Everything you need to know about my neighbors can be summed up in their daughter’s name for them: The Lawn Rangers. These people love taking care of their lawn. With two giant mowers so that each can share in the process, they mow, rake, sweep, feed, spray, and generally make the rest of us look bad. They cut on the diagonal. They hunt down every stray blade of grass that stubbornly escapes the whirring wide decks of their mowers. They trim. They mulch. Their lawn, of course, is gorgeous. It is at the receiving end of a lavish amount of attention and it shows. All this is just sour grapes because my lawn will never be featured in “Lawn Beautiful” or even “Lawn Adequate.” If there ever is a publication called “How Your Lawn Shouldn’t Look” mine will be their first cover story complete with “before” photos.
It’s the very futileness of it that gets me. You plant a lawn or import rolls of sod which are just the beginnings of other, more alarming, suspect activities. What’s wrong with dirt? Then the lawn is supposed to be fed and nurtured and taken care of. Fertilizer makes the grass grow thicker and greener and, I’m sure, faster. Allegedly fertilizer chokes out the weeds. This is just splitting hairs. Aren’t weeds green? From a distance don’t they sort of blend into the grass? The obvious solution is not to let anyone get too close a look at your lawn. All that feeding and nurturing means, of course, the grass has to be mowed more. It’s a vicious cycle thrust upon us by the people who sell lawn equipment. Which is a whole different topic.
In the good old days, meaning before I had a yard to look after, lawn equipment consisted of the following machines: lawn mower. This was an entirely serviceable machine with which a person could cut grass. An extremely up-scale model of that era would self-propel. It did not trim, it did not spin, it did not re-cut the debris into microscopic pieces to serve as cannibalistic food for the grass still standing. It mowed grass. Today, this is what the average home owner now has in her arsenal to fight the dreaded sight of pale grass not shorn to a uniform three and one half inches: 1. A lawn tractor or riding mower. Now that some yards are over an acre in size, no one begrudges anyone a rider. But these things are huge. And complex. And agile. And expensive. We once owned a mower that cost more than my first house. I am not making this up. 2. A trim mower. This is for those hard-to-reach spots. Many spots are hard to reach, making trimming a must for the fussy yard master. One immutable law of lawns is that the hotter the temperature, the more things need trimmed. This has no scientific proof but you know it’s true. 3. A weed whacker. What a delicious name. Weed whacker. This is used to trim the spots even the trim mower can’t reach. Sort of like the trickle-down theory of lawn maintenance.
To encourage the grass to grow in the first place, the owner needs 4. A spreader for lawn food. I’ve heard the term broadcast spreader and have seen all sorts of gadgets that whirl small shards of green stuff into the ravening maw of lawns. I don’t know the difference and obviously don’t own one or two or three. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen this. It happens. 5. Sprayers. Even the most well-attended lawn is capable of showing its independence by throwing up a patch of grass of the undesirable sort. This calls for chemical warfare and the sprayers are the deliverers of the WMD. 6. Tools and not the fun kind, either. All lawn tools have sharp metal at one end and long blister-inducing handles at the other. Hand-held trimmers are the exception here in that they’re short. Their use is reserved for those really tight spaces where even the zero-turn radius mower, the trim mower, and the weed whacker won’t reach.
There exists more gear, of course. Lawn sweepers and flower bed edgers and, finally, a shed to house all this largesse. The shed, naturally, comes with its own lawn.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.