One Man and a Mower Lawn Care
We didn’t always have a love affair with lawns. It was not until the industrial revolution that lawns became practical for most Americans. Lawns were seen as a luxury because only the wealthy could afford grounds keepers to maintain the grass with scythes. Most people also could not afford the cattle or sheep to graze the yard and keep grass at a manageable height.
In the 16th Century Renaissance, lawns were cultivated by the wealthy in both France and England. The ground, however, was more likely to be planted with chamomile or thyme than with grass. Both chamomile and thyme make excellent alternatives to grass in modern lawns.
The closely cut lawns of grass first emerged in 17th century England at the homes of the wealthy landowners. Many of the wealthy had large sweeping green lawns that ran across their estates. Americans that had enough money to travel overseas returned to the United States with images of the English lawn planted in their imaginations. While sheep were still grazed on many such park-lands, land owners began to increasingly depend on human labor to care for the grass nearest their homes. Before lawnmowers, only the rich could afford to hire the workers needed to scythe and weed the grass, so a lawn was seen as an indication of wealth and status.
Try as we might, it wasn’t easy to reproduce a beautiful English lawn. After all, people could not run down to their hardware store and pick up a bag of grass seed. The grasses native to America proved unsuitable for a tidy and well-controlled lawn, and our more extreme climate was less than hospitable to the English grass seeds.
The right grass and treatments weren’t the only problems facing homeowners wanting the perfect lawn. Providing adequate water to keep the grass green in summer was a challenge. It wasn’t easy hauling a bucket of water out to the yard during the summer droughts. Cutting the grass also presented a challenge. The lawns in England were trimmed with scythes. This is an expensive process that took a certain amount of finesse, or required livestock to be grazed on the greens.
Mechanical mowing was developed in the 19th century. There is a general agreement that an Englishman by the name of Edwin Budding who an engineer at a textile mill developed the cylinder, or reel-type mower. The reel mower is a series of blades placed around a cylinder that has a push handle that is similar to a machine used in a cloth factory for trimming the nap on velvet. In 1870, Elwood McGuire, who lived in Richmond, Indiana successfully designed a machine that brought push mowing to the common person. By 1885, companies were building 50,000 lawnmowers a year and shipping them to every country on the globe.
The American Garden Club is responsible for the popularity of a green front lawn. By the use of contests and other publicity, the Garden Club convinced business and homeowners that they had a civic duty to grow and maintain a healthy green lawn.
Norman Haga offers a small boutique lawn care service, “One Man and a Mower Lawn care,” that takes pride in the tradition and history of lawn care.