Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just Say NO to Grass!

I am opposed to grass. I refer here to Kentucky Blue, not maryjane (though, being a prude, I am also opposed to that). I should clarify that my dislike of the lawn is confined to my own; I harbor no ill-will toward the neighbors’ patches of green.

It appears that I am not alone in my anathema. A google search of “why lawns are bad” produces more than 16 million sites. Most of these object to the lawn’s negative environmental impact: they require unconscionable amounts of watering; the chemicals needed to produce a lush look leech into the aquifer and poison the planet; the toxic fumes from the equipment used to manicure them will eventually kill us all.

I don’t care about any of this, much. The reasons for my own distaste are as follows:
1) The relentless stretch of green (or in the case of our lawn, patchy brown) bores me;
2) I hate wasting time mowing, when I could be tending my perennial bed;
3) I hate starting mowers.
4) I hate mowers that don’t start (a chronic seasonal problem for us).
5) I hate the sight of my 83-year-old mother weeping because the mower doesn’t start, even though she just paid the neighbor boy $50 to fix it.

To escape all this animosity, which can’t be good for my blood pressure, I have a grand plan that involves systematically ridding the property of every blade of grass, and replacing it all with lovely flowers and ornamental groundcovers.

My mother is not on board. She declares her great love for a “lush carpet of velvet green.” The fatal flaw in her argument is that we have never HAD a lush carpet of green, and never will. When our home was constructed in 1960, my frugal father threw a few handfuls of grass seed over the existing sod and called it good enough. That set the standard of lawn care for the next half century. We do not aerate. We do not feed. We don’t even water until we’re so deep in drought that the lawn has assumed the color and texture of the Colonel’s famous extra-crispy wings.

We also have a preponderance of trees (another natural enemy) that keep the lawn in a state of perpetual twilight, scar the surface with shallow roots and suck every drop of water out of the soil.

The result is a densely compacted expanse of turf that resembles a toddler’s ratty old security blanket left out in the elements. Patches of moss and swaths of crabcrass and dandelions compete for supremacy with areas of bare ground and the rare specimen of actual grass. As my nephew once remarked, “If you kill all the weeds, there won’t be any green left.” So yeah - our lawn sucks.

We have decided to compromise this year. My mother has been allotted the front yard, to fertilize and kill weeds and strew grass seed to her heart’s content. Every day she’s out with the manual dandelion remover, engaged in a fruitless battle to vanquish them. I have the backyard, where my perennial and bulb and annual beds are proliferating. Time will tell which of us is most satisfied at season’s end.

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