A few weeks ago, I had a sprited discussion with a friend of mind, Andrew. He successfully made the case to me that short-cut grass is purely ornamental, non functional, and even environmentally harmful. This is echoed in a blog post that Andrew shared with me today.
Frankly, there are quite a few things that bother me about living in Carmel. The first, most glaring thing is the commute. It takes half an hour to drive to IUPUI from my house. It takes an hour or more to get there by bike. It is very frustrating to have to spend 30 minutes in a car to get to school or work. Not only do I have to drive to work, I am often forced to drive to the grocery store and other business. While these are much closer than the campus, they are still far from my house.
However, these are transportation issues. At home, there is lots of green. Most of that green is in the form of low-cut grass. This grass does not catch rainwater or runoff as effectively as longer grass. Also, because of the shallow root structure in short grass, the roots do not break up and aerate the soil effective, causing the soil under the grass to become compacted and less permeable to water.
In most neighborhoods, there is social, if not legal, pressure to keep grass short and green. Since you have to live near the people next door, simply letting your lawn grow out-of-control is likely not a realistic option.
An excellent way to solve this problem while keeping up the appearance of the lawn is to remove a significant amount of the grass and replace it with plants such as shrubs, bushes, trees, and vines. You could even grow food, though this is probably better suited for the side and back yards. I have seen many houses that use this technique. They are attractive, well-kept, and help retain water and keep it out of the storm drains and water suplies.