Launch of Lawn Reform Coalition

We need something like this in South Africa, such a great initiative:

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2009 — United by their common goal of reducing the impact of lawns on the environment and human and animal health, nine of the leading horticultural communicators in the United States announced the formation of the Lawn Reform Coalition, a media campaign that will provide up-to-date information for home and business owners across the country.

“With lawns covering as much as 50 million acres of our nation, requiring copious amounts of water, fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels to maintain, they have become a drain on precious resources that we can no longer afford to waste,” said filmmaker and author Paul Tukey from Maine. “At their worst, lawns are toxic blankets that aren’t even safe for our children and pets.”

Using the website, social networking groups and downloadable materials, the members will focus their message on regionally appropriate lawn species, eco-friendly care for all lawns, and ways to reduce or replace lawns, including by growing food.

“If your lawn serves a useful purpose, like playing ball with your up-and-coming Cy Young Award winner, how about downsizing to the minimum necessary size, managing your water wisely, going fossil-free, and giving the chemicals a rest?” said Billy Goodnick, a California landscape architect, writer and television host.

“People need practical ideas for managing their yards in eco-friendly ways,” said Susan Harris of Washington, D.C., cofounder of the Garden Rant blog. “The good news is we’re starting to see better lawn types on the market, and more lawns – even golf courses – being cared for organically.”

Just as several Florida counties, Washington, D.C., and numerous other American municipalities consider restrictions on certain lawn and garden pesticides and fertilizers, the Lawn Reform Coalition stated several goals of its campaign, including: 1) Reduced fertilizer and pesticide runoff in waterways; 2) reduction of the use of potable water supplies for irrigation; 3) widespread education about lawn alternatives; and 4) reduction of the use of gasoline-powered mowers, trimmers and blowers, which account for 5 to 10 percent of air pollution in summer.

“My personal goal is to share design ideas to help you think outside the lawn!” said Shirley Bovshow, a landscape designer and television host from California.

Other members of the coalition include: Tom Christopher, a New York author; Tom Engelman, a California conservationist and founder of the Grass Roots Program; Evelyn Hadden, a Minnesota-based public speaker and founder of the website; Susan Morrison, a northern California Master Gardener, designer and speaker; and Ginny Stibolt, a newspaper columnist and author based in Florida.

“As a garden designer, I’ve seen first-hand how willing people are to choose eco-friendly alternatives to lawns once they have the right information,” said Morrison. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Lawn Reform Coalition’s mission to spread the word.”

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6 replies on “Launch of Lawn Reform Coalition”

this is excellent. for me, not having kids – and only a rather sedentary dog – the garden is mostly to attract wildlife. for this, a big sweep of tall indigenous grasses would be so much better than ‘berea shade’ or whatever. what sort of thing would work in durban i wonder?

indeed, you could have a grassland or meadow lawn with a mixture of indigenous grasses, shrubs and flowers.

I was keen to do this when first laying out my garden but ash was adamant he wanted a lawn, even though we don’t ever sit on it or use it.

Hey, we’re glad you guys found us.

While we certainly promote lawn alternatives whenever possible, if you do want or need a lawn, there are ways to manage it more sustainably. We provide lots of resources for everyone.


I second Ginny’s delight and welcome you to share your ideas and suggest appropriate lawn alternatives for your growing conditions. Here in southern California, we use a lot of the same plants and many that are indigenous to South Africa. It would be a great exchange of information.

thanks for the comments Billy and Ginny.

I’m sure parts of South Africa have similar environmental concerns as southern California – for example water scarcity – and we must waste a lot of water keeping our lawns green.

anyone have any suggestions for alternatives they have used in this country? send a pic to and we’ll post it to the blog.

When I came to live in a duplex near the Umgeni I planted a pennyroyal mint groundcover on the outermost patch of the small garden, because of the scent and that it discouraged nunus. But when a palm and cycas grew it thinned in their shade. So I replaced it some years ago with what is probably a ‘daisy lawn’ (drawing on Ross’s landscaping website). This groundcover has lovely flowers and is very hardy, having coped with dry winters with a little water from a watering can every few weeks. The patch has been topdressed every few years when I get my act together and ask the youth from the nearby settlement (complete with his loaned wheelbarrow and large spade) to fetch soil from the adjoining (i.e. encroached!) riverine bush. Some neighbours also liked the groundcovers (no mowing except a little clipping in extremely rainy summers) and slips from the cuttings of both varieties took on very quickly.

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