The Futility of Lawns

“On mowing: ‘Grass always disappoints,'” by Moira Sheridan. The News Journal (Delaware), 7/7/2016.

Still looks good.

Moira, still looking good at Longwood Gardens.

I have known Moira for many years from when she first moved to Delaware, back when we were both young and good looking. She frequently swam at the indoor pool where I was lifeguarding. Her carrot top hair and cheerful personality lit up the natatorium like the sun coming from behind a cloud the minute she walked in.

Her hair is graying now.  She no longer swims at the pool, but she writes a gardening column for our local newspaper, and I sometimes see her at Longwood Gardens where she is on the staff as a tour guide.

I always read her column, but this one really grabbed my attention. She is absolutely right. Grass always disappoints. Always.

Someone once said his father advised him to never become a Cub’s fan.  He will only learn to accept failure as a normal outcome of any endevor.  I would advise my sons never to strive for a perfect lawn, for the same reason.

A lawn starts out so promising in May and June, full, lush, and green, but by July, it is already showing its age with weeds, brown spots, and slow growth. By August, the only consolation is that everyone else’s lawn looks just as bad. By September, it will recover a little, but just enough to restore hope for better results next year.  Regular watering through July and August would help, but I refuse to waste the world’s resources on such trivia.

I once complained to a friend who has his own lawn service business about the clover patches I was trying to kill. “What’s wrong with clover?” he asked. “Clover stays low and never needs cutting, it grows a white flower, and, best of all, it makes its own nitrogen. It’s better than grass on every count. Some people even buy clover seed for their lawn. Nature never intended large areas of a single crop. Stop fighting it.”

I’m sure Moira would agree. She describes in her article how she cuts her lawn infrequently and very high, high enough to clear sticks, hoses, and anything reasonably flat. She doesn’t mind if it looks shaggy, because all of our lawns eventually end up looking the same. “Grass,” she says, “no matter how often you reseed or resod—always disappoints.” Amen to that. Been there, done that, many times. I kid you not.

Years ago, Chinese friends moved to Fox Chase, outside of Philadelphia, from Japan. Both husband and wife are twice doctors having both PhD and MD degrees and were working in cancer research, but I had to explain to them America’s obsession with grass. No matter what their accomplishments, their neighbors would judge them primarily on the appearance of their lawn. Even as I was explaining it, I was thinking how stupid it sounded. Eventually, they moved to a community in northern New Jersey where everyone’s lawn is maintained by the civic association. I knew I would see them less, but I was happy for them to be living in a more suitable location.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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