That time of year, that tedious job

I mowed my lawn today.


It’s the first time this year in what will be the coming weekly ritual. I hate it. Every time, I fantasize about never mowing again…let’s rip out this ghastly generic middle-class turf and sow it with wildflowers and the Big Bluestem. This should be prairie, dang it, and it should be flourishing with 8-foot tall grasses. Let it all come back and surround my house with a grassy sea, and bring back the bison to crop it down now and then. We already have a municipal schedule for my part of town—garbage pick up on Monday and Thursday morning, recycling pick up the first Thursday of every month, tornado siren testing the first Wednesday of the month—let’s add another one: bison herd foraging every other Tuesday. We also need a Morris wolf pack (they’d take care of the feral cat problem, and the deer would be put in their place), and I don’t think I’d mind the rabbits digging their warrens in my yard if they were part of a more interesting ecosystem.

No more lawnmowers. No more Roundup (not that I ever use it now), and no more fretting about what the neighbors will think if we don’t go out and shred grass now and then.

Eh, I don’t think it’s going to happen.


  1. Xerxes1729 says

    One of my biology professors is restoring some prairie around his house. I think he particularly enjoys the looks of horror from lawn-obsessed neighbors when its time for the yearly burn.

  2. Bonobo says

    A lawn looks about the same if you cut it every other week. Somewhere between the 3rd and fourth week it becomes noticeably shaggy. Unless you get lucky and it doesn’t rain…

  3. says

    The Uptown area YMCA in Minneapolis had a prairie restoration project as part of their green space around the building. They had signs explaining the restoration project on all sides of the green space. They received a small grant form Hennepin Country for the landscaping and they received help from the Hennepin County Extension folks to make sure it went well. Half way through the Summer last year at the direction of a Minneapolis City Inspector (whose job it was to drive around looking for people who had not mowed their lawns) a crew from the City of Minneapolis knocked the signs down and mowed the project flat. To top that they sent a bill to the YMCA for their services.

    LM Wanderer

  4. says

    Today was also 1st mowing at my house (and of course the job falls to me). I leave random unmowed geometric shapes in my lawn; it drives my real-estate agent neighbor crazy. Last year I mowed a labyrinth into the lawn and kept it mowed that way all season.

    My yard has real biological diversity, too. It is a beautiful carpet of various non-human-planted flowers in the spring.

  5. says

    I would love to mow patterns into my lawn, but I think my wife would kill me before the neighbors could.

    There are also some small strips planted in prairie grasses near the science building on campus. They had to put signs all over explaining what it was, because visitors would always complain about that unkempt weedy stuff growing all over.

  6. Carlie says

    My campus has hundreds of acres and only a few buildings, so has lots of nature. Just in front of the science building is a stretch of land that extends along the side of the road for several hundred feet, and in the late summer it’s drop-dead nature calendar gorgeous – ox-eye daisies, New England asters, purple coneflowers, various white umbels, you name it. Very few grasses, almost all flowers. Last fall it was in full bloom, spectacular as usual, and…. it got mowed down just before parent’s weekend so that the campus would look “neat and tidy”.

  7. says

    I’m confused. Is the only reason you mow regularly to escape the ire of your neighbors? That sounds so unlike you, P.Z. Avoiding the ire of your wife I can understand, but couldn’t you convince her to climb on board a prairie revival project? Or are there some kind of town ordinances you need to comply with?

  8. says

    I’m confused. Surely a US university professor must be able to afford paying to get his lawn mowed, particulary if he hates the job? Does your culture involve a taboo against hiring people for gardening work? Is such behaviour perhaps considered to indicate that the lawn’s owner is a right-wing Christian Republican?

  9. CCC says

    If I had a lawn to mow, I’d buy one of those robomow things. (or pay a neighbor kid.)

    I hate it too.

  10. Ed Darrell says

    Buffalo grass. Buffalo grass is a big part of the answer. See if Texas A&M has developed a variety that will grow that far north — heck, if you have Big Bluestem, I think Buffalo grass is possible. My horticulturist wife stripped out our old lawn rather than put in the Texas-standard sprinkler system, and planted Buffalo grass instead. It grows into a nice system, soft, bluish tinged stuff about three inches high, and then it stops. It goes dormant in very hot Augusts, and through most winters, but it needs mowing once, maybe twice a year — and that can be reduced if the weeds are reduced (the grass puts out its own herbicide to kill weeds).

    Low water bills, no mowing, no weeding. And it’s native (at least to Texas). Who says going natural is ugly, or more work?

  11. says

    I live in northern California, where it stops raining about this time of year, and we won’t see more for months. I convinced my wife to “go native” in our yard. We ripped out the grass (which needed watering constantly) and put in drought resistant plants. It’s beautiful, and needs very little water now. We have poppies, pampas grass, and lots of things with flowers and long Latin names.

  12. says

    I’m confused. Surely a US university professor must be able to afford paying to get his lawn mowed, particulary if he hates the job?

    You must be kidding. The professoriate is middle class, often lower middle class. High school teachers often get paid more than college professors. I don’t have a maid, I don’t have a gardner. My car is a beat-up, dented mess. I’m on a ten month appointment, and those two summer months where I don’t get paid are a stretch for us. I’m also putting two kids through college.

    That’s the reality of us over-paid academics.

  13. Ed Darrell says

    Ugly? My wife also dug up the grass on a hillside that was difficult to mow, and put in a prairie grass garden. All sorts of bluestems, wildflowers, great photo ops, and no mowing. We had wildlife move back.

    The City of Duncanville, Texas, gave us a ticket for not mowing, and cited a part of the city code that didn’t allow grasses over 12 inches (fire hazard, don’t you know)– some of the native prairie stuff will hit three feet, easy. We sent a letter back asking for clarification, specifically asking them to sign a release saying that we had to kill the state grass (sideoats grama)and saying that wildflower gardens are unacceptable. We never heard from them again.

    Our one semi-outdoor cat both loved and hated the grass garden. Real mice moved in, wild ones who knew how to avoid a predator, and they had lots of places to hide. She loved to chase them, but couldn’t catch them. Quite unlike our current yard, where she can get the slower, dull city mice and rats with ease.

    Wild grass good. Domesticated lawn grass bad. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

  14. says

    About the social pressure: my house is also on a corner lot right next to the university. Particularly at this time of year, it’s a little bit prominent — all the parents coming to graduation are going to drive right by it. We feel a little bit compelled to keep it conventionally attractive, to a point (we are not going to douse it with herbicides).

  15. BrianT says

    PZ, With ornamental grasses becoming increasingly accepted landscaping material, it seems to me you could get away with quite a bit before the neighbors voted to have you expelled. Ornamental varieties of switchgrass, reed grass, and maiden grass are well-accepted and grow from 3 to 7 ft high and would camouflage the big bluestem. You could even fill in with prairie flowers like compass plant, false blue indigo, and rattlesnake master. You’re on your own though with the bison (although a suburban Buffalo Commons does sound appealing).

  16. Bhersh says

    About a month ago I was involved in a prairie burn for the first time, and it was absolutely fabulous. This is the 4th or 5th time he’s burned (every 2-3 years, as conditions allow), and it’s to keep the scrub forest from encroaching. It was a couple hours of setup (preburning small patches downwind on two sides of the burn space), but once the main burn got going, it was all over in ~20 minutes. It was fantastic! It also wasn a bit out in the country, so maybe not directly applicable to suburban life…

  17. Azkyroth says

    Bleh. I never did like flower beds or carefully cut grass. At the point where I have a house I’ll probably try to keep the grass reasonably short, though, since what I’m reading here is confirming my prior conclusion that plant overgrowth tends to attract things which may bite small, curious fingers…

    My wife and I are toying with the idea of eventually getting somewhere between one and four acres of land close to whatever major metropolitan area we decide to settle in (“small town” doesn’t agree with either of us and is unlikely to have the learning assistance resources our daughter needs; small city would be good). She wants that to be here near Sacramento, but I’d rather move somewhere that’s cooler and less parched in the summer. Perhaps the bright side of Mercury. We’d try to get some with plenty of trees in place, especially oaks, and then let the land grow semi-wild; we’d either be extensively remodeling a pre-existing house on the property or building a new one, and I’ve assured my wife that she can put Santa hats on the gargoyles during the Holidays…

  18. says

    PZ: “You must be kidding. The professoriate is middle class, often lower middle class. High school teachers often get paid more than college professors. I don’t have a maid, I don’t have a gardner.”

    They don’t pay you enough. I work for a university (not as an academic) and they don’t pay *me* enough. You’d have to pull a gun to get me to touch a lawn mower and I’m not going to farm it out to my intellectual, unathletic husband. We hire a kid to do it every two weeks. MUCH cheaper than a gardener!

  19. Swintah says

    I just so happen to live right next to a “Pheasants Forever”, and the mouse and rabbit problem is unreal. If you want to reclaim, don’t let the grass near your house. Unless you’re willing to attract a den of coyotes to take care of the vermin. Or you really like mice.

  20. fusilier says

    Hmmmn. Omar Rilett was the emeritus biology department chair at Illinois State when I started grad school. He wrote a little pamphlet “Aldo Leopold is there” explaining just why he went to Univ. Wisconsin for his doctorate.

    Prof. Rilett told some stories in this little booklet, which ends…

    Often in the field or in class Leopold would speak of his shack. It was quite evident that it was a place especially beloved by him…Although he called it a shack I anticipated some plush cabin befitting his prestigious position at the University. How wrong I was!…
    I have never forgotten the most embarassing moment when I put my foot in my mouth and received the reproachful look I deserved. I was treading through the long grass toward the shackwhile talking to Leopold, when I commented that he should bring a lawnmower and mow the grass….His countenance could have been equaled only by a medieval priest who had just heard from his walking companion was a disbeleiver. I am sure that for a fleeting second I was an infidel unworthy of his teaching, but it was only for a fleeting second, for above all Leopold was a most humane man & one with unlimited optomism and in a few moments I was feeling at ease with the belief that he had not really given up all hope for me.

    I can’t say I read from A Sand County Almanac every night, the way Dr. Rilett did, but I do read each month as it comes around.

    James 2:24

  21. says

    Three words for you: Japanese. Rock. Garden.

    Carefully raked gravel around a few boulders (water and rock), and one or two small trees. Add a wooden bench overlooking the scene and you’re set. Think about it – it’s serene and high-class, it’s a culturally sensitive celebration of societal diversity (which should go down well for any passing liberal arts faculty), with no need for water it conservers resources and it’s very, very low maintenance.

    Of course if that’s too much I have another two words: Green. Concrete. At a distance it will almost sort of look like not concrete, and up close – well you can call it “a powerful neobrutalistic reimaging of the hierachi-patriachal naturalistic imperative” and at east get any local arts teachers on your side. And if neighbours complain you can tell them that covering the concrete with partially dismantled car wrecks on block is always an option.

    Me, I prefer an apartment.

  22. says

    In NW Iowa there’s a 160 acre natural prairie which has never been cultivated, and which is being expanded with a prairie recovery area.

    Our imaginations are so full of images of monocultural cultivated land and lawns that it’s difficult to concieve of a real wild prairie. There are dozens and hundreds of different plant species of all sizes, many of them flowing, some taller than a man. It’s quite lush and has a sort of chaotic feeling, like a jungle.

    Cayler Prairie is being grazed, by a buffalo as I remember, and as a result there are lots of wood ticks (eight on me). But it’s a great experience.

    Cayler Prairie

  23. Theo Bromine says

    I’m hoping to hold out another week before needing to cut the lawn – the weather has turned a bit colder, so I may get my wish. We have reduced our grass coverage by digging a couple of fishponds and putting in some (E Ontario native) wildflower gardens. We also are lenient to most non-grass things growing in the lawn (with the exeption of thistles, raspberry canes, and dandelions), and at the moment our lawn is covered with pretty little violets of various shades. (The city snowplow plows over the grass at the edge of the property, not to mention the roadsalt that gets dumped there, so I would take a very dim view of the municipal government telling me that weeds there were unacceptable.)

  24. rupertg says

    ” We feel a little bit compelled to keep it conventionally attractive…”

    And so the rot sets in. You must know that the best thing you can do with that land is to let it be, to leave a foothold for whatever species are trying to flee the conformity that MittelAmerika is trying to enforce.

    Lawns have no place in the economy of the nation: no child will starve if you refuse to mow. There is no reason in doing what your neighbours are doing, if the reason they’re doing it is because it’s what their neighbours are doing. That way lies madness.

    If it helps, put up a sign declaring your lawn the PZM Nanoniche. Write to the local newspaper, saying that in the face of massive global extinctions you’re doing what you can to provide succour for ecodiversity.

    But let the darn thing grow. You’ve got better things to do with your time, and it’s got better things to do than to be cut.

    Lawns are bad.


  25. The Amazing Kim says

    Three words for you: Japanese. Rock. Garden.
    Yes, those things are beautiful, especially with a pool of koi somewhere about. The problem being, you still have to rake the thing, and not only in the spring.
    I’d think about putting mulch down, and adding lots and lots of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. Flowering, evergreen ones so they look pretty and don’t require much attention. With any luck you’ll get some interesting birds nesting, and maybe some produce if you plant some fruiting trees as well.

  26. says

    In 1980 I was cited by Salt Lake County for tearing out my lawn and replacing it with native plants. Today, such behavior is not only legal, but becoming common. Progress.

  27. ColoRambler says

    Like so many other houses in my neighborhood, ours is blighted with large expanses of Kentucky bluegrass.

    Note to local real estate developers: the name of the state you are planting this stuff in is spelled C-O-L-O-R-A-D-O, not K-E-N-T-U-C-K-Y. It does not grow here unless you bring a Kentucky-like microclimate with you (translation: irrigate like crazy).

    I explained to my older daughter that if we put all the water the four of us humans use in a month — baths, drinking, toilets, laundry, you name it — in a big bucket, the lawn needs 6 or 8 of those buckets every month in the summer.


    Fortunately, it’s removable. About half of the grass in the back yard is going away this summer, to be replaced by raised perennial beds and some gravel paths. The damn side yard (over a thousand square feet of lawn that gets full sun and never looks good no matter *how* much water you pour on it) is also going away soon — completely. We’re putting in a small grove of trees that’ll require only occasional deep watering.

  28. says

    Hmmm, what to do about lawns, so much fertile ground for discussion!
    First, I consider the golf-course style lawn a pretty unattainable display of prowess, and a pretty boring and forced one at that. Wastes water, you have to mow it, and most people don’t do enough on their lawns to even justify having them. You could always toss frisbees at the local park.

    In my opinion, dump the lawn, and put in something that’s low maintenance, generates a few flowers, and attracts a few birds. Life is too interesting to waste it mowing. Hell, you couldn’t get me to mow – my hayfever would be so bad that I’d have to buy a gas mask. Actually, my dad uses an Israeli gas mask to mow his lawn. And my parents are turning half of the lawn into a dry creek bed with gravel and stones, giant rocks, cacti, rusty metal and skeletons. That should show up the rich neighbors across the street and their gardeners, electric bill, water tab, and boring grass.

    The Bad Astronomer is right on, as a matter of fact, it has been the trend in Sonoma County, CA, (from where he hails, also where I grew up) to replace lawns with drought-tolerant natives and other plants, and I see an increasing number of “retired lawns” cropping up as well.

    But there is another possibility – maybe you could start your own cellulosic ethanol fermenter! Tell your neighbors that you are allowing the grass to grow to full length before you “harvest” it, and pour the liquid bounty into your gas tank. Or you could go with the maze.

    Bottom line, plow the lawn!

  29. idlemind says

    Cool article, Don S. I always enjoy learning how closely connected I am with my friends, the plants.

  30. says

    PZM: “You must be kidding. The professoriate is middle class, often lower middle class”

    Surely not! I mean, your leader is the Science President. (-;

    SBC: “We hire a kid to do it every two weeks.”

    Yes, I was more kind of thinking of the local teen than a professional gardener.

  31. egbooth says

    All this talk reminds me of a joke e-mail I received from a fellow hydrologist. You see, lawns are generally very bad at increasing stormwater infiltration into the groundwater (i.e. recharge) whereas prairie plants (at least for you in the prairie regions) have incredibly deep and active roots that allow for significant infiltration. This is absolutely critical for sustaining groundwater resources in the future. For more information, check out the concept of a rain garden:

    Anyways here’s the joke e-mail I received a while back on the American lawn subject (ironically, it seems to endorse Intelligent Design but hopefully that won’t take away from the point):

    > God and St. Francis on Lawns
    > “Winterize your lawn,” the big sign outside the garden store commanded.
    > I’ve fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die
    > anyway. Now I’m supposed to winterize it? I hope it’s too late. Grass
    > lawns have to be the stupidest thing we’ve come up with outside of thong
    > swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle,
    > violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass
    > that must be nursed through an annual four-step chemical dependency.
    > Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about
    > “Frank you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going
    > on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and
    > I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those
    > plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with
    > abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies,
    > honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of
    > colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.”
    > “It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They
    > calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and
    > replace them with grass.”
    > “Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract
    > butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental
    > with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass
    > growing there?”
    > “Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it
    > They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant
    > that crops up in the lawn.”
    > “The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast.
    > That must make the Suburbanites happy.”
    > “Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut
    > twice a week.”
    > “They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”
    > “Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”
    > “They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”
    > “No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”
    > “Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And
    > when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”
    > “Yes, sir.”
    > “These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the
    > rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a
    > lot of work.”
    > “You aren’t going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so
    > they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to
    > mow it and pay to get rid of it.”
    > “What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer
    > stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the
    > spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall
    > to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and
    > protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost
    > to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”
    > “You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As
    > soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them
    > hauled away.”
    > “No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter
    > keep the soil moist and loose?”
    > “After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call
    > mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”
    > “And where do they get this mulch?”
    > “They cut down trees and grind them up.”
    > “Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine,
    > you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us
    > “Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”
    > “Never mind I think I just heard the whole story.”

  32. says

    In New Mexico you can get a ticket if you water your lawn too much. (The city I live in is often said by the more alarmist to have about 50 years left of its water supply) I second the rock garden idea. In certian neighborhoods around town that’s what you get instead of lawns.

    Either that or just bare dirt with a pit bull roaming around.

  33. says

    Hah, I had that article up on my computer, you beat me to posting it! And I wasn’t searching for lawn news, just genetic engineering news. Mmmm. Nerdness.

  34. G. Tingey says

    Perhaps living in England has advantages.
    My suburban garden is tiny – the whole plot, including the house is only 12×30 metres, but I have asmall “lawn, aabout a third of which is not mown until the autumn.
    The bottom bit has a wonderful succession of spring flowers – snowdrop, crocus, snakeshead fritillary, oxlip, camassia.
    The insects love it, especially the early-Spring bumblebees.
    Leave small piles of wood/veg to rot in corners, etx.
    It’s amzing how much wildlife (admittedly small wildlife) you can get, even in London.

  35. says

    You mean you don’t get 6-10 junk mailings a week from several different “spray-and-mow” companies that promise you a lawn that will be the envy of all your neighbors?
    “Must-mow” laws have been challenged in several areas.

  36. Ian H Spedding says

    It occured to me that there could be good money to be made from genetically engineering a strain of grass that would only grow an inch or so high.

    Then the conspiracy theorist in me kicked in and wondered if it already had but the invention had been suppressed by a sinister cabal of lawn-mower manufacturers.

  37. says

    I heard, but I don’t know if it is true or not, that in this town (a suburb of Montreal) one can get fined if one doesn’t maintain one’s lawn and property etc. Gotta love by-laws …

  38. says

    I live in northern California, […] I convinced my wife to “go native” in our yard. We ripped out the grass (which needed watering constantly) and put in […] pampas grass,


    Take it out. Seriously. Take it out. It should be illegal to sell the stuff in California. Planting it is like pouring motor oil into the storm drain – if the motor oil reproduced itself by a factor of several hundred in each generation.

    And there are plernty of native alternatives.

  39. George Cauldron says

    High school teachers often get paid more than college professors.

    Depends. If you’re a tenured, full professor at a 4-year college, you get paid more than any high school teacher in California, I can tell you that. If, however, one is one of those temporary, brought-back-every-semester to teach low-prestige classes with huge nos. of students with no possible tenure and no benefits, then yes, you get paid less than certain high school teachers.

    That said, it’s remarkably easy to find people who will eagerly mow your lawn for peanuts. And you certainly dont need it done often.

    we ripped out the grass (which needed watering constantly) and put in […] pampas grass,

    I hate that shit, and it is ALL OVER Northern California. Razor-sharp stalks — when I was a kid I accidentally sliced my ear open on the fuckers, and I still have the notches in my ear to this day.

  40. Gary Hurd says

    Howdy PZ,

    Totally do it!

    I’m in coastal southern California and I did the front yard in local natives. I had a hell of a time with the local lawn-nazis that worked in city code enforcement. When the landscape guy I had hired won some big award, the city pigs finally shutup.

    The yard has taken up a big total of zero chemicals, or city water since I put it in, and there are a fantastic range of insects, birds and reptiles that have moved in to this tiny space. I cut it back maybe three times a year, a total of at most 6 afternoons. Totally worth the effort to get it started. I can sit on a rock, sip a beer and watch the lizards chase each other around. Several neighbors are starting to do their yards over now as well because they are yard working while I am yard playing.

    Next fall I’ll do the backyard.

  41. RP says

    I can’t believe that I’m the first person to say it, but Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin has a nice native mix of no-mow grasses that stay short enough to keep the neighbors happy. I think you only need to mow once a year or so.

    Prairie Nursery has a great catalog – anyone in the Midwest should get one for inspiration.

  42. CCP says

    We’re sharing lawn stories?
    I have 0.38 acres of suburban lawn. It’s the only piece of the planet I own so I refuse to put any chemicals on it. An outfit called Gardens Alive sells excellent organic gluten-based stuff that feeds gently and (supposedly) inhibits weed-rooting. My wife insists on watering in July and August but I don’t care.
    I mow it. I like mowing it. I get high, don the old cassette Walkman and listen to old Dead tapes as I get some freshair exercise. I have a Black & Decker rechargable electric mulching mower that does 1/3 to 1/2 of the lawn at a shot before the lectric runs out; it’s quiet and air-pollution free (at least directly) and I buy no gas for it. I have a Scotts Classic push-reel mower if I feel like continuing. It makes a very comforting nostalgic snickety sound I enjoy. All clippings are left to return their nutrients to the soil.
    My lawn’s no monoculture. As long as it’s more or less greenish I live & let live. There’s all kinds of stuff out there competing for space and I get a kick out of following the ebbs and flows of various species as temperature and moisture conditions change with the seasons. I like clover. We get some beautiful violets in the shady parts, and every color of tiny belly-flower shows up. Interesting little volunteer one-shots are always popping up. Dandelions are one of the most amazing organisms around, I think–they’re clonal and endlessly plastic and they just won’t quit. I look at my mowing as an extrinsic selection pressure–it penalizes the stuff that has to grow tall to reproduce and rewards the short stuff that stays inconspicuous.
    Since the neighborhood was built back in the early 60s there is no chance of returning the area to anything like its natural state (swampy deciduous edge-of-the-piedmont woodland). We have lots of native trees, native perennial gardens, an organic vegetable garden. Squirrels, voles, deermice, redback salamanders, cottontails, deer, fox, coons, possums, and toads. A gazillion birds, from redtails and GH Owls to rose-breasted grosbeaks and red-breasted nuthatches, and 4 kinds of woodpeckers.
    Judge me as you will. I like mowing my lawn.