A far better title for this would be “Going to Seed: The Sod Story of a Growing American Obsession.” But Smithsonian magazine beat me to that one so we’ll stick with lawn rangers.
Here is my attitude towards a nice lawn. If the grass grows, fine. If the grass doesn’t grow, not so fine but no one is going to die from it. This stance alone separates me from the legions of home owners who are, shall we say, a little nutso about their lawns. By a little nutso, I mean they care — deeply — about every blade of grass and the shade of green of every blade of grass and how much shade every shade of every blade of grass gets. Americans spend $29.1 billion a year on lawn care. I’m not making that up. I read it on Google so you know it has to be true. The more we wish for a thing to be true, the more we are willing to trust any outlandish thing Google says. I don’t especially want people to spend almost $30 million on lawn care but that figure does help me make my point, so I choose to believe it. I personally spend ten dollars a year on my lawn. I moved recently, from a house with a 3-acre yard to a house with 0.71 acres. This not only saves money, it frees up an enormous amount of time I can spend writing about how other people spend fortunes on their lawns. The $10 I spend goes towards putting gas in my mower. True, I did have to go buy a lawn mower but that messy little detail skews the numbers so I’m opting not to discuss it right now.
Also true is the fact that people who spend more than ten dollars have much nicer-looking lawns than I do. If it weren’t for crab grass I’m not sure I’d have any green at all in my yard so I certainly don’t want to kill it. My neighbor’s yard used to look a lot like mine. Then he hired a service and now his lawn is lush and green. His crab grass went away and something infinitely better took its place. I think he’s worried my lawn will creep into his lawn and bring him right back down to the level he was at a year ago. Short memories are terrible things.
If I’m guilty of going overboard on one thing in particular, it’s water usage. I once read a real book about this, not just on Google. Anything you can read in a real book carries much more gravitas than the ethereal Google. This book was full of dire facts about how much water is on the planet and how many people there are and how we are all just idiots for wasting so much of it. (I ignored, in saintly silence, the woman who replied to all this, “But we’ll get more water when it rains.”) The lasting impression the book made on me was to inspire me to squeeze every last drop out of every last gallon of water that came my way. If you took one look at my lawn in August, you would know I do not water my lawn. But, oh, the people who do. According to you-know-who, Americans lavish nine billion gallons of water A DAY on landscape watering. Thirty to 60% of all urban fresh water is used on lawns. And it’s all the fault of Joseph Lessler of Buffalo, New York who invented the lawn sprinkler. This was in 1871 so I’m guessing it was fairly low-tech. Lawn sprinkling is not necessarily low-tech any longer. My friend lives in Florida and she (sigh) sprinkles her lawn. Apparently, in Florida, it’s either that or live on sand. In any event, she has told me horror stories about programming her sprinkler. First of all, she has to climb up on her washing machine to reach the control box. There are zones and time on and time off and days on and days off, all of which information must be entered with the precision of refining yellow cake uranium or else part of your lawn turns to dust and you get that call from your HOA. In July in Florida, this can all transpire within hours. If her power goes out, she has to do it all over again. There is a battery back-up for her control box but a battery exposed to Florida humidity has an even shorter life expectancy than an un-watered lawn. And there’s a large green snake that lives behind the washing machine which makes some of the proceedings take on a very lively pace.
So, having survived being infected with Covid and being determined to practice gratitude more freely, this is what I have to say about my lawn now. I’m grateful it’s January and (1) everybody’s lawn looks pretty “sod” and (2) I don’t need to do anything about it for months.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.