Pest Advice Blog

U.S. Lawns: A Brief History of Home Lawns and Turf Grass in the U.S.

As humans we love our lawns, as evidenced by our obsession with lawn care and maintenance. But as much as we love our lawns and yards, we also tend to take them for granted. How often do you think about the environmental impact and the technological evolution of lawns? Truly Nolen takes a closer look at the history of lawns.

history of home lawns

Lawns play prominent aesthetic and environmental roles

Not only do lawns turn an ordinary plot of dirt into a green paradise surrounded by ornamental trees and flowers that frame your home perfectly, they also provide a soft carpet for our feet. We love to gather in parks for picnics, sporting events and other leisure activities, but seldom do we think, “Good job, lawn, with that noise reduction and pollution benefit thing you do for us. Oh, and thanks for keeping that dirt in line.”

Lawns and turf grass areas also:

  • Control soil erosion and protect the quality of groundwater
  • Help trap synthetic organic compounds and enhance bio-degradation of synthetic compounds
  • Absorb and remove carbon dioxide gases
  • Moderate temperatures by dissipating heat from urban areas
  • Provide high visibility from intruders, enhancing home security
  • Serve as firebreaks to reduce fire hazards

Visually, lawns promote the quality of our lives, lend a hand towards community pride and increase property values. But when did this love affair with lawns begin?

Lawn love is in our DNA

Anthropologists note a connection between humans and lawns in ancient civilizations. Taking a page from ancient African civilizations, the low turf grass on the Savannah helped tribal civilizations stalk their prey.

From the Middle Ages into the Renaissance

As far back as the Middle Ages, throughout Europe, treeless grassy areas helped defend fortress castles, assisting guards in detecting movement as far off as the horizon. Moving into modern times, people started to enhance the quality of their lives, developing an interest in lawn cultivation. Dr. James Beard, in his book The Journal of Environmental Turf grass, says that, “The more technically advanced a civilization, the more widely turf grasses are used.”

Painters, as early as the 12th century placed their subjects in idyllic settings surrounded by grassy areas, kept clipped by grazing animals. “Bowling greens” for tennis courts, croquet courts and golf putting greens developed around the same time, paving the way for the importance of turf grass for outdoor sports of the future. Cricket is noted as the first team sport played on turf grass. The dawn of soccer in England in the 1500s and the evolution of golf in Scotland furthered an interest in turf grass for sports.

European Renaissance paintings from the 15th century portray ornamental lawns and public green spaces and by the 16th century, paintings and literature of the higher classes featured manicured formal gardens.

Wealthy Renaissance landowners flaunted their wealth, devoting much of their grassland to livestock production and surrounding their homes with lavish lawns, maintained by servants with hand scythes. The lower classes, who needed the land around their homes for growing fruits, vegetables and herbs, grazed their sheep and cows in a central “common” grassy area in their villages.

Later, adventurous Europeans, fleeing religious persecution and economic hardship in Europe arrived in North America with grass seed in hand. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that mechanical mowers arrived on the scene in the United States.

Huge steps in lawn mowing equipment and cultivated turf grass seed technology

Invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830, the mechanical mower expanded the areas of cultivated grass areas, allowing the public to enjoy mowed grass lawns in parks. 1890 saw mass production make mechanical mowers affordable to the public for the first time.

By the early part of the 20th century, turf grass seed cultivation evolved towards better density and performance for sports. During this time, New York’s Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead included lawns for each home in his Riverside Park design, outside Chicago.

Levittown, Long Island offered the 1952 homebuyer a suburban community that included a lawn as part of a package deal. Levittown drew national attention as GIs returning from World War II radically increased the demand for affordable housing.

Young men marrying and starting families gave rise to the America Dream of owning a house with a lawn. Since the 1950s, advances in technology, development of turf grass cultivars and the DIY lawn product industry evolution, devotion to lawn cultivation permeates America’s consciousness.

Florida lawn care can be challenging

Currently, a focus on eco-friendly lawn care, with Integrated Pest Management is ushering in a new dimension in lawn care that promotes lawn maintenance by skilled professional pest control companies. In Florida, lawns come under constant stress from heat, humidity, weeds, salt, poor water retention, insects, fungi and other diseases. Florida’s year round tropical climate requires constant care to ensure nutritional balance, combat insects and control weeds.

While the first step to a healthy lawn involves proper mowing, trimming and watering, knowing when and what type of insecticides to apply can be challenging, as over application can damage your lawn. Also, Florida soils require specific nutritional requirements that commercial fertilizers don’t satisfy. Plus, sand in Florida’s soil can deplete nutrients, due to poor water retention.

Cut out the guesswork. Your local Truly Nolen representative can provide you with a Grass Facts Sheet for your particular type of turf grass with tips on maintenance and proper care. Then, starting with a comprehensive lawn analysis, Truly Lawn Care protects and nurtures your lawn year round. Contact us today to give your lawn the best care you can.

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