The great lawn care debate is heating up once again as mowing season arrives, Jennifer writes today.

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1 big thing: Lawn wars consume neighborhoods

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Lawns have become the latest front-line issue in neighborhoods across the country, Jennifer A. Kingson reports, as some Americans shell out to maintain lush greens while others forgo mowing and chemical treatments.

Why it matters: Environmental campaigns like "No Mow May," the "anti-lawn" movement, "Food Not Lawns" and "Climate Victory Gardens" are gaining steam — but prompting homeowner associations and other traditionalists to dig in their heels.

Driving the news: As spring gardening season begins, homeowners are wrestling with personal decisions about how to tackle lawn care: To mow or not to mow? Irrigate? Fertilize?

  • The "No Mow" and "Low Mow" campaigns aim to make yards more conducive to bees and butterflies — but you might face blowback from your neighbors if you try it out.
  • Homeowner associations have been clamping down on residents who let their lawns go brown or wild, even taking people to court over the state of their yards.

At the same time, Democratic lawmakers are taking the lead in passing regulations that prod people toward "green" lawn care.

  • California's landmark law banning the sale of new gas-powered mowers and leaf blowers takes effect next year. Other states and cities are following suit.
  • Towns that adopt "No Mow May" agree not to issue citations to homeowners who let their grass grow long.

State of play: Drip irrigation systems, organic herbicides and electric mowers are helping people of all political stripes shift toward more climate-conscious lawns.

  • Studies have shown that cutting the grass every two weeks (or less) is great for bees, which thrive on dandelions and clover.
  • But neighbors may complain about an unkempt or unsightly lawn, prompting some homeowners to put up signs explaining the "no mow" experiment.

What they're saying: "The more conservative someone is, the more staunchly they hold the belief that they need to hold a perfectly manicured green lawn," Emma Kriss of Green America, an environmental nonprofit, tells Axios.

  • Her organization has signed up 20,000 people to grow "Climate Victory Gardens," modeled after World War I- and II-era vegetable gardens.
  • "We do encourage people to grow food, or at the very least have a pollinator garden," Kriss said. "We encourage people to grow native plants. The main practices are not using those harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers."

The other side: Experts say that not mowing your lawn for a month or letting it go wild — which is what the anti-lawn movement largely espouses — can backfire.

  • Removing lawns entirely — which has happened in drought-ridden California — can lead to unstable soil and mudslides, says Cale Bigelow, a professor of turf science, horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University.
  • Neglecting a lawn can cause environmental problems too. "A few years after you stop feeding a lawn, you start to get more phosphorus runoff," Bigelow says.
  • As for letting your grass grow for a solid month? Good luck wielding the mower on June 1.

A better approach, Bigelow says, is the "turf trade" program in Salt Lake City, where residents can purchase a special mix of grasses — tall fescue and a bit of bluegrass — that are well suited to the region and need 30% less water than is typical.

  • Some experts also favor the "lazy lawnmower approach" — a happy medium between weekly trims and letting the yard run wild.

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2. AI music strikes chord — and discord

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI's arrival on the music scene is inspiring wildly diverging responses from stars and performers, Axios' Ina Fried reports, with some inviting the technology to share the stage and others preferring to remain a solo act.

Driving the news: A song with AI-generated vocals that sounded convincingly like Drake, "Heart on My Sleeve," recently became an overnight hit before being pulled down from several streaming services.

  • Grimes, meanwhile, has invited fans to create their own tracks using an AI version of her voice — and has even offered to split the royalties.
  • Composer and musician Holly Herndon has offered up Holly+, an AI version of herself.
  • Then there's singer-songwriter Dan Bern's number, "AI Songwriting App," which repeatedly hurls the F-word at said innovation.

The big picture: The music industry has often been at the forefront of intellectual property issues.

  • Yes, but: Existing rules can't help us navigate scenarios such as the recent Drake impersonation.

The big picture: The legal questions the music industry faces will soon emerge in a much wider range of cases, from video impersonations of celebrities to deepfakes of everyday individuals.

  • They will turn up in viral videos, phone messages that seem to be from relatives in distress, and other cases we can't yet imagine.

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3. 🍔 Burger bot

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GIF: Alex Golden/Axios

Axios' Alex Golden recently ventured to Sam's Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to see the retailer's latest technological advancement: a burger-making robot.

How it works: The machine grinds up beef, cuts it into patties, cooks them, adds seasoning, dispenses sauces and plops the burger onto a bun.

  • Employees then add other toppings — although the goal is full automation.

Alex went with the California Classic, which comes with Thousand Island dressing, smoked cheddar cheese, pickles, tomatoes and onions on a brioche bun.

  • The verdict: The burger holds up, especially for $5 — it's juicy and flavorful.

What they're saying: The robot, developed by an internal Sam's Club innovation team called "Network 32," is a way for the company to experiment with new technologies, senior vice president and chief product officer Tim Simmons tells Axios.

What's next: The robot will keep flipping burgers in Fayetteville through June, but Sam's Club isn't planning to introduce it anywhere else just yet.

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4. The fall of late-night TV

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The shift toward streaming is claiming another legacy TV victim: Late-night television, Axios' Tim Baysinger writes.

What's happening: CBS aired the final episode of "The Late Late Show with James Corden" last week.

  • Rather than find a new host, the network is ending the 28-year-old show entirely.
  • In its place will be a significantly cheaper-to-produce game show, a source with knowledge of the plans tells Axios.

The intrigue: Corden is the second late-night host to voluntarily leave within the last six months without a replacement.

The big picture: Late-night TV is expensive — with the top hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon making north of $15 million per year — and social media has dramatically changed how viewers watch them, choosing online clips the next morning over live viewing.

  • The genre's fading relevance is making what was a plum TV gig less glitzy for hosts — and the high costs are putting a brake on salaries.
  • Plus, across the top six late-night programs, ad revenue is down more than 50% since 2014, and more than 60% from its peak in 2016.

Yes, but: The three top late-night hosts on broadcast TV — Colbert, Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel — aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

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Big thanks to What's Next copy editor Amy Stern.

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