Where the grass isn’t greener

Today I mowed my lawn for the first time in a long time. Not just the first time since last fall, but the first time in years, the first time since Zach was big enough to start mowing the lawn for us.

As I mowed, I asked myself if it was worth having a yard full of grass that had to be mowed, and wondering what the alternatives might be. My mother used to talk about how it would be better to have sheep (or was it goats?), as they wouldn’t pollute the air, they’d provide wool, and they’d even provide fertilizer for the garden. But of course livestock wasn’t allowed on residential property, and my father was stuck with mowing the lawn.

Residents of hot, dry places sometimes have rock gardens instead. If we lived in Phoenix that might be a reasonable option. But somehow I don’t think it would do much for our property value here. In the neighborhood where my uncle lived, in Hastings-on-Hudson (north of New York City), some people had yards filled with various kinds of plants but very little grass. I wondered if I could duplicate that, but I’m not much of a gardener. Probably mowing is easier than trying to replace grass with – well, I don’t even know exactly what.

A really nice-looking lawn takes even more time and money. When I walk the dog, I pass lawns that are lushly green, all trimmed to the same height. No weeds, no patches of grass that is darker green and growing faster than the rest. Not that I want a lawn like that. I kind of like the flowers that grow wild in our yard, even if right now a lot of them are dandelions. I don’t mind that in some patches of our front yard, the green is more from moss than grass.

I wonder why we have lawns, as much trouble as they are. According to this blog, it’s because Americans envied wealthy English landowners with their carefully landscaped gardens. And even so, it took The American Garden Club to really build up demand for green lawns.

Through contests and other forms of publicity, they convinced home owners that it was their civic duty to maintain a beautiful and healthy lawn. So effective was the club’s campaign that lawns were soon the accepted form of landscaping. The garden club further stipulated that the appropriate type of lawn was “a plot with a single type of grass with no intruding weeds, kept mown at a height of an inch and a half, uniformly green, and neatly edged.”

My lawn definitely does not meet their criteria. I have no idea how many types of grass I have, but weeds intrude all over the place, and the height varies because some sections grow faster than others (plus that moss never grows high at all). It was pretty green (except for the dandelions and the purple and white flowers) until I mowed today, but now the colors are lighter and less green. And it’s not neatly edged.

One good thing I can say about mowing, though, is that it made me get some exercise and spend some time outdoors. And for at least the next five weeks, until Zach gets home from college, I imagine I’ll be getting a weekly dose of it. (Though next time I might be smart enough not to wear sandals – I don’t have a green thumb but now I have green toes.)

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One Response to Where the grass isn’t greener

  1. modestypress says:

    We’ve had various lawns, none outstanding, since I was a child. I am somewhat allergic to grass seed, so when grass grew too high, I would have to rent a special mower for tall grass and suffer allergy attacks for hours afterwards.

    Here in the woods, we still have stretches of grass–little more than weeds–actually, but we are gradually replacing these areas with bits of “native landscaping,” though the word native is problematical. Anyway, I have not used a lawn mower since moving here five years ago.

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