Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener

Let’s talk about grass. Really. I spend up to five or six hours a month on the lawn mower and I’m only the second string grass cutter in this house. My time is mostly spent in the pasture as the ponies just cannot keep up this time of year. Anyway, as I go around and around and ponder how major league ballparks get those amazing patterns in their grass, I also think about the lawns I run past that have the little warning signs sticking up saying this lawn has recently had a treatment of some kind – a chemical treatment. It’s kind of sad that any lawn wouldn’t be safe for your children to roll around on, but beyond that it’s really not so great for your lawn.

Here’s what happens when you start treating your lawn with chemicals – you can’t stop. Because if you do, your chemically dependent grass will not grow. It becomes like an addict and without its regular dose of chemicals it will wither up and die. I’m not kidding. How do you think all those companies stay in business? They get you hooked and then if you decide maybe you don’t want to do the chemical thing anymore and you stop, the grass has become so weak on it’s own it struggles and you run to your phone because the grass looked so much better when you were paying someone lots of money to dump toxic chemicals on it. Like lots of bad habits, once you start it’s really hard to stop. The biodiversity in your lawn is also destroyed so that all your little grass leaves look exactly alike – whichever brand of grass looks prettiest and grows uniformly. A few years ago we had a terrible drought around here and just about everyone’s lawn withered up and turned brown all over. Not ours. Since we have never taken offense at a few weed-like shapes amongst our grass, the hardiest breeds survived and kept our grass greener than brown.

Want to know why else you shouldn’t be treating your grass with chemical fertilizers and weed killers? Because it’s only good for the grass – it’s not good for the air, the soil, the water supply, the pets, or the children. Just how badly do you need that perfectly green lawn? Try some natural compost or fertilizer. There are lots of them out there and more companies are developing them every day as people are getting smarter and saner about caring for their lawns. Gardens Alive is a company that has been doing this for awhile and has a very educational catalog. We’ve used many of their products and never been disappointed. You can see their products and order a catalog of your own at If you’re ready to kick the chemically habit their website is a great place to start, but there’s lot of other information online.

Nematodes are another great addition for your grass. I’m not clear on exactly what they are. I thought they were a fungus, but a quick web search turned up this statement: “Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth,” so maybe their more than a fungus. Anyway, they’re sold by the million, so whatever they are they’re really small. The kind we bought looked like powder and you simply mixed them with water and sprayed it on the grass. We applied them to combat Japanese beetles, which they’ve done beautifully. What they do is kill the grubs before they become beetles. The catalog also says they attack nearly every type of soil-dwelling garden pest, so maybe we’ve eliminated other problems too. I like them because they’re naturally occurring, they don’t effect the health of my soil, and the effect they have lasts all year and beyond. Simple chemical free solution.

Oh! But here’s what I really wanted to say - DON’T BAG YOUR GRASS CLIPPINGS! Seriously. Don’t do it. The clippings are wonderful mulch and fertilizer for your grass and will help protect and promote its health. I don’t understand why anyone would pick up the clippings – it’s a bother to do it in the first place and in the second place it’s not good for your grass. So you track some grass in the house – big deal. Leave the clippings where they lie. But if you must collect your clippings because you have some kind of compulsive disorder (or your spouse does), please, please, please don’t pack them in plastic bags and send them to the land fill. Grass clippings are great fertilizer, mulch, and can be composted. Find a use for them or pawn them off on your organic neighbors (unless you chemically treat your grass which isn’t good either – see above).

Another suggestion – try not to cut your grass so often. Lawn mowers are not good for the environment, plus how much fun is it anyway? Maybe I only think it isn’t fun because I’m a woman. Men seem to get a kick out of mowing the lawn. I believe my husband likes to cut the grass as his own quiet time (which is kind of ironic since the noise of the mower could be making him even more hard of hearing). Still, I would suggest that you cut it as short as you can and then let it go for awhile. This time of year we get away with cutting only every 10-14 days. There are earthier people than me who would say the best thing to do is let your grass go. Cultivate a natural look. I’m not ready for that. I dislike ticks and wet socks too much. I’ll keep cutting, but someday I might get there, who knows. In the meantime I will keep claiming more and more of our lawn for my gardens.

I know there were a few other points I wanted to make about grass. I think of these things while I’m mowing and never have a notepad with me on the mower, so I’m sure there’s more things I want to rant about but they’ll have to wait for a later post. It still hasn’t rained in our neck of the woods, so I might be able to skip the mowing altogether this weekend. Which is good because I’ve got better things to do - like hit the Book Bonanza.
If you live in the York area, don’t miss the Book Nook Bonanza at Suburban Middle School– best used book sale all year this Friday and Saturday. Bring your bags and wear comfortable shoes because you could be there for hours. It’s huge.


  1. Organic products are essentially earth-friendly, sustainable and natural, not only in its entity but in production mode. Which makes safer and healthier.

  2. I have a neighbor that cuts his lawn 2x a week.. I swear it's his own way of getting alone time. So sad.