Grab your hedge clippers and don’t forget to feed your plastic flamingos! Joy and cohost Max are exploring the surprising history—and even more surprising legacy—of the American lawn.

The clean, green front lawn has been synonymous with the American Dream for decades, but…why do we like lawns so much?

A green-year-round carpet of grass takes a lot of water and other resources to maintain, and can pollute local ecosystems. How can we get the pleasant sanctuary of a traditional lawn without harming the environment?

Joy and Max climb a massive hill and find some donkeys, and lawnfluencer superstar Ry-Ry the Lawn Guy experiences a revelation. We hear from local wildlife, and environmental conservationist and tall-grass enthusiast Neil Diboll encourages us to let our lawn’s wild side come out to play. Naturally, the biggest question is: Will Joy construct the perfect topiary self-portrait?

Once you’ve gotten the grass stains out of your pants, see if you can put this First Things First in the correct order: Plastic lawn flamingoes, the gas-powered lawnmower, and AstroTurf. Also--what summer shoe is one of the oldest styles of footwear in the whole world? Didja Know has the deets!

Audio Transcript

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JOY: Oh, hey, Max, you're just in time.

MAX: Hey, Joy, is everything OK? I just saw you texted get here now, and I thought it was an emergency.

JOY: It is an emergency. You see that big, grassy hill over there?

MAX: Oh, you mean Grass Everest? Isn't that where a bunch of mountain climbers and a pack of donkeys got lost a couple of weeks ago?

JOY: Yeah, which is weird because it's literally just a hill in the middle of a park. Today, we're going to climb it.

MAX: Are you sure we can make it to the top? I mean, it's pretty steep.

JOY: I believe in us. We got to get going, I want to make sure we make it back in time for my butter sculpting class this afternoon.

MAX: OK, let's go!


JOY: Come on, Max, you can do it!

MAX: I'm trying! [PANTS] This grass is so dry, my shoes can't get a grip.

JOY: That's because it's been a dry summer. Just keep going!



MAX: Ah! The wind is blowing so hard my eyes are full of dust. We must be 15, no, 20 feet in the air.

JOY: Here, give me your hand!

MAX: I can't go on. Leave without me.

JOY: I'll never leave you, Max. You are my co-host. We will get to the top.

MAX: Wrap this rope around your waist, so we can stay together.

JOY: They will sing songs of our heroism. We will be a part of history.

MAX: We're almost there.

JOY: Just a few more steps. Ah! Take my hand!



We did it!


JOY: I can't believe it!


Whoo! Air five. Grass five. [GROANS]

MAX: It's so beautiful up here. I can see so much, like the spot where we started and the bench next to the spot where we started.

JOY: And, hey, it's the climbers and donkeys. They weren't lost. They're just having a really long picnic at the top. Hi, guys.


Wow, what a great view. OK, last one down's a rotten egg.

MAX: We climbed this whole hill just to roll down?

JOY: Yeppers! Whee!


Hello and welcome to Forever Ago, where we explore the before. I'm Joy Dolo, and this is Max. Today, we're talking about lawns, that stretch of grass in front of the typical American home. Max, here's a question. Do you have a lawn?

MAX: Kind of.

JOY: [CHUCKLES] What does that mean?

MAX: We live in the middle of the forest, so our lawn is more of a clearing in the woods. And it's really cool because we see all kinds of-- oh, like, plants and mushrooms and flowers.

JOY: So when you say a clearing, I'm seeing a forest, like Glacier National Park. Are you talking-- you live within trees and bushes and stuff?

MAX: Yeah, it's our big old patch of grass and then just super thick forest.

JOY: Do you get animals and stuff in your yard?

MAX: Oh, yeah, definitely. I saw a fox the other day.

JOY: [GASPS] Whoa!

MAX: Yeah, it was so cool.

JOY: OK, so you got trees, you got foxes. What's your favorite thing to do on your lawn?

MAX: I like to find just a nice, pretty spot and read a book.

JOY: Oh, yeah, that's really nice. Being in nature and checking out the words, that's what I call it, I'm 35.


You know, when you check out the words? When I was younger, we had-- I lived in these townhouses. And there was an area that was kind of what it sounds like your place looks like, where there was a creek and a bunch of trees and stuff.

And I used to go there all the time by myself. And I would just find a flat spot. And I would just lay there and look at clouds and look at cloud shapes and stuff. Have you ever done anything like that?

MAX: I love looking at clouds. Clouds are so pretty. I like the big ones that look like mountains.

JOY: Yeah, I like that, too. Those are so cool. So you probably can't mow your lawns. Do you hedge it? Do you clip it?

MAX: Well, we do actually mow it. My dad has one of those big mowers that you sit on.

JOY: Oh, yeah.

MAX: And we have to mow it every once in a while so it doesn't become a jungle.


MAX: But it sucks because whenever he does it, I have to go out and pick up all the sticks and get them off the lawn, so he doesn't roll over them.

JOY: Oh, boo. Max, what I need you to do is ask him next time, just be like let's switch, Dad. You pick up sticks. I'm going to drive this sucker.

[CHUCKLING] I'm going to drive it around these trees.

MAX: A lot of people in the US spend a lot of time and money keeping their lawn green, trimmed, and weed-free. But lawns weren't always a common part of American homes. The history of the American lawn has twists, turns, ups, downs.

JOY: Ooh, I'm excited. And grass, lots of grass, which is actually a huge family of plants that includes wheat, barley, bamboo, and corn. But your average lawn is usually planted with just a handful of different types, like ryegrass, bluegrass, or fe-- fe-- (SNEEZING) fescue.

MAX: Gesundheit.

JOY: No, no, fescue is a kind of grass.

MAX: Like this lawn right here in front of this blue house.

JOY: Wow, that's got to be the greenest, shortest, most geometrically precise lawn in the whole neighborhood. Look at those corners at the curb, so sharp. Whoever lives here must spend a ton of time on their lawn. Do you think they comb it? It looks like they comb it.

MAX: Yeah. And there's not a single dandelion or other weed in sight.


JOY: [YELPS] Sprinklers! I'm getting sprinkled!

MAX: That explains why this lawn is so green. But the hill we rolled down was brown and crispy.

JOY: Turning brown is a totally natural thing for grass to do. When it gets hot and dry in summer, some grass goes dormant. That's like taking a nap for plants. The roots are still alive, but the parts above the ground die back and turn brown.

MAX: Either way, keeping a grass lawn green and growing year-round isn't actually part of the plant's natural life cycle. Whoever this lawn belongs to uses a lot of water to keep it green.



RYAN: Yo, what's up my grass-onauts? It's your buddy, Ryan, a.k.a. Ry-Ry, the Lawn Guy. Back again with another installment of Lawn and Order.


Ay-oh! So sharpen your mower blades, pull up your socks, and get ready for some rad mowing tips. I'm going to show you how to lay down those perfect lawn lines. And buckle up mow-bros because we're going to have a lawn height throwdown.


Should your grass be 5/8 of an inch tall or 7/8? Let's take a poll. Oh, hey, I didn't see you there, my dudes. I love it when fans find me. Oh, you're here for an autograph? I mean an autograss.

JOY: Uh, no.

MAX: We don't know who you are.

JOY: We're-- we're actually trying to host our history podcast here. It's called Forever Ago. Maybe you've heard of it.

RYAN: Oh, um, no. Either way, I got to make this video. And you're blocking my shot. I'm a lawn-fluencer. And I can't let my subscribers down. You know what I mean, right?

MAX: A lawn-fluencer? So is this social media for lawns?

RYAN: Heck, yeah! I come from a long tradition of lawn-fluencers who turned lawnscaping into an art. Huh, it takes a lot of skill and technique. You've got your proper placement of garden gnomes.


Fertilizer formulas.


Dog poo awareness.


Your ideal shape of topiary.


JOY: Ooh, what's a topiary? Sounds fancy.

RYAN: Oh, it's the art of trimming bushes, hedges, and shrubs into delightful Shapes you can do an elaborate maze or an abstract shape or an animal or--

JOY: --or a life-sized self-portrait. Only a shrub could capture my true beauty. Max, write this down. I need to get some hedge trimmers and a ladder and also a hedge.

MAX: Trimmer, ladder, hedge, got it.

RYAN: Topiaries and other shapely plant features really popped off once people saw the gardens of Versailles. Now that is primo lawn content right there. [SIGHS]

JOY: Versailles? Wait, are you talking about the Versailles, the fancy French palace that Louis XIV lived in?


RYAN: Of course. That's the OG rock star lawn. It's the gold standard or the green standard.

Gorgeous avenues lined with trees, elaborate hedge mazes, colorful flowers, and beautiful, soft grass in perfectly manicured shapes. Not a single leaf or petal out of place. Those gardeners were peak lawn-fluencers.

JOY: That was 350 years ago, way before cars or phones or electricity and definitely before social media. How could someone be an influencer back then?

MAX: Yeah, especially because in those days regular people, who weren't kings and queens, usually didn't even have land of their own. And if they did, they used it to grow crops or keep animals, not to grow lawns.

RYAN: Sure, the grass is always greener on the extremely mega-wealthy side of the fence. But after Versailles was built, word spread. Soon, lots of other wealthy people in Europe and eventually America wanted to have their own luxury lawns.

People who owned lots of property started modeling their gardens after Versailles. They employed an army of gardeners to keep their lawns looking perfect. Mwah!


MOTHER: You-hoo, gardeners. Listen, I don't want to see a single blade of grass out of line. [SIGHS] Darling, I'm sorry I'm so terribly disagreeable today. You know how I feel about, ugh, messy grass. Could you imagine? Oh!

FATHER: Oh, I know, Pookie. And weeds. [SHUDDERS]

MOTHER: [GASPS] Please, not in front of the children.

CHILD: Mumsy, Father, did someone say weeds?

FATHER: No, no, poppet. Um, we said, um the plague. Yep, just talking about the plague. Nothing to be scared of here, darling. [CHUCKLES]

MOTHER: Oh, phew.

RYAN: So that's how a bunch of forward-thinking French people created the lawns we know and love and whisper sweet tender poems to when no one's looking.

JOY: What was that last part?

RYAN: Uh, nothing.

MAX: Yeah, but you just described how rich people copied other rich people. Most people back then weren't that rich. And they aren't today either. How did lawns become so common? You see them pretty much everywhere.

RYAN: Well, let me rake it down for you. [CHUCKLES] Rake, a little lawn humor. [CHUCKLES] Anyway, as cities grew in the 18th century, they became crowded, dirty places.

Ugh. And folks living in them needed somewhere to go to rest, relax, and play. So people started building parks in big cities.

Now everyone was getting to see how perfect a lawn is for picnics, reading a book on, or simply caressing gently while singing the chorus to Dolly Parton's 1974 hit song, "I Will Always Love You." Isn't that right, my little fescueties? You love when daddy sings, don't you?

(SINGING) And I will always love fescue.

MAX: Is this guy OK?

JOY: I've never seen someone make so much direct eye contact with grass before.

RYAN: Anyway, the public had grown fond of the lawn. [CHUCKLES] But for most, the green dream was out of reach. That is, until the GI Bill.

MAX: Oh, right. That was a law that passed in the 1940s that provided loans and housing to soldiers coming home from World War II.

RYAN: Yep. That's how my Grandpa Pete got this house. He fought in the war. Within 10 years of the GI Bill being passed, more than 4 million soldiers had purchased homes.

JOY: Not all soldiers were able to buy a house, though. Many of the new neighborhoods that were built for the new home buyers would only allow white families to move in. On top of that, some banks refused to loan money to Black people and other historically excluded groups. Lots of people forget this history, though, and remember the bill the way it was presented at the time, as a grassy path to the American dream.


ANNOUNCER: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important lawn bulletin. As we welcome our boys in uniform back home from overseas, President Roosevelt has signed into law the GI Bill, an act that will help them to purchase new homes. My fellow Americans, the suburbs are the place to be.


Neat little neighborhoods outside the city limits full of new American homes with clean-cut, American lawns. Yes, that smooth, green, grassy surface that says howdy, neighbors. I'm a hard-working, law-abiding American citizen. Make sure you're keeping up with the Joneses and the Smiths and the Robinsons by maintaining a lush, green lawn. That's the clean green of happy grass fortified with fertilizer and free from bugs thanks to the magic of pesticides.


Welcome to the suburbs, America.

JOY: After the war, factories that used to make bunkers or tanks started making parts for lots of identical little houses, all grouped together in neighborhoods.

RYAN: Abso-lawn-solutely. And all those new suburban houses had grassy yards to mimic the ones in wealthier neighborhoods. Lawns became symbols of success for these new suburbanites. If you had a landscaped green lawn all year round, well, that meant you had the free time to keep it that way.

MAX: Or money to pay someone else to take care of it.

RYAN: Sure, sure. But it wasn't all just hobby stuff. You know, some of these new neighborhoods actually had rules saying you had to keep your lawn looking lean and green. That's why my grandpa was always out working on his lawn every weekend.

He would mow it, water it, sprinkle it, put fertilizer on it, and watch for any no-good patches of crabgrass. Get out of here, you old crabgrass. He once even managed to keep it dandelion free for six straight summers! [SNIFFS]

You're a legend, pop-pop! [SIGHS] Oh, that reminds me. I've got to gas up the mower. Be right back.

JOY: Hey, Max, while Ryan's headed to the garden shed, how about we play a quick round of--


CHILDREN: First Things First!


JOY: This is the game where we try to guess the order of things that came in history. Today's items are the pink, lawn flamingo, AstroTurf, and the gas-powered lawn mower. So, Max, AstroTurf is a weird word. Could you describe it for us? Do you know what it is?

MAX: Yeah, I do. It's basically just fake grass. It looks like real grass, but, in my opinion, it's a little bit shinier.

JOY: Yeah.

MAX: And it feels kind of weird to touch.

JOY: They use it sometimes with sports arenas, too, just to give it that look like you're outside, but you're not. [CHUCKLES]

MAX: You don't have to keep on re-doing the grass every single time it gets ripped up.

JOY: Yeah, yeah. So, Max, which is oldest in your mind?

MAX: Oh, man, that's-- that's a tough one, actually.

JOY: I know.

MAX: I'm stuck between the pink, lawn flamingo and the gas-powered lawn mower just because I can't remember exactly when gas-powered stuff came about.

JOY: I know. Well, what do you think of when you think of gas-powered stuff?

MAX: Like gas stoves or-- oh, or like gas lamps.

JOY: Yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, totally. Gas lamps, gas stoves. All I can think about is camping when I have to have Mobil gas or something. [CHUCKLES] Like that was invented in 2000, I think. But, yeah, I think gas-powered things, that's definitely a clue.

MAX: Yeah, so I'm going to go with-- I'm going to go with gas-powered lawnmowers came first.

JOY: OK, gas-powered lawnmowers was first. And then-- so we have AstroTurf and pink, lawn flamingos.

MAX: I think pink, lawn flamingos. Just--


MAX: Ah! I don't know exactly why. Just because AstroTurf seems to be a much bigger thing now than it was earlier.

JOY: Yeah, yeah, in my brain, I can't quite pinpoint when AstroTurf came around, but, I mean, it's kind of like grass, so it must have been after grass was a thing. And then it was like-- you know what I mean?

MAX: Oh, you got a pretty big window of time there--


MAX: --between now and when grass was a thing.

JOY: Yeah, so either like 1902 to--


--to 2022. Somewhere in there.

MAX: So I think pink, lawn flamingos came next because those are fairly simple to make. And you see them a lot in 1960s and stuff.

JOY: Yeah, yeah, I think I remember seeing those. OK, so just to recap. We have gas-powered lawn mower, pink, lawn flamingos, and AstroTurf.

MAX: Yes.

JOY: And I'm going to say something to you that I say to people after I play Trivial Pursuit. Is that your final answer?

MAX: Oh, no.


You're-- you're-- trying to psych me out?

JOY: No, no, no. Well, a little bit, yeah. But it's OK. It's all right. Let's go with this.


MAX: I think it's correct. That is my final answer.

JOY: All right.

MAX: We'll get to the answers in just a bit.

JOY: One of our favorite things is when you send us your ideas for the show because history is everywhere, and the more you look, the more cool things you start to notice. So we're going to explore some topics picked by you, our listeners. It's time for Did You Know?


ANNOUNCER: Did You know that flip-flops are one of the oldest styles of footwear in the world? Archaeologists in Egypt found a pair that are over 3,000 years old. Flip-flops have also been worn in Japan for more than 2,000 years. They even invented a special kind of sock specifically to be worn with flip-flops.

These socks have a divider between the big toe and second toe, where the strap can fit snugly. Kind of like a mitten for the foot. The name flip-flop is onomatopoeia, which is when a word sounds like the sound it makes. When you walk, the back of the shoe slaps against your foot, making a flip-flop sound.


(RAPPING) I said a flip, a flop, the flippy, the flippy to the flip, flip, floppi. You don't flip the floppi, to the flip-flop boogie. Say the flip-flop boogie to the rhythm of the flip-flop.


JOY: Thanks so much to all our listeners for sending in suggestions.

MAX: And we'll be right back.


JOY: All right, Max, let's reveal which of our First Things First is actually the oldest.

MAX: Oh, man, I'm so ready.

JOY: Drum roll, please. Here we go. Oh, my goodness! Max, you were absolutely right--

MAX: What?

JOY: --on all three. Max, how fun!

MAX: No, way! I got it right?

JOY: You got it right. You got it--

MAX: I'm so cool.


MAX: Whoa!

JOY: You got it right, yeah. So gas-powered lawnmower, 1902 is when it was invented. And I said that date. Oh, my gosh, we're like in sync.

MAX: Oh, my gosh, you did!

JOY: Yeah.


JOY: So in 1902, a company called Ransoms made the first commercial lawn mower powered by an internal combustion gas engine. And before that, people would use steam-powered mowers, horse-drawn mowers, or push mowers themselves. [CHUCKLES]

MAX: Wow!

JOY: That sounds so hard. In 1969 someone patented the first robotic mower called MowBot. [CHUCKLES]

MAX: That's a cool name. I like that.

JOY: It's clever. It was battery-powered. Today, there are even solar-powered robot lawn mowers.

MAX: That's great.

JOY: You should tell your dad about that.

MAX: I should. He really likes solar power. We have solar panels on our roof, which is really nice.

JOY: Oh, that's pretty neat. So, yeah, so you were right. So next up was pink flamingos. Those were invented--

MAX: Heck, yeah.

JOY: Yeah, in 1957. American artist Donald Featherstone created the plastic, pink flamingo based on a photo he saw in National Geographic. At one point, he had 57 of his own plastic flamingos in his yard. I bet his neighbors loved that.


Featherstone and his wife, Nancy, dressed alike in matching outfits for over 35 years. They dressed like flamingos or just-- [LAUGHS]

MAX: Wow!

JOY: That's Interesting.

MAX: I mean, that's commitment, honestly.

JOY: Yeah, yeah, what an interesting guy. So AstroTurf, like you predicted, was the most recent in history. It was invented in 1967. The first artificial grass field was used at the Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island in 1964. But it wasn't AstroTurf. Back then it was called Chemgrass. Chemgrass.

MAX: Huh!

JOY: I feel like that's a punch line. The name AstroTurf came a few years later when the Houston Astros needed a field for the newly-built Astrodome Stadium. And grass couldn't grow in the stadium, so they used Chemgrass, which was soon dubbed AstroTurf. And the name was patented in 1967.

MAX: I like the name AstroTurf better.

JOY: Yeah. [CHUCKLES] You know, Chemgrass doesn't just roll off your tongue.

MAX: Yeah. Also, that was created way earlier than I thought.

JOY: Yeah, me too. Well, I mean you were kind of right with the flamingos because that was in the late '50s, early '60s. And then we get into AstroTurf. Those were invented 10 years apart from each other.

MAX: Yeah.

JOY: That's pretty interesting. I actually think the most interesting fact is that the Featherstones dressed alike.

MAX: I know. I want to see some pictures.


RYAN: OK. Got this baby g-- g-- g-- gassed up.


It's the "top of the line," Super Gas-O-Matic Lawn XXL. [ROARS] [CHUCKLES] Just got to mount my camera, hit record.


All right, get ready gas-tronauts. Oh, we're going a-mowing.

3, 4, 8, 4, 8.

JOY: Wait, do you guys hear that?

MAX: It's coming from over there. Down low.

JOY: Ryan, turn that thing off for a sec!

VOICE 1: More trees. More trees.

VOICE 2: No more lawn.

VOICE 3: More sewing--

VOICE 2: No more lawn

VOICE 3: --less mowing.

VOICE 1: More trees.

VOICE 3: Tweet, tweet.

MAX: It's an itty-bitty protest! Look, there are birds, bees, toads, bats, butterflies all holding little signs. What's going on little bee?

BEE: [BUZZES] We're the local branch of Animal Partners Protesting Lawncare Excessiveness. [BUZZES]

JOY: That spells A-P-P-L-E, Apple!

FROG: We love an acronym. [CROAKS]

But we don't like mockeries of nature. Let these plants go free. Let them grow tall like they want.

BIRD: Tweet, tweet, this grass is full of chemicals like weed killer and fertilizer. This early bird gets the worms, but that stuff makes the worms taste nasty and makes my stomach go chirpitty-chirp chunks.

FROG: I'm an amphibian with very sensitive skin. [CROAKS] And when it rains, the chemicals wash down into my favorite napping puddles in the bushes. And it hurts me.

BIRD: And when you humans use those, uh, those grass chopper things. Tweet, tweet.

JOY: Lawnmowers?

RYAN: It's actually called the Super Gas-O-Matic Lawn X--

BIRD: Yeah! Chirp! They're so loud! And they make the air dirty. It makes me want to go take a birdbath.

FROG: Most mowers use gasoline to run and they give off a ton of pollution. By some estimates, mowing for an hour makes as much pollution as driving a car 100 miles. Makes me feel like I might croak.

JOY: Gross! No wonder you critters are fired up.

RYAN: Look, little dudes, [SCOFFS] I get it. You're not lawn heads like me. Hey, different folks, different strokes, right? We all have our own tastes.

BEE: [BUZZES] Speaking of tastes, there aren't any native flowers in these yards for us bees and butterflies to slurp nectar from and pollinate, just one boring kind of grass. We need variety to thrive.

BIRD: And keeping lawns like this one green can take dozens of gallons a day-- a day! Tweet.

JOY: Wow, so like two bathtubs full. I mean, human bathtubs. Sorry, birdie.

MAX: I guess if we didn't have lawns, things would look pretty different, huh?

BIRD: Yeah! Before lawns, this area was full of lots of wild plants. It was a paradise for us animals. Can I get a tweet, tweet?

RYAN: But I got to have a lawn if I want to keep making content for my followers. Plus, it's part of who I am. I come from a long line of mow bros, like my dad and his dad. I can't just toss the turf, I'd be letting them down. Plus, what would go here instead, dirt? Nobody wants to see a pile of dirt.

JOY: [GASPS] Wait, I have an idea. My dude, what if I told you that you could do less work, make more content, and have an even more goo-rgeous front yard. Picture this.


Pops of color.


Irresistible textures.


Casual wildlife cameos.


A different tableau each season.



RYAN: I'm listening.

JOY: I'm going to give my buddy Neil Daboll a call.


He's the president of a plant nursery in Westfield, Wisconsin. And he knows a ton about yards and ecosystems. Hi, Neil, it's Joy!

Do you remember me? You don't? That's OK. Listen, I have someone here who needs your genius grass guidance. I'm going to put you on speaker, OK? OK.


OK, Neil. So why are lawns bad news for local plants and animals?

NEIL DIBOLL: Well, the problem with lawns, of course, is that not only are they high maintenance and relatively expensive, but they provide very little, if any, ecological services for wildlife, birds, butterflies, pollinators, et cetera. So if you are looking at creating a more sustainable, ecological, and interesting landscape, you can establish plants that are native to your region that will not only be much less maintenance, they will not require fertilizing. Hopefully, not require pesticides, like herbicides and fungicides and pesticides and insecticides, which kill all the good bugs.

RYAN: So Neil, my friend has been super into lawns for a long time, like a long time, and has built his entire brand around it. What could he do if he's interested in putting in some different kinds of plants instead of grass?

NEIL DIBOLL: Well, if you would like to reduce or eliminate your lawn, my opinion is that the optimal choice, in most cases, is to establish a landscape consisting of native plants. And why native plants? Well, there's a number of reasons why native plants are beneficial. Number one, if you use native plants that are adapted to your region, they are drought resistant-- assuming you pick the right plants to match your conditions.

RYAN: Wait, but-- but how do I know what kind of plants match my conditions? I mean, my friend's conditions.

NEIL DIBOLL: That's a great question. Almost every state has a native plant society. And you can just study online. You can just look at the native plants of your state and get lists of the plants and the plant communities in which they occur. So you can educate yourself about the best options for your specific growing conditions.

RYAN: So I'll be able to grow gorgeous plants and I won't have to mow and water every day? And I won't hurt any of these little critters here? That's awesome, but how do I tell all my fans about the change? I mean, is it really worth it?

NEIL DIBOLL: That is such an important question. And I tell people that when you embark on creating native landscapes, whether it's a small, little prairie garden that you cut a space out of your lawn, or if you install many acres of prairie on your property, working with native plants and native plant communities is a joint venture with nature. And it requires the human being to cede some control to nature. You are working with her.

JOY: So, Ryan, you'd be teaming up with mother nature. Think of it like a collab with the greatest gardener on earth.

RYAN: Wow, I like the sound of that.

MAX: That's amazing. Thanks, Neil!

JOY: OK, bye, Neil. See you at the Lavender Festival next week.


See, Ryan, you could do so many different things instead of trying to force grass to be green year-round. And there's definitely an audience for that sweet, sweet content.

MAX: Yeah, I follow a bunch of gardeners online. And they do some pretty amazing things with local plants, flowers, edible herbs, and stuff like that.

JOY: Check this out. This is Wild Grass Gal's account. She lives in Illinois and has a yard that she planted with the kinds of grasses and wildflowers that used to grow in the area back when it was an open prairie.

MAX: Ooh, and here's Desert Dog's page. This guy lives down in Arizona. Since it's so dry there, he planted cacti and other drought-tolerant stuff in his yard.

RYAN: Wowsers! They have so many followers! And the wildflowers really pop. And those cacti are dope. Maybe-- maybe I do need to rethink my brand.

MAX: Heck, yeah! And your Grandpa Pete would still be proud of you. It can be hard work to keep a garden healthy, even a native one, and you'll be doing good things for the planet.

BEE: [BUZZES] And if you plant flowers, we promise to keep them pollinated so they can come back year after year.

BIRD: And we birds and our bat and lizard friends can take care of any pesky bugs that try to chomp on your foliage.

FROG: I'll make sure your leafy greens are slug free. [CROAKS]

RYAN: Deal. You got it, little dudes.

BIRD: All right, let's pack it up, everybody. Tweet, tweet! We can do at least one more house before lunch. Come on! Tweet, tweet!



BIRD: Bird bye!


JOY: [SIGHS] Here we are back on top of Grass Everest. What an exciting afternoon.

MAX: Yeah, we learned people in Europe started the trend of having big, fancy lawns hundreds of years ago as a way to show off their money and status.

JOY: Then Americans started imitating that style, planting their own perfectly landscaped lawns. The trend really took off after World War II as more people moved to the suburbs and lawns became a symbol of success.

MAX: But most grass species aren't meant to be green all year round. It takes a lot of water, fertilizer, and work to keep our lawns looking perfect. And that's not good for the environment.

JOY: Instead of grass, wildflowers and other plants that grow naturally in your part of the country provide habitat and food for lots of wildlife, like bees and butterflies. And they're nice to look at.

MAX: You know what else is nice to look at?

JOY: What?

MAX: My dust trail as I beat you to the bottom. See you!

JOY: [GASPS] Oh, no, you don't! This roll race is on. Here I go. [YELLS]


RYAN: What up, homies? It's Ryan. Missed me? [CHUCKLES] I'm stepping out with a fresh new look. And it's going to blow your mind.


Oh! Let me be the first to tell you, working on your lawn is out. Mowing, [BLOWS RASPBERRY] fertilizing, [BLOWS RASPBERRY] watering [BLOWS RASPBERRIES]. Uh, I don't think so. Time to embrace the yard of the future, dawgs. [CHUCKLES] We got native plants, wildflowers, a rock garden for my little lizard pals. Yo, lizards!


RYAN: And the best part, since I'm not spending hours every day working on my lawn, I can create even more fresh, new content. Get ready for Ry-Ry's super-fly wildlife extravaganza!


Bees, butterflies, deer, foxes. You name it, we got it.


FROG: We're going to be famous.

BIRD: Tweet, tweet.

FROG: Hi, Mom.


JOY: This episode was written by Anna Goldfield, Sanden Totten, and Shahla Farzad. We had help from Molly Bloom, Nico Gonzales Wisler, Rosie Dupont, Ruby Guthrie, and Anna Weggel. Sound design by Rachel Breeze.

Theme music by Marc Sanchez. Beth Pearlman is our executive producer. We had engineering help from Erik Romani, Mike Baker, and Jess Berg. The executives in charge of APM Studios are Chandra Kavati, Joanne Griffith, and Alex Stafford. Special thanks to our own [? Wallace, ?] [? Lassie, ?] and [? Lulu. ?]

MAX: Have a topic that you really want to know the history of, send it to us at

JOY: Yeah, we're always looking for new suggestions for our Did You Know segment. We'll be back next week with a super cool episode on the history of women astronauts. See you next time, and thanks for listening.


Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.