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More homeowners opt for natural landscaping

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Americans spend $30 billion a year maintaining lawns, an expense that's more per acre than raising corn or rice.

| June 14, 2010

The best cure for a difficult lawn could be to get rid of it, according to area gardeners who have ditched the grass for alternatives that thrive in hot, dry summers, require less care and do more than simply provide a restful expanse of green between the curb and the foundation.

Along with time and money, there are huge environmental costs to maintaining a lawn. Chris Bolgiano, a nature writer living in Fulks Run in Rockingham County, came across the brutal truth about the nation's lawn addiction while researching electric mowers online. "I was surprised at what I found out about lawns," she said. She wrote about the subject later in an essay titled "Lawn Be Gone" for the Bay Journal News Service.

Bolgiano found that 21 million acres, an area nearly the size of Pennsylvania, are covered by lawns. She quotes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics that Americans spend $30 billion a year maintaining lawns, an expense that's more per acre than raising corn or rice, two of the world's major food crops. While doing so, they use more than 800 million gallons a year of mostly foreign gasoline to mow during the growing season. There's an additional 18 million gallons spilled while refueling gas mowers.

Bolgiano lives in a heavily forested area, so she sees the wisdom of maintaining a clearing around her house as a barrier for forest fires, which she does more quietly and efficiently with her new electric mower. She plants easy-care ground covers and marks out paths through her perennial and vegetable beds with landscaping cloth. "We seem to have a national obsession with conquering nature," she said. "The tidy lawn has come to signify an industrious, worthwhile homeowner when really it's a tremendous waste of resources."

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