May 24, 2009 –Today’s Way: Okay, all you lawn people. Listen up. I know you know we’ve all been sold a bill of goods by the grass seed and weed chemical industry, but we’re intelligent individuals with the ability to think critically and independently, right? We know that the commercials for weed & feed products showing perfect, exquisitely trim and seductively luscious green carpets, sprawling before us and lit with a brilliant sunset is an impossible dream. They’re just setting us up for failure, with these unattainable ideas. I mean, those lawns are not real. We know better. And still, there we are, every other day from thaw to frost, going over our lawns with a fine tooth comb, nit-picking and assessing, armed with hazardous chemical spray guns, shooting anything resembling a dandelion and taking names later. We mow it. A lot. We water it. A lot. We fret over it. We fertilize it. We cover it with pesticides and herbicides, we trim it, we edge it and we look at it. But how much time do we actually spend enjoying it? We certainly can’t let the kids play on it, what with all the chemical heat it’s packing. Nevermind that there are no birds or natural wildlife to speak of, because they’re probably dead. But by-gum, there’s a lawn out there, and it’s green. And, um. Straight. And…green?
My question is, why are we Americans striving for a perfect lawn in the first place? Where in nature do we see anything resembling the ideal that we so mindlessly chase? Why, especially, are people who live in the desert, mind you, spending hundreds of dollars and wasting thousands of gallons of fresh drinking water just to have a perfect patch of green surrounding them? It’s silly, when you really sit down and think about it. And it’s also a big environmental problem. The mowers and all their polluting emissions, not to mention the constant noise. The chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which, yes, kill grubs but they also indiscriminately kill the beneficial butterflies and bees and birds as well. All of those chemicals have to go somewhere, and that’s directly into our ground water, our lakes, streams, rivers and, eventually, into the oceans. And for what? Where in the world did we get this impossible ideal in the first place?
It is believed that short grasses first came to be favored by early settlers due to their ability to see potential enemies from afar. Others believe it was the influence of the great British estates and their manicured lawns and gardens which well-to-do early Americans were attempting to mimic, and then the idea spread to the middle class and the working class and so on…and soon the sprawling green carpet of the estate was shrunk down and applied to every little postage stamp sized patch in the country. For whatever reason, we Americans have embraced the lawn, and all of the laborious maintenance that comes with it.
Well, I’m here to stand up and declare my freedom from the lawn. We’ve begun eliminating our grass, one island of garden at a time. We have the wildflower meadow area (which is just what popped up naturally when we stopped mowing on the Northern side of our property and it’s quite pretty), we have the woodland gardens with delicate native wild geranium, periwinkle and lily of the valley mingling with mushrooms, ferns and wild leeks. We have the shade garden, where columbines and bleeding hearts glow their brillant colors out from under the cool shelter of trees. We have the herb garden. We have the vegetable garden. And soon we’ll have more. Our goal is to eliminate as much lawn from our nearly two acres as possible, so that mowing will be a cinch (instead of a day-long project requiring a lawn tractor and several tall glasses of mint iced tea a couple of times per week). And instead of a lawn—which, let’s face it, is a greedy mistress who just takes and takes—we are surrounding ourselves with beauty and reaping the bounty, in the form of fresh cut flowers, cheerful color, brilliant butterflies, singing birds, leaping bunnies and graceful deer, not to mention fragrant herbs and the juiciest of fresh vegetables. Most importantly, we’ll no longer be slaves to the call of the machines—the buzz and roar of all those lawn mowers and trimmers and blowers that begins at dawn every weekend, and carried out by the weekend warriors. And my yard will be one less polluting patch in a greener (not grassier) world.
Care to come along?