I have a friend who’s a lawn guy. He’s a lot of things, but I think that’s the best way to describe him.
At first glance, his lawn looks like the turf of a major league baseball field, almost like a green carpet rolled from the street to the front step. There is not a blade of grass out of place, not a dead patch to speak of. It’s mowed in a completely symmetrical pattern of perfectly-uniform lines, with a mower that cost much more than my first car. He plants seed at certain times of the year, fertilizes, waters, and watches for “trouble patches” that are browner than the rest of the lawn, taking steps to fix them right away to keep them on par with the rest.
He even has a company come in every fall to prep the lawn for winter, doing something I think he called “dethatching” and other maintenance tasks, the names of which I didn’t understand and don’t remember. During a dry spell last month, he and his wife watered the lawn in shifts so that the planted lawn seed would take – now that’s commitment. These are the reasons his lawn is immaculate.
When he’s outside tending to it, neighbours will regularly stop and comment, and ask him how he keeps it so green and perfect. He jokes that the other husbands in the neighbourhood probably dread their wives asking questions and getting ideas, knowing how much work it will make for them.
Our lawn isn’t quite as picture-worthy. It’s a regular Cape Breton lawn – not an eyesore, by any means, just nothing from a magazine. My husband spends hours mowing and whipper-snipping and it’s always neat, but the green is courtesy of summer thunderstorms, not fancy seed.
We’re away quite a bit for baseball in the summer months when grass is at its grow-iest, so by the time we get back from a weekend-long tournament, it’s always pretty lush and in need of a good mow, front and back. The dandelions are alive and well (let’s be honest, they’re a miracle of modern horticulture with how fast they spout on any lawn), there are tiny purple and white flowers growing in spots, and usually a little patch of random mushrooms. It’s never like that for long, though; luckily I married someone who gets very irritated with an overgrown yard, so he’s on the ball to get it cut.
Despite his efforts, I don’t think our lawn is the envy of the neighbourhood or anything, though I like to think our landscaping – between the various shrubs and bushes, the flower beds I plant, and the flower baskets I buy – picks up any existing slack. I think it looks nice, so that’s all that matters, right?
Last month, though, having seen a picture of my friend’s lawn, I decided to do some reconnaissance work. I wanted to know how people keep their yards so plush; three-times-a-week sprinklers, fertilizer, weed-killer? Whatever their tactics, they were obviously doing something we weren’t.
Having done a bit of research, I came to find that a lot of the beautiful grass in the pictures I’ve seen, like a dirty blonde who goes platinum, isn’t natural. The growth and required maintenance is determined in large part by the geography, too, which explains why a lawn in Tempe, Arizona looks different than in Richmond County, Nova Scotia. But with the right amount of work and investment, we, too, could boast such landscaping extravagance, I was told.
Would we commit to such effort, though? Could we? Was the payoff worth it? In one word: no. Sure, a green lawn is like a bright, shiny medal of homeowner virtue, as inviting as a welcome mat. But the price, both in terms of money and upkeep, can be steep.
Grass like that demands a lot of water and a fair amount of fertilizer. Rain may be plentiful in the spring, but it’s hard to predict what summers are going to be like, and setting up an adequate sprinkler system or watering schedule seems like a lot of work, not to mention how wasteful it is from a water usage standpoint. I would have a hard time watering a lawn so it would be pretty, while listening to water conservation announcements on the radio.
I suspect I may never get over my lawn envy, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that a perfect expanse of grass just isn’t for us. The expense would be outrageous and the amount of work would be unthinkable. We’ll have to be content with a real, Cape Breton-green lawn, even if it’s not the greenest.