You might think going green when it comes to lawn care eliminates some tedious work for Glop and I. Not so. We still have to mow the lawn more often than we’d like. We still have to pull some weeds. More than that, we have to deal with what it looks like au naturel.
In the backyard, we have a barren strip of land I call “The Runway”:
Behind that is a lovely hill chock full of rocks hidden like land mines, just waiting to blow out the back of the mower and take out a shin. The rules here are strict: no beer allowed before firing up the mower.
In the front, we have a loose conglomeration of low-lying weeds that pass for a lawn – from a distance.
Every spring, I try to make peace with our lawn and accept it for who it is. But I can’t stop myself from obsessing about its look, just a little. The first year we lived here, we tried to grow clover, which is supposed to be self-fertilizing and more environmentally friendly than, say, Kentucky bluegrass. As you can see, it didn’t really like it here.
Last year, crabgrass was the über villain. We fought it off valiantly, if not successfully, with an expensive four-step organic treatment involving corn gluten. The timing of each application had to be precise, and that’s where we failed. Ab was a teething 18-mo-old with unpredictable sleep patterns; Sun was just embarking on her ferocious fours. A free minute couldn’t be found at any hour of the day, never mind one that coincided with the strict application of fertilizer. We gave it our best shot, but by August, crabgrass had staked its claim.
This year, we weren’t going to do anything. But then we cheated a little and applied Scotts Weed and Feed. I feel dirty just thinking about it.
Why do I want a lush, perfectly uniform carpet of green grass enveloping my domain? What compels me to go out and cut it every weekend and feel bad that it does not look like a storybook lawn? It tortures me that I cannot mow in symmetrical rows; I berate myself when I miss a patch. What is with all this lawn guilt?
According to a book I read recently, called “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn,” by Ted Steinberg, the lawn as we know it is a cultural phenomenon thrust upon us by Bill Levit (who built Levittown on Long Island) and perpetuated by corporations like Scotts. Maybe there is some truth in that. Based on the number of lawn trucks I’ve seen whizzing through our neighborhood, quite a lot of people are convinced by someone that a golf-course-like lawn is only one more toxic treatment away. Google “lawn care” and you get almost 41 million hits. The American front yard is a gold mine.
I’m waking up to the fact that the perfect lawn is an illusive dream, and I’m not going to take it any more. Really. I’m going to push back. I’m going to let my lawn go native. Take that Scotts! Yeah right. I can say that now because my lawn is looking really good after a week of rain and a nice hair cut. Let’s see if I can hang on to my convictions come next Saturday, when the dandelions are blooming and the kids are yet again playing in the mud of “The Runway.”