Experiments in lawn maintenance…

About a year ago I made the decision to stop hammering the front lawn with weed killer, fertilizer, and most of the other treatment products I had been using to keep it golf course green. The studies showing that chemical treatment for lawns is a large contributor to bee and insect die off and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake are sufficient to convince me that I could tolerate a slightly less lush look out front in exchange for not contributing unnecessarily to those issues.

I can report now that the yard definitely looks different than it did a year ago. It’s still surprisingly green, though that’s in part due to favorable sun/shade conditions and soil that holds moisture like a sponge. From the street it still looks remarkable “lawn” like – although closer inspection will show it is increasingly going over to clover with a strong presence of dandelions and other groundcover weeds mixed in during the early part of the growing season.

I’m still mowing once a week, which seems to be enough to keep the faux-lawn looking neat and tidy enough to not give off the appearance of having given up on the idea of yard maintenance. I’m helped significantly by the looks of next house up the road, the owner of which apparently does not believe in any kind of lawn care than can’t be achieved with a 42-inch riding mower. The unsurprising result is a landscape edged all over with tall weeds and “missed” patches. I’m a little surprised the HOA is letting him get away with that, really, but it provides ideal cover for launching my own experiments in lawn maintenance so I don’t complain.

I grew up in a house with a plain, old yard and it wasn’t until my adventures in west Tennessee suburbia, with our houses packed in elbow to asshole that I started to develop an obsession with a pure, emerald green lawn… ironic, perhaps, because the Bermuda grass faded to dormant brown three months out of every year.

Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve come full circle with what elements of the landscape I choose to care about. I’ve gone from craving a proper lawn to enjoying a yard again. It’s straight bonus points that I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of bees and other pollinators I see going about their business on the property. It’s a small win, but one that both the science and I agree is worth having… now if I can just gin up the time and money to rework two large front planting beds with something the local deer are less apt to eat, we’ll be making actual progress.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Policy. As a young intern many years ago I cut my teeth as a policy guy. I know how to read them, how to write them, and how to interpret them to mean pretty much anything I want them to mean. That’s why I always enjoy it when someone decides to try “selling” me on the virtues of one particular policy or another. It’s pretty easy to spot a blatantly one sided policy when I read it and no amount of talking around it is going to convince me that it’s really a good thing or beneficial to me in any meaningful way. Conveniently, I don’t have to like it or even agree with it, I just have to comply it… and I’ve been doing that for years.

2. Roadside Produce. When it comes to fresh produce from the roadside there’s a fine line between perfectly ripe and apt to go bad somewhere between the point of purchase and the time I get it home. As much as I appreciate the three cantaloupes for $5 deal you’re making me, I’d appreciate it more if the bottom half of your melons weren’t, you know, squishy. Same with the $10 a dozen ears of corn. While I appreciate a bargain as much as anyone, I’m not feeding an Amish family with this purchase, so how about sizing some deals that are more appropriate for meals involving fewer than 10 people?

3. Salad. In an effort to be slightly less heart attack prone, I’ve been eating a lot of salad over the last two years. In that time, I’ve really only noted one thing with any consistency – That no matter how many different kinds of dressing you have, at the end of the day you’re still eating a bowl of weeds. Sure, sometimes the weeds are topped with bacon or chicken or eggs or croutons, but regardless of what you add on, it’s all built on a foundation of weeds. I’ll get plenty excited over a well-cooked steak or even a barbeque chicken, but I just can’t seem to get myself revved up for salad any more. It seems to me that life is entirely too short to spend 1/3 of your meal times face to face with food that only tastes good when you slather it in 101 different toppings.