Skip to main content
Log in

Homeowner Attitudes and Practices Towards Residential Landscape Management in Ohio, USA

  • Published:
Environmental Management Aims and scope Submit manuscript

An Erratum to this article was published on 13 December 2012

Abstract

This study describes the results of a survey of 432 homeowners in Ohio, USA concerning their perceptions and practices regarding management of residential landscapes. The results reveal that outdoor residential environments are extremely important to homeowners, who tend to view their yards as serving multiple functions: a place to observe nature and to socialize as well as a place of beauty and recreation. Use of a lawn care company to apply chemicals is reported by 22 % of respondents, while 40 % either apply chemicals themselves or have someone other than a lawn care company do it. Logistic regressions reveal that factors influencing a homeowner’s decision to employ a lawn care company or to apply chemicals themselves include: household income (+), perceived impacts on the environment (−), whether the next door neighbor does it (+), and type of residential environment (rural −, suburban and urban +). A theme that emerges throughout the study is the perceived importance of the role of the lawn in residents’ sense of social status or acceptance in the neighborhood. This perception can be viewed as a positive in ensuring that residential environments are well maintained, but also as a negative resulting in environmental degradation or presenting a barrier to creativity in the development of alternative residential environments. Specific policy implications of these findings are that efforts aimed at educating homeowners about the environmental impacts of their lawn care choices are likely to have more success if they are directed at neighborhood groups rather than individuals, show that alternatives are easy to adopt, affordable, and can produce the characteristics of lawns that homeowners seek.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Alumai A, Salminen S, Richmond DS, Grewal PS (2009a) Comparative evaluation of aesthetic, biological, and economic effectiveness of different lawn management programs. Urban Ecosystems 12:127–144

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alumai A, Grunkemeyer M, Kovach J, Shetlar DJ, Cardina J, Rimelspach J, Clayton S, Grewal PS (2009b) Implementing integrated pest management in professional lawn care: a case study. Urban Ecosystems 13:37–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Askew LE, McGuirk PM (2004) Watering the suburbs: distinction, conformity and the suburban garden. Australian Geographer 35:17–37

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Atwood C, Kreutzwiser R, de Loe R (2007) Residents’ assessment of an urban outdoor water conservation program in Guelph, Ontario. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 43:427–439

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beard JB, Green RL (1994) The role of turfgrasses in environmental-protection and their benefits to humans. Journal of Environmental Quality 23:452–460

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bormann FH, Balmori D, Geballe GT, Vernegaard L (1993) Redesigning the American lawn: a search for environmental harmony. Yale University Press, New Haven and London

    Google Scholar 

  • Bureau of the Census (2010) United States Census 2010. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/. Retrieved Dec 2011

  • Butterfield B (2004) Environmental lawn and garden survey. National Gardening Association, Burlington

    Google Scholar 

  • Cheng Z, Richmond DS, Salminen SO, Grewal PS (2008) Ecology of urban lawns under three common management programs. Urban Ecosystems 11:177–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng Z, Salminen S, Grewal PS (2010) Effect of organic fertilizers on the greening quality, shoot and root growth, and shoot nutrient and alkaloid contents of turf-type endophytic tall fescue, Festuca arundinacea. Annals of Applied Biology 156:25–37

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Clayton S (2007) Domesticated nature: motivations for gardening and perceptions of environmental impact. Journal of Environmental Psychology 27:215–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cole DC, Vanderlinden L, Leah J, Whate R, Mee C, Bienefeld M, Wanigaratne S, Campbell M (2011) Municipal bylaw to reduce cosmetic/non-essential pesticide use on household lawns—a policy implementation evaluation. Environmental Health 10:74

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox DR, Snell EJ (1968) A general definition of residuals. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B 30:248–275

    Google Scholar 

  • Dillman RA (1978) Mail and telephone surveys: the total design method. Wiley, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Downing AJ (1844) A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening applied to North America with a view to the improvement of country residences. Wiley and Putnam, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunlap RE, Jones RE (2002) Environmental concern: conceptual and measurement issues. In: Dunlap RE, Michelson W (eds) Handbook of environmental sociology. Greenwood, Westport, CT, pp 482–524

  • Dunlap RE, Jones RE (2003) Environmental attitudes and values. In: Fernandez-Ballesteros R (ed) Encyclopedia of psychological assessment 1. Sage, London, pp 364–369

    Google Scholar 

  • Feagan RB, Ripmeester M (1999) Contesting naturalized lawns: a geography of private green space in the Niagra region. Urban Geography 20:617–634

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fein A (1972) Frederick law Olmstead and the American environmental tradition. George Brazilier, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Grewal PS (2007) The value of the American lawn. Special circular. Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, p 194

  • Grewal PS (2012) From IPM to ecosystem management: the case of urban lawn. In: Abrol DP, Shankar U (eds) Integrated pest management: principles and practice. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp 450–488

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Guerrero PF (1990) Lawn care pesticides remain uncertain while prohibited safety claims continue. Statement of Peter F. Guerrero before the subcommittee on toxic substances, environmental oversight, research and development of the senate committee on environment and public works. US General Accounting Office, Washington DC

  • Harris PB, Brown BB (1996) The home and identity display: interpreting resident territoriality from home exteriors. Journal of Environmental Psychology 16:187–203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hostetler ME, Drake D (2009) Conservation subdivisions: a wildlife perspective. Landscape and Urban Planning 90:95–101

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hostetler ME, Noiseux K (2010) Are green residential developments attracting environmentally savvy homeowners? Landscape and Urban Planning 94:234–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins VS (1994) The lawn: history of an American obsession. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC

    Google Scholar 

  • King KW, Balogh JC (2001) Water quality impacts associated with converting farmland and forests to turfgrass. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers 44:569–576

    Google Scholar 

  • Krejcie RV, Morgan DW (1970) Determining sample size for research activities. Educational and Psychological Measurement 30:607–610

    Google Scholar 

  • Larsen L, Harlan SL (2006) Desert dreamscapes: residential landscape preference and behavior. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:85–100

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson KL, Casagrande D, Harlan SL, Yabiku ST (2009a) Residents’ yard choices and rationales in a desert city: social priorities, ecological impacts, and decision tradeoffs. Environmental Management 44:921–937

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson KL, White DD, Gober P, Harlan SL, Wutich A (2009b) Divergent perspectives on water resource sustainability in a public-policy-science context. Environmental Science & Policy 12:1012–1023

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larson KL, Ibes DC, White DD (2011) Gendered perspectives about water risks and policy strategies: a tripartite conceptual approach. Environment and Behavior 43:415–438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lawn & Landscape Magazine (2001) Canadian municipalities allowed to restrict use of pesticides. http://www.lawnandlandscape.com/news/news.asp?ID=595&SubCatID=108&CatID=20. Retrieved Sept 2002

  • Lewis RG, Fortmann RC, Camann DE (1994) Evaluation of methods for monitoring the potential exposure of small children to pesticides in the residential environment. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 26:37–46

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Martin CA, Peterson KA, Stabler LB (2003) Residential landscaping in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.: practices and preferences relative to covenants, codes, and restrictions. Journal of Arboriculture 29:9–17

    Google Scholar 

  • Mechenich C, Shaw BH (1994) Chemical use practices and opinions about groundwater contamination in two unsewered subdivisions. Journal of Environmental Health 56:17–22

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Milesi C, Running SW, Elvidge CD, Dietz JB, Tuttle BT, Nemani RR (2005) Mapping and modeling the biogeochemical cycling of turf grasses in the United States. Environmental Management 36:426–438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nagelkerke NJD (1991) A note on a general definition of the coefficient of determination. Biometrika 78:691–692

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nassauer JI (1988) The aesthetics of horticulture: neatness as a form of care. HortScience 23:973–977

    Google Scholar 

  • Nielson L, Smith C (2005) Influences on residential yard care and water quality: Tualatin watershed, Oregon. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 41:93–106

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nishioka MG, Burkholder HM, Brinkman MC, Gordon SM, Lewis RG (1996) Measuring transport of lawn-applied herbicide acids from turf to home: Correlation of dislodgeable 2,4-d tuff residues with carpet dust and carpet surface residues. Environmental Science and Technology 30:3313–3320

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Potter DA (1994) Effects of pesticides on beneficial invertebrates in turf. In: Leslie AR (ed) Handbook of integrated pest management for turf and ornamentals. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, pp 59–70

    Google Scholar 

  • Rappaport B (1992) Weed laws—a historical review and recommendations. Natural Areas Journal 12:216–217

    Google Scholar 

  • Rappaport B (1993) As natural landscaping takes root we must weed out the bad laws: how natural landscaping and Leopold’s land ethic collide with unenlightened weed laws and what must be done about it. The John Marshall Law Review 26. http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/greenacres/weedlaws/jmlrcover.html. Retrieved 14 Nov 2011

  • Robbins P (2007) Lawn people: how grasses, weeds, and chemicals make us who we are. Temple University Press, Philadelphia

    Google Scholar 

  • Robbins P, Birkenholtz T (2003) Turfgrass revolution: measuring the expansion of the American lawn. Land Use Policy 20:181–194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robbins P, Sharp J (2003a) Producing and consuming chemicals: the moral economy of the American lawn. Economic Geography 79:425–451

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robbins P, Sharp J (2003b) The lawn chemical economy and its discontents. Antipode 35:955–979

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robbins P, Polderman A, Birkenholtz T (2001) Lawns and toxins: an ecology of the city. Cities 18:369–380

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schroeder FEH (1993) Front yard America: the evolution and meanings of a vernacular domestic landscape. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green

    Google Scholar 

  • Steinberg T (2006) American green. Norton, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Templeton SR, Zilberman D, Yoo SJ (1998) An economic perspective on outdoor residential pesticide use. Policy Analysis 32:416–423A

    Google Scholar 

  • Teyssot G (1999) The American lawn. Princeton Architectural Press, New York/Canadian Center for Architecture, Montréal

  • Thompson RH (2004) Overcoming barriers to ecologically sensitive land management: conservation subdivisions, green developments, and the development of a land ethic. Journal of Planning Education and Research 24:141–153

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • United States Geological Survey (1999) The quality of our Nations waters: nutrients and pesticides. United States Geological Survey, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Wasowski A, Wasowski S (2000) The landscaping revolution. Contemporary Books, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • Watson J, Baker P (1990) Pesticide transport through soils. Arizona Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture, University of Arizona, Tucson

    Google Scholar 

  • Yabiku ST, Casagrande DG, Farley-Metzger E (2008) Preferences for landscape choice in a southwestern desert city. Environment and Behavior 40:382–400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Youngentob K, Hostetler ME (2005) Is a new urban development model building greener communities? Environment and Behavior 37:731–759

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zartarian VG, Özkaynak H, Burke JM, Zufall MJ, Rigas ML, Furtaw EJ Jr (2000) A modeling framework for estimating children’s residential exposure and dose to chlorpyrifos via dermal residue contact and nondietary ingestion. Environmental Health Perspectives 108:505–514

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zhou W, Troy A, Grove M (2008) Modeling residential lawn fertilization practices: integrating high resolution remote sensing with socioeconomic data. Environmental Management 41:742–752

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors’ thank members of the Urban Landscape Ecology Program who contributed to the design of this study, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center for funding this interdisciplinary research, and three anonymous reviewers for their diligent reviews of earlier versions of the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Parwinder S. Grewal.

APPENDIX 1. Questionnaire

APPENDIX 1. Questionnaire

Questionnaire Part ONE: Attitudes

  1. (1)

    How much do chemicals from farms, such as fertilizers and weed killers, or bug killers affect water quality near your community? Would you say?

  • <1> A LOT,

  • <2> SOME,

  • <3> VERY LITTLE, OR

  • <4> NOT AT ALL

  1. (2)

    How much do chemicals from lawns, such as the use of fertilizers, weed killers, or bug killers applied to their yards affect water quality near your community? Would you say?

    • <1> A LOT,

    • <2> SOME,

    • <3> VERY LITTLE, OR

    • <4> NOT AT ALL

  2. (3)

    Does your nearest neighbor on your right hand side use a lawn care chemical company? Y/N or DN (Yes, No, or Do not know)

  3. (4)

    Does your nearest neighbor on your right hand side apply lawn chemicals (fertilizers/ weed killers, or bug killers) themselves? Y/N or DN

  4. (5)

    What kind of effect do you think that neighbors’ lawn care applications have on water quality…

    • <1> NEGATIVE EFFECT

    • <2> NO EFFECT

    • <3> POSITIVE EFFECT

    • <4> DON’T KNOW

  5. (6)

    What kind of effect do you think that neighbors’ lawn care applications have on your property values…

    • <1> NEGATIVE EFFECT

    • <2> NO EFFECT

    • <3> POSITIVE EFFECT

    • <4> DON’T KNOW

  6. (7)

    What kind of effect do you think their lawn care applications have on feelings of pride in your neighborhood …

    • <1> NEGATIVE EFFECT

    • <2> NO EFFECT

    • <3> POSITIVE EFFECT

    • <4> DON’T KNOW

Thinking about the ways in which you use your yard, how important is each of the following?

  1. (8)

    A place for recreation

    • <1> Important

    • <2> Neither important nor unimportant

    • <3> Unimportant or not used in this way

  2. (9)

    A place to observe nature (e.g., birds, butterflies, other wildlife)

    • <1> Important

    • <2> Neither important nor unimportant

    • <3> Unimportant or not used in this way

  3. (10)

    A place to socialize with friends

    • <1> Important

    • <2> Neither important nor unimportant

    • <3> Unimportant or not used in this way

  4. (11)

    A place of beauty

    • <1> Important

    • <2> Neither important nor unimportant

    • <3> Unimportant or not used in this way

  5. (12)

    How satisfied are you with the appearance of your yard this year?

    • <1> Very satisfied

    • <2> Somewhat satisfied

    • <3> Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied

    • <4> Somewhat unsatisfied or

    • <5> Very unsatisfied

  6. (13)

    How satisfied are you with the appearance of the yard of your nearest neighbor on your right hand side?

    • <1> Very satisfied

    • <2> Somewhat satisfied

    • <3> Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied

    • <4> Somewhat unsatisfied or

    • <5> Very unsatisfied

  7. (14)

    Have any of your neighbors ever commented on your yard? Y/N

  8. (14a)

    If so, was it a compliment or a concern? Comp/Conc

  9. (15)

    When it comes to bugkillers, weedkillers, and fertilizers homeowners tend to apply:

    • <1> Too much

    • <2> The correct amount

    • <3> Too little

  10. (16)

    When it comes to bugkillers, weedkillers, and fertilizers, professional lawn care companies tend to apply:

    • <1> Too much

    • <2> The correct amount

    • <3> Too little

Questionnaire Part TWO: Practices

Now I’d like you to think about some different lawn care practices. For all of these questions I want you to think of what you did this last year – May to August 2004.

  1. (17)

    During this season, about how many hours a week do you spend working in your yard?

(ASK FOR BEST GUESS IF UNCERTAIN.)

  1. (18)

    Last year, did a lawn care company apply any fertilizers, bug killers, or weed killers to your lawn?

    • <1> YES, LAWN CARE COMPANY APPLIED CHEMICALS

    • <0> NO, A LAWN CARE CO. DID NOT APPLY CHEMICALS

  2. (18a)

    [If 18 YES] How many times did they come to your home to spray or apply any chemicals or treatments last year?

    • <1-87> ______ # OF TIMES

  3. (18b)

    Do you know what chemicals were applied by this company? Y/N

  4. (18c)

    [If 18b YES] Which chemicals were these?

  5. (19)

    Last year, did you or someone other than a lawn care company use any fertilizers, bug killers, or weed killers on your lawn?

    • <1> YES, APPLIED CHEMICALS TO LAWN

    • <0> NO, DID NOT APPLY CHEMICALS TO LAWN

  6. (19a)

    [If 19 YES] Did you use any fertilizer on your lawn last year?

    • <1> YES, USED FERTILIZER

    • <0> NO, DID NOT USE FERTILIZER

  7. (19ai)

    [If 19a YES] About how many times last year did you apply fertilizer to your own lawn? Was it…

    • <1> Once,

    • <2> Twice,

    • <3> Three times,

    • <4> Four times, or

    • <5> More than four times?

  8. (19b)

    [If 19 YES] Did you use any insecticides or bug killer on your lawn last year?

    • <1> YES, USED INSECTICIDES

    • <0> NO, DID NOT USE INSECTICIDES

  9. (19c)

    Did you use any herbicides or weed killers or did you use a weed and feed package last year?

    • <1> YES, USED WEED KILLER

    • <0> NO, DID NOT USE WEED KILLER [goto q23a]

  10. (20)

    Which of the following would you describe as your top TWO sources of information for yard management and the use of fertilizers, weed killers, or bug killers?

    • <1> FAMILY MEMBERS

    • <2> RETAIL SALESPEOPLE (HARDWARE STORE, FOR EXAMPLE)

    • <3> BOOKS/MAGAZINES

    • <4> FROM PACKAGING MATERIALS INCLUDED WITH PRODUCT

    • <5> ADVERTIZEMENTS AND CIRCULARS FROM PRODUCT COMPANIES

    • <6> LAWN CARE PROVIDING COMPANY

    • <7> UNIVERSITY EXTENSION SERVICES

  11. (21)

    Does your city, township, municipal area, or neighborhood have any laws, covenants, or legislation that restricts lawn management or what can be applied to your lawn laws, covenants, or legislation that restricts your lawn care (like restrictions on chemicals or mowing height)?

    • <1> YES, THERE ARE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

    • <2> NO, THERE ARE NO REQUIREMENTS [go to q26a]

    • <3> DON’T KNOW

In thinking about the practices you use in taking care of your yard (whatever you do), what are your reasons and motivations for choosing the method you do? Answer the following in terms of their importance

  1. (22)

    Ease: my lawn care method is low in cost and meets my time constraints

    • <1> Very Unimportant

    • <2> Somewhat Unimportant

    • <3> Neither Important nor Unimportant

    • <4> Somewhat Important

    • <5> Very Important

  2. (23)

    Financial: my lawn care improves my property values

    • <1> Very Unimportant

    • <2> Somewhat Unimportant

    • <3> Neither Important nor Unimportant

    • <4> Somewhat Important

    • <5> Very Important

  3. (24)

    Community: my yard care results improve my neighborhood

    • <1> Very Unimportant

    • <2> Somewhat Unimportant

    • <3> Neither Important nor Unimportant

    • <4> Somewhat Important

    • <5> Very Important

  4. (25)

    Safety: my yard care method lowers the risk I face personally from chemicals and machinery

    • <1> Very Unimportant

    • <2> Somewhat Unimportant

    • <3> Neither Important nor Unimportant

    • <4> Somewhat Important

    • <5> Very Important

  5. (26)

    Ecology: my yard care method maintains a healthy ecosystem

    • <1> Very Unimportant

    • <2> Somewhat Unimportant

    • <3> Neither Important nor Unimportant

    • <4> Somewhat Important

    • <5> Very Important

  6. (27)

    What proportion of your entire yard, front and back, is covered by lawn grass?

    • <1> all of it

    • <2> more than half of it,

    • <3> about half of it,

    • <4> less than half of it, or

    • <5> none of it

  7. (28)

    Have you replaced a portion of your lawn with any other form of ground cover?

  • <1> YES

  • <0> NO

  1. (28a)

    If yes, what did you replace the grass with (Shrubs? Flowers? Etc)

Indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following

  1. (29)

    I keep my lawn rather than replacing it with another ground cover because it fits into the look of the neighborhood better than any alternative

    • <1> Agree

    • <2> Disagree

  2. (30)

    I keep my lawn rather than replacing it with another ground cover because it is too expensive to replace

    • <1> Agree

    • <2> Disagree

  3. (31)

    I keep my lawn rather than replacing it with another ground cover because it’s easier to care for than alternatives

    • <1> Agree

    • <2> Disagree

  4. (32)

    What is the source of water for your home?

    • <1> Municipal (City) water system

    • <2> Private well

    • <3> Other source

  5. (33)

    How would you describe the area where your home is located?

    • <1> Urban

    • <2> Suburban

    • <3> Small Town

    • <4> Rural

Survey Part THREE: Demographic

Before ending this interview I have a few questions to ask for statistical purposes.

  1. (34)

    What is your zip code?

  2. (35)

    Age?

  3. (36)

    Gender (m/f)?

  4. (37)

    Highest degree earned (circle one)

    1. (1)

      1-12 Years (no degree)

    2. (2)

      High School or GED

    3. (3)

      Associate’s Degree

    4. (4)

      Bachelors degree

    5. (5)

      Masters degree

    6. (6)

      Ph.D, M.D., etc.

  5. (38)

    If you have an advanced degree (Masters or Ph.D.), what is the field? _____________

  6. (39)

    Annual Household Income

    1. (1)

      <$10,000

    2. (2)

      $10,000-25,000

    3. (3)

      $25,001-40,000

    4. (4)

      $40,001-60,000

    5. (5)

      $60,001-80,000

    6. (6)

      >$80,000

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Blaine, T.W., Clayton, S., Robbins, P. et al. Homeowner Attitudes and Practices Towards Residential Landscape Management in Ohio, USA. Environmental Management 50, 257–271 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9874-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9874-x

Keywords

Navigation