Who knew that the lawn — a generic landscape element that we basically manage on autopilot — could be so provocative? The recent In the Garden column “Yes, You Can Do Better Than the Great American Lawn” elicited nearly 1,200 comments, and a few key themes resounded, prompting a follow-up.
In that story, Daniel J. Wilder, an ecological horticulturist at Norcross Wildlife Foundation in Massachusetts, suggested some environmentally focused changes that we can make in the way we care for our lawns, as well as a few lawn alternatives for those ready to eliminate some or all of their turfgrass.
The Tick Project, which investigated whether reducing the number of ticks in an area necessarily meant reducing the number of tick encounters experienced by humans — and if it decreased cases of tick-borne disease.
The team she led with Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y., studied yards in Dutchess County, N.Y., an area with one of the nation’s highest rates of Lyme disease. The five-year project involved the participation of some 3,000 people and 1,000 pets in 24 neighborhoods.
Consistent with observations from a 2006 study observing tick density along forest-field edges, the team found fewer ticks in grassy areas than in wooded ones: Ticks were about eight times more abundant in forests than in lawns, across all the properties studied. (In the 2006 study, the space in between, or ecotone, where herbaceous habitat meets forest, had a tick density somewhere in between.)
published in 2019 by U.S. Forest Service researchers, tested whether mowing frequency influences the prevalence of ticks. Lawns were mowed at one-, two- and three-week intervals, with grass heights reaching from just over 2.5 inches to more than 10. There, even the tallest lawns, which were less frequently mowed, were not found to have ticks.