journalism that swims
against the current.

Are You Addicted to (Mown) Grass?

TYEE LIST #32: The cure is xeriscaping. But it may take you 12 steps to get there.

Daniel Wood 6 Apr

Daniel Wood's back lawn in the Kitsilano district of Vancouver shrinks a bit more every spring as the grass yields to an ever-larger vegetable/cutting flower garden.

image atom
This man may have a serious problem. Photo of grass clipper: Shutterstock

[Editor’s note: Daniel Wood mows through North American lawn culture in a companion essay also published today.]

Critics of North America's grass addiction suggest homeowners consider reducing the overall area of their lawn by 50 per cent. The catchword in this new approach is xeriscaping: designing and planting a yard that needs no additional water.

The first target is obvious: the largely useless mono-crop known as the front yard. Experts say remove the grass entirely and replace it with flora indigenous to the householder's bio-region. This means joining nature rather than fighting it. With native bushes, wild grasses, ground-cover, and trees, the birds and butterflies will -- in time -- return. Watering isn't necessary since these plants are suited to the local climate. Critics call, too, for the reduction of backyard grass through the planting of a vegetable/cutting garden --- selecting again those species best suited for that bio-region.

With these changes, the polluting gas mower follows the typewriter onto history's scrap heap. Ditto lawn fertilizers and pesticides. These steps, the critics admit, will initially cost money. But this investment will -- in a few years -- easily repay the homeowner in savings as water, gas, and petrochemical prices soar.

12 Steps to Recovery for the Lawn Addict

If the thought of xeriscaping makes your grass stained hands tremble, you may have a serious problem. If so, here are 12 steps towards recovery:

1. Repeat this phrase: "Hi! My name's _____ and I'm a lawn addict."

2. Admit that in the pursuit of a weed-free lawn you've harmed a lot of birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

3. Accept that nature is correct, and that summer-long emerald lawns come at a big cost.

4. Remove the boring front lawn completely and replace it with native ground-cover.

5. Plant a vegetable/cutting flower garden in part of the backyard.

6. Dump the polluting gas mower and buy a new, lightweight push mower.

7. Support lawmakers calling for restrictions on pesticides for cosmetic uses.

8. Join class action lawsuits against local by-laws mandating lawn appearance.

9. Plant indigenous trees, bushes, and wild grasses that lure birds and butterflies to your neighbourhood.

10. Investigate the Natural Gardening Movement, the Wild Ones native lawn movement, or the Evergreen in-school gardening program.

11. Read How to Get Your Lawn Off Grass by B.C.'s Carole Rubin (Harbour, 2002).

12. Practice xeriscaping --- waterless lawn and garden design.  [Tyee]

Read more: Environment

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

What Environmental Impacts Are Most Concerning to You This Summer?

Take this week's poll