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Technol Cult. 2010 Jul;51(3):652-74.

Living lawns, dying waters: The suburban boom, nitrogenous fertilizers, and the nonpoint source pollution dilemma.

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  • 1University of Pennsylvania, USA.


The March 1963 issue of Consumer Bulletin included a four-page article titled "How to grow a better lawn", the lead paragraph of which assured readers that "one does not have to be an expert or spend large sums of money to have a good lawn. It is necessary, however, to follow certain established practices in the construction and maintenance of any lawn." These two assertions may have struck readers, as I suspect they would strike lawngrowers today, as somewhat contradictory. Given the list of established practices that followed--"the construction of the lawn base, with proper grading, drainage, and preparation of the seedbed; selection of the type of grass and spreading of the seed; and maintenance, including fertilizing, mowing, and control of weeds"--it is difficult to imagine how the homeowner could have accomplished all of this without large sums of money or expertise. In fact, building lawns in the manner described by Consumer Bulletin required tremendous amounts of both. Recognizing these established practices in lawn construction and maintenance as a technological system allows us to better understand the persistence of this grassy landscape in America.

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