Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Mow or not to Mow

Taking a pass on grass


Hell, no, we won’t mow.

Carolyn J. Rose

   A few days ago a young woman came to the door selling lawn care services. Apparently, looking at the 
scraggly grass, exposed roots, clover, dandelions, moss, and bare patches in our yard, she  assumed we would jump at the chance for a lawn makeover.

  Not wanting to damage her self-esteem, I controlled my laughter and contained my comments. The fact is that our lawn looks the way it does because we made a conscious decision not to get involved in turf wars. You know what I mean, those escalating battles for the title of best lawn in the neighborhood, battles fought with fertilizers and weed killer, thatching machines, sprinklers, mowers, edging tools, seed, sod, and sand.

All we do is mow. And we do that just often enough to keep our neighbors from flipping us off.

It’s not that we don’t appreciate an emerald expanse of neatly clipped blades. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the scent of a freshly cut field. It’s not that we don’t relish the cool texture of grass between our toes.

We just don’t feel the need to be pawns in the lawn game.

We have friends who devote hours to tending their turf, pampering their plots, feeding their fescue. We know men who, at the sound of a lawnmower engine—no matter how distant—get an irresistible urge to fire up their own and cut a swath through the St. Augustine grass. We have neighbors who patrol the boundaries of their Bermuda grass each day on the lookout for molehills, litter, twigs, and leaves.

Not us.

My lack of involvement with grass was nurtured during my childhood in the Catskills. The soil on the land my father owned seemed to be at least 50% pebbles, stone, and rocks. Those who could afford it, trucked in topsoil. Others built up their vegetable and flower garden soil through years of composting. Seldom was that effort expended on a lawn. Rocks and bumps, we were told, made croquet more of a challenge and roots and sticker weeds lent an air of danger to a barefoot game of badminton.

Covered by snow for many months, lawns in the Catskills were hardy, but seldom robust. If you saw a smooth, weed-free, dark green lawn, you knew the person who lived there had bucks to blow. For my family, a lawn was more a place to park a few extra cars and a way to keep the encroaching woods at bay. And at this point in my life, I’m not going to buck tradition.


  1. Hi Carolyn,

    We had (they have recently moved away) neighbours like those you describe.

    First to mow the lawn after the winter, last to mow it before the winter!

    Their grass was cut to within an inch of its life, its edges were precision trimmed and it was kept fed and watered, not that it would have dared to become dry and brown during a heatwave summer!

    On the whole, over here in the UK, not only is 'An Englishman's Home Is His Castle' but that extends to his lawn and garden as well!

    Us, we bucked the trend and dug up all our lawn, laid it to slabs and gravel and the extent of our gardening is planting a few tubs for the season and sweeping up the leaves from the trees in the adjacent lane in the autumn.

    Now that's my kind of gardening ... and guess what? ... it is SILENT!


  2. I have to say that when we were in Scotland and England in September we saw many beautiful yards and gardens - some tiny because there had to be room to park the car right in front of the house and there wasn't a lot of space between houses. Some were quite creative and we saw plenty of containers tumbling with bright blooms.

  3. I agree with you. I always start a season with a good attitude, but something always happens that ruins it. One year skunks tore up my yard. This year mice chewed through the spark plug wire of my ride-on lawn mower. My lawn grows and mocks me while I wait for Amazon to deliver my new wire.
    My attitude, ruined for another season.
    Oh well, off to the beach.

  4. Boy, can I relate to this. For years my father honed the skill of not mowing the lawn until just before that critical moment when one of the neighbors would yell, "Hey, Jess! When in the hell are you going to mow your lawn!" Of course, you couldn't blame him too much. Our front lawn inclined steeply and he used one of those rusty old push mowers. The first thing he did when they moved into a houseboat was to push it over the edge.

  5. Ah, the mice-chewed-the-wires excuse. A time-honored way to get out of mowing.
    And those push mowers. My grandmother insisted that was all she needed because she didn't have much of a lawn beneath a grove of trees. Her grandchildren, who did the pushing, didn't agree, but knew better than to argue.

    1. Yes,and speaking as one of those grandchildren, she had an evergreen tree that dropped little tiny pine cones that were hard as rock. Those cones would stop that old manual cage mower dead in its tracks. The mower stopped, the grandchild didn't. That handle was right below the belt-line of the taller grandchildren (me.) . .Painful memory.