Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Portable Landscaping

"For starters, she says, 'This country has large variability in climate, and people are very mobile.' But although we move a lot, she says, we tend to recreate the same landscape wherever we go. 'Most of the grasses used in U.S. lawns aren't native to the area they are grown; many of the species come from the East, Kentucky bluegrass, for example.

"A lawn isn't a big deal in the northeast, but when you recreate that same landscape out West, it becomes a major ecological issue because the only way to grow those grasses is with high use of water and nitrogen fertilizer."

"'Even conservatively,' Milesi says, 'I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn.' This means lawns—including residential and commercial lawns, golf courses, etc—could be considered the single largest irrigated crop in America in terms of surface area, covering about 128,000 square kilometers in all." [~49,000 square miles]

"Across the United States, water supplies are increasingly under pressure as populations grow. The water table has dropped hundreds of feet in many locations, and rivers and streams go dry for long stretches in various seasons as water is siphoned off for agriculture, industry, and individual residences.

"All along the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to New York, saltwater is flowing into formerly freshwater aquifers and wells because we are pumping freshwater out faster than nature can put it back."

"In most of the United States, lawns just aren't natural.

"When she had the ecosystem computer models generate a 'control' scenario in which lawns were not irrigated or fertilized, she says, 'The only places I could grow grass in the conterminous U.S. were a few areas in the Northeast and the Great Plains.' Everywhere else, lawns have to be coddled to keep them going and to keep weeds and other plants from taking over. ...

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