Letter From the Editor

Small Home Gazette, Spring 2010

Letter From the Editor: lawn care

Spring is here! You know what that means: leafy trees, lush lawns and exuberantly colored flowers. At last!

Of course, you know what else it means: months of weeding, mowing, watering and pruning. Why is it that beauty requires maintenance? Or does it? Some things, like the view across a Minnesota lake or a field of native prairie grasses look a lot better without human meddling. Could the same be true of bungalow yards?

Fair warning—I’m about to wade into the politically charged topic of how one’s yard should be kept. This is a minefield; one that raises the ire of newspaper columnists and pits neighbor against neighbor. If you don’t like raw typographic fistfights, look away now.

In this corner: Many of my neighbors who are of a certain age. They believe yards should be well tended, with a vengeance. This means a dense, expansive, preternaturally green lawn that is mowed religiously every five days, more often if there’s been rain or sprinkler use. There should be no weeds, which means herbicide, and lots of it. Each panel of grass, including those on the boulevard, should be edged with a mechanical edger, the use of which requires tan leather gloves and lots of sweating. Trees, shrubs and flowers are permitted as long as they are mercilessly disciplined. Again, no weeds. Decorative white gravel, plastic fawns, and “Protected by Electronic Security System” signs are optional. These homeowners believe the many hours required to keep a yard looking manicured maintains the public peace, as there’s no time to go drinking and gambling on weekends, much less weeknights. Any homeowner who strays from these guidelines is likely a lazy, hippie communist who votes Democratic no matter how goofy the candidate is.

2010SpringdandelionsAnd in this corner: Many of my neighbors who are of a certain—somewhat younger—age. They believe yard and lawn care is a lingering remnant of the patriarchal, materialistic, conformist past that has crushed the soul of entire generations. Spending more than an hour or two per month tending the yard eats into time that should be spent cultivating one’s spiritual life, doing community volunteer work, and feeling guilty about being a landowner. They believe that beauty is entirely subjective and culturally based. There’s no moral difference between a daffodil and a dandelion, so the two should be allowed to peacefully coexist, and even marry. These homeowners believe that creeping charlie makes an excellent groundcover that fills in bare spots in the yard, even if the neighbors threaten physical violence when, true to its nature, it creeps into their grass. Anyone who dares call these people’s yards “trashy” is an anal-retentive, talk radio dittohead who enjoys killing adorable woodland creatures with big guns.

So—which type am I? No, I’m not going to tell you. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you.
I think a lawn should look like a living thing, not Astroturf; therefore variations are acceptable. I think plastic lawn ornaments should be banned by law, except when they’re intended to be sweetly ironic, as in pink flamingoes and garden gnomes. I think one should have a life in the community well beyond one’s house and yard, but I also think a city is not the same as untamed nature. Order must be imposed to create a city, and it follows that yards and lawns should be shaped and tended. I’m not gonna freak out over the occasional dandelion or clump of wild violets in the grass. Creeping charlie, however, is an embodiment of evil and should be wiped from the face of the earth. I think it’s a great idea to till up part of your lawn to plant native shrubs and wildflowers. But if you do, for heaven’s sake, weed around them, trim them and contain them. Otherwise it looks far worse than anything nature would come up with.

There. Conflict resolved.