Sunday, June 24, 2007


(Something apolitical for Sunday: a garden essay. Well, as apolitical as I can be. The picture is of my ex-lawn last year. Heh.)

Gardeners fall neatly into two political parties: those who love lawns and those who see them as vacant space for more "real" gardening. I am a card-carrying member of the latter party. If I had my way, no lot would have a single non-ornamental blade of grass.

Given my political views, it should come as no surprise that I find lawn fanatics curious people. They spend time, money and water encouraging grass to grow. The minute it obeys, out comes the lawn mower. The process is then restarted. Lawn lovers continually fret over the turf and keep looking for solutions to improve it. It never seems to occur to them that cutting a plant's head off every seven days or so weakens it and may even cause it to lose the will to live. This is what creates most of the problems lawns experience: lawns don't want to be lawns; they want to be tall hayfields swaying in the wind, preferably with lots of other plants thrown in.

But lawn fanatics, and some city ordinances, don't let them fulfill this destiny. Not only is the natural process stunted but often the poor grass is expected to survive on infrequent high-calorie snacks of inorganic fertilizers. All dying vegetation (including grass clippings) is neatly removed so that the lawn never gets a decent meal. And when it throws in the towel, the lawn-obsessed turn to the myriad chemical remedies available in all garden centers. But none of them will work for long, for lawns are an aberration against nature; an aberration which may be successfully maintained in none but a few climatically favored (i.e. rainy) areas. Elsewhere keeping a lawn going is a task suited only to wealthy masochists.

Am I biased against lawns, you might ask. Of course. But I do admit that grass has its place in sports fields and perhaps also as a ground for sunbathing and picnicking; and if it required no upkeep it would even serve as a pleasant green frame for other plantings. I even admit that all gardening is an aberration against nature in that gardeners attempt to slow down nature's plans of making the garden into whatever ecoscape would take its place without human intervention.

But in most cases the natural process we tamper with would take longer than a few days, whereas a lawn unattended for a week's vacation is already well on its way to its natural destination. In fact, it sometimes seems that this is true for a lawn unattended for just an hour

This is my major objection to lawns. They require too large a chunk of gardening time in exchange for barely looking average. And I don't enjoy time spent caring for grass. Perhaps the lawn-obsessed do. If so, how come none of them has offered to take over the upkeep of my lawn?