|summer lawn by Rachel Pasch|
Picture a typical summer and what comes to mind? The beach, surely. Ice cream cones and bike rides, perhaps. For the 80% of Americans who have a lawn, summer just isn't summer without a fantastic living green carpet to enjoy it on.
What's the deal with Americans and their lawns anyway? I mean on one hand, I get it. I'm as enamored with the idea of treating my tootsies to a walk across a cool, soft, perfectly manicured lawn as anyone. Or I was, at least, until I understood how much work goes into them.
There's the constant mowing, the twice-yearly (or more) fertilizing, applying pesticides to kill weeds, edging, weed-wacking, aerating, de-thatching. I didn't even know most of these were things existed before becoming a homeowner.
Collectively, we use 90 million pounds of fertilizer and 78 million pounds of pesticides on our grass, not to mention all the watering we do to avoid the shame of having a brown lawn in say, July. Horrors. Let's not even mention the absurdity of all the water wasted watering lawns planted in desert communities, because that's just beyond stupid. With our present environmental woes, you would think we'd have moved on to something else by now.
But it's not just the upkeep these non-native monolithic monocultures require that really gets me. It's that everyone is so darn obsessed with the idea of the perfect lawn that it's practically a competitive sport. Neighbors try different lawn care regimes to see whose can be the greenest and most lush. Let your grass grow too long? Too weedy? Shameful! A lackluster lawn is one of the worst embarrassments to my grandparents' and even parents' generation. My grandmother got sunstroke once because the lawn needed mowed and she simply couldn't wait for someone else to get to it. So she mowed midday, despite the fact that she was over 80 and it was in the 90s out with air quality index warnings. Heck, if you let the grass get really out of hand, you could receive a fine from your homeowners' association or a citation from your friendly local government.
During my marathon landscaping session Memorial Day weekend a neighbor from down the street stopped to commiserate with me about the state of my neighbors' lawn. They let it grow a good 8-12 inches long, so even I agreed it was looking pretty bad. But on the list of things we have to worry about, should the neighbors' lawn even get a mention?
I'm hardly the poster child for a great lawn. I fertilized the lawn exactly twice in the 10 years I've lived here. I applied corn gluten to try and kill the weeds just once. The grass regularly gets too long before we mow it and my parents used to scold me for it during every summer visit. It's just grass. I can't see postponing real plans to mow. Oh and the only times I've ever watered the lawn was when we planted grass seed. Our yard is proof that the grass can go dormant and live.
When is the last time you walked across the lawn barefoot anyway? Or played a game with the kids on it? For all the time that we spend primping our lawns, I don't see nearly as much time spent actually enjoying the darn thing. Which makes the whole thing even more ludicrous.
But despite my griping, I still don't know what the solution is. I'm not even close to ready to rip out all my grass and plant something else. In the long run that might save time, but can you imagine that project? Did I mention it took me 13 hours to get one little garden bed in good shape?
What about planting gardens instead? Um, I can't even keep up with weeding the three flower beds I do have. And while I may keep the lawn for now, I'd rather not add to its environmental sins by applying pesticides to the weed-filled backyard. So for now I seem destined to live in crappy, weed-filled lawn purgatory. Cause it kinds seems like you're dammed if you do or if you don't.
So what about you dear readers, are you pro- or anti-lawn? Has anyone ditched the grass for something more environmentally friendly?