I have been spending quite a bit of time lately worrying about my lawn. This may not seem like much of a revelation, given the importance of lawns and yards in so many people’s lives. But I am a child of the suburban 1970s, so when I rebelled, one of the things that I rebelled against was lawns — I can still hear “Pleasant Valley Sunday” in my head.
And, fortunately, I have not had to do much to or for lawns since then. I had landlords and roommates and all sorts of other people who were more than happy to mow, prune, trim and edge. I moved through life, in a part of the country where lawns rank with pro football in importance, happily ignorant of nitrogen ratios, blade height, and the difference between Bermuda and St. Augustine. And, to be honest, I have even listened to the radio weekend garden shows and gotten a smile out of the panic in so many callers’ voices.
So what has changed? Two years ago, I planted a pecan tree in my front yard, hoping it would grow and shade my house from summer’s afternoon sun. But it is barely hanging on, the result of an unseasonably wet fall and then an unseasonably dry winter. Too much rain, and then too little, are apparently not what new trees need. Experts have been consulted, specialists have been called in, and all they can do is shake their head and tell me to hope for the best. In fact, I’m looking at the tree as I write this, scraggly and barren on the top, and I’m wondering: What else can I do for the poor thing?
And, unbelievably, once I started paying attention to the tree, I started paying attention to the rest of the yard. What’s that bare patch? When do I need to water? I have even cut the grass, which was the first time since I lived in Houma, La., in 1981 that I have been behind a lawnmower.
What has happened to me?
“Well, for some people, their lawn is like an addiction,” says Ron Hall, who is about as expert in this subject as possible. He’s not only the owner of Ron’s Organics, one of the preeminent lawn care services in the neighborhood, but is a former Dallas firefighter. And anyone who knows firefighters knows how much they like to cut grass.
Seriously, Ron? An addiction? “I’m kind of joking,” he says, “but there are just a lot of people who like to have a perfectly manicured lawn.”
And he pointed out the tremendous amount of water we use to keep our lawns perfectly manicured, which has been in and out of the news for the past couple of years. East Texas legislators, who represent the part of the state where the city of Dallas wants to build two reservoirs, regularly rail against us for being water hogs who want to flood their forests. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, which is being sued by a North Texas district to get use of its water, we’ve been accused of trying to steal the water so we can water our sidewalks.
Well, I’m not quite that bad, as my yellowed grass at the height of summer will attest. And I’m not one of those who pays $1,000 to re-sod their yard with a new strain of grass, developed by Texas A&M to thrive in shade, and which Hall says is next big thing in lawn care. I won’t even spend that much on wine. Which, actually, does make me a feel a little better.
But, still, Ron, c’mon, what’s wrong with me? How did this happen? “Your lawn is your personal space,” he says. “You want to do with it what you want to do with it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Maybe. But why do I still feel so guilty every time I hear “Pleasant Valley Sunday”?
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