Two lawn-related items of interest popped into my inbox this week – just in time for your weekend. If you have a suburban lot as I do, you know that lawns take time. The darn things grow and need mowing. The darn weeds grow much faster than the lawn. Because I don't like too many chemicals we are plagued with ground ivy and clover and crabgrass and things I don't know the name of. I have spent 20 years battling wild onions (the best solution I have found is to dig up the whole clump, dirt and all, even though it leaves the ground looking as if you'd been hit with some sort of miniature bombardment blitz). I'm afraid to jinx it but I think the dig it all out technique seems to have worked.
So I felt kinship with Ventura, Calif., City Manager Rick Cole, who decided "No Lawn!" Ventura is on the coast, northwest of Los Angeles, and it sounds as if grass isn't any easier to grow there than in Charlotte, where our summers are too hot for cold-weather grasses and our winters are too cold for hot-weather grasses. Cole writes a city manager's blog. Take a look. (As a wonk I confess to being as interested in the entries on California taxes as on lawns. Apparently the California state government is raiding municipalities' property tax revenues. Shhh. Don't tell the folks in Raleigh!)
And I laughed at this offering from Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, occasional correspondent as well as limerick writer. He can't trace the original authorship online. The first reference I saw on a Nexis.com search came in 1999 and it was being shared even then. It's possible I was the last American not to have read this.
The Lord and St. Francis
“Winterize your lawn” the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I’ve fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die anyway. Now I’m supposed to winterize it? I hope it’s too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest things we’ve come up with outside of thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four step chemical dependency.
Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:
“Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started aeons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles”.
“It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord, The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass.”
“Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?”
“Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.”
“The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.”
“Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.”
“They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?”
“Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.”
“They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?”
“No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.”
“Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?”
“You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.”
“What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.”
“You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away.”
“No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?”
“After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.”
“And where do they get this mulch?”
“They cut down trees and grind them up.”
“Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?”
“ 'Dumb and dumber,' Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about…”
“Never mind. I think I just heard the whole story.”