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Annual Ritual: Destroying The World For Lush Green Lawns

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This is not my lawn. There are not enough noxious weeds in this photo.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

This past weekend I participated in an annual spring ritual I’m sure occurs all across America. I dumped a crapload of chemicals on my lawn in the futile attempt to make it look better. My lawn isn’t very nice because I fail at the most basic requirement of lawn care - the key being “care.” In the 25 years I’ve lived here, I have only rarely done the chemical dumping routine. I have performed minimal lawn maintenance. I mow. That’s about it.

My lawn is full of weeds. It is a horrible lawn by most standards of affluent suburbia. I live in an affluent suburb, Chaska Minnesota. The neighborhood in which I live in is a great neighborhood. We’re not at the upper end of neighborhoods in our piece of suburbia or I would be forced to do a better job taking care of my lawn. This is one of the reasons I don’t bother moving up, which means getting a better and larger house. Other reasons include not wanting to pay more for a mortgage and not having a bigger house to take care nor fill with junk I don’t need.

I refuse to pay a lawn service to come in and dump chemicals on my lawn because I am cheap and I haven’t seen very good results at my neighbors who use the services. One of my neighbors fired their lawn service last year for destroying their lawn. Lawn care guys will stop by my house every year to try to sell me on their service. They point at my lawn and how awful it looks.

“I don’t care,” I say.

I might as well have said that I hate puppies or kittens or that I was the kid in kindergarten who ate the glue because I have to tell them repeatedly “No” and “I don’t care” in increasing volumes until finally I am screaming profanities at them in an effort to get them to leave. (No, I don’t yell “Get off my lawn” because it would give them an excuse to respond with “THIS ISN’T A LAWN” and then escalate further instead of leaving me in peace.)

My neighbors thoroughly enjoy scenes like this, much like when I tried to kill myself with a habanero pepper.

I have started using more chemicals recently in an effort to keep weeds under some level of control and to keep lawn care services from stopping by. If there’s anyone who’s going to ruin my yard, it will be me.

The idea that we dump chemicals on our lawns to make them look nice bothers me every single time I do it.

It reminds me that we, as humans, have this need to consistently blame things other than ourselves for the problems in the world around us. This relates to lawn care because every spring or summer we see articles about how the lakes and rivers are being polluted by the farmers because of the chemical runoff from their fields. The vast majority of these articles never mention the massive amounts of chemicals that we as suburbanites dump on our lawns, not to grow food, but so that we have lush lawns we can show off to our neighbors.

No, we blame the farmers. They’re far away. Most of us don’t personally know farmers anymore. This makes them easy targets. If we took an honest look at ourselves and our contribution to the chemical runoff problem, we would be forced to make changes.

First, we would start by planting low maintenance grasses instead of the mostly Kentucky Bluegrass that we have now. Years ago cities thought it would be nice if they planted high-maintenance grass along the highways because that would make cities more beautiful. What they discovered was that this was a high maintenance solution. It required water. It required fertilizer. It needed regular mowing. Cities now realize that it’s much less expensive to go with natural grasses.

Here’s what happened this year while I performed the annual ritual of chemical dumping.

I took a half-used bag and used it on the front part of my lawn. It was dry and spread properly and efficiently. I took another half-bag of entirely different fertilizer for the backyard. It was damp and sticky. I tried it anyway. I tried it because I am cheap and because I didn’t want to just go buy another bag of chemicals. It didn’t spread. Instead of dumping it out and getting a bag that might spread adequately, I grabbed handfuls and slung it across my yard. I set my fingers to spread at number five which is the correct setting for a Scott’s fertilizer spreader. I’m pretty sure I got it evenly spread. If I didn’t, it’ll probably kill part of my lawn.

When I was done with the gooey, sticky mess of leftover fertilizer that was in the spreader, I took near the street and washed it out. The fertilizer went down the road and into a drain. Away from me. I don’t know where that goes. I don’t really care much either. I’m sure it’s cleaned up before it gets into a lake… right?

If I kill part of my lawn, I would have an excuse to try some natural grass seed, like a fescue. You don’t need to mow. You don’t need to water. You don’t need to use fertilizer. That’s what they say. This sounds like a perfect solution to a lawn. I can feel superior to everyone by doing my part in not destroying the world while at the same time being two of my favorite things; cheap and lazy.

I’d like to point out that none of my neighbors have ever come to me and said, “Jon, your crappy lawn is hurting our house values,” so the lawn can’t be THAT bad. One of my neighbors just sold his house. He said nothing about my yard.

I have been asked if I beat my wife. When I ask why they might think this, they point out all the screaming and profanities coming through the windows on fall Saturdays.

“I am a Nebraska football fan,” I say.

“Oh,” they say, look at the ground, and walk away.

I saw an article the other day in the BBC (yes, I read the BBC) regarding an Oxford professor who blames the rich for global warming. They fly around. They have lavish lifestyles. They consume too much. They must be controlled.

They’re far away. We don’t know them. They are easy targets, much like farmers and the ultimate bogeymen, oil companies. We could find the four people in the world who are wealthy farmers that own tons of oil stocks, kill them, and save the world from their evil machinations.

Every time I think about re-planting with low-maintenance grass, I have a dream about a young boy holding out an empty bowl with a pleading look on his face and a tear running down his cheek.

He is the son of a man who used to work for Scotts, the company that makes Turf Builder. His father has been laid off, and he is now starving because I refused to buy any more lawn fertilizer. He’s standing next to another young boy, the son of a man who used to work for Toro, the lawn mower company.

They look at me, and together they say, “We’re starving because you’re a communist. You don’t want to be American. Americans consume, and because they consume we get to eat.” I wake up shaking. There’s a lot of things I don’t mind being, but a Communist is not one of them.

I am forced to chose between being a Communist and helping destroy the world, all over lawn care. Why is life so compicated? No one prepared me for this. I blame my parents, who are in another category of people easy to blame as they are both dead.

I finished last Sunday by watching TV. I saw some news. I realized that the people in Washington, DC are responsible for all the bad things in the world. Or it could be that they’re just far away. And I don’t know any of them, but I don’t tell anyone else that.

They might start complaining about my lawn.


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