would be like to have all that land….to grow food!

    Maureen’s last blog post.. Making Jam…

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  8. Sherri on April 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

    We live in a community with all perfectly manicured, dark green, weed-free lawns. Except ours! Since it was seeded 2 years ago, we haven’t used any chemicals on it and it’s overflowing with dandelions and clover. We’re limited (HOA restrictions) as to what we can do with it, and we’ve already reduced quite a bit in the back with our rasied bed gardening. We’re kind of stuck with it in front, but I’ve created a large bed around our lightpost (planted with all bulbs and perennials), large beds in front, and more to come to reduce the overall grass space. That being said, like others, with 2 labs, 1 toddler, and another babe on the way, we enjoy our grass (I actually enjoy mowing – someday when our mower is no longer I’ll invest in a reel mower) and use it often.

    Sherri’s last blog post.. Happy Earth Day 2009!!!

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  9. Town Mouse on April 26, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Well, if it rains enough so you never have to water it, and if you can maintain it without power mowers, fertilizers, and nasty chemicals, and if you really like it, then I’d say keep the lawn.

    Otherwise, lose it. There’s so much else you can plant, Plant a meadow, or try something fun. I don’t have a lawn and I really don’t miss it at all.

    As for the kids, I hear that argument often, but I’ve never seen kids play on front lawns, they seem to prefer the back where the ball can’t roll onto the street.

    Town Mouse’s last blog post.. Native or Naturalized?

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  10. Sinfonian on April 26, 2009 at 3:43 am

    My Aunt, who recently moved to my city, says that the dandilion is the official flower of Mountlake Terrace. Too many people don’t take care of their yards here. I try, but with a quarter acre and 250 feet of curb frontage, it’s hard. I’m getting there though. I probably have under 250 dandilions left to remove by hand, down from over 1,000 last year. I use no chemicals and try to get them before they go to seed so I can re-distribute all those nutrients back into my compost pile.

    Sinfonian’s last blog post.. April 25, 2009

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  11. Jen on April 27, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I think I’m driving my husband crazy because I keep putting veggie and flower beds in the lawn/giant plantain weed farm for him to mow around. I don’t know if I could go lawn free, though. I like to have some lawn to walk on between the beds. One avid gardner I know has a lawn of clover! It needs no maintenance and is so nice to walk on.

    Jen’s last blog post.. The Little Tulip That Could

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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