It started just as an effort to get my yard ready for spring. Which includes the large tangled mess of grass and weeds known euphemistically as my lawn. I am 77 years old, and I mow it in two physically demanding half-hour sessions on two separate days every week with a self-propelled cordless electric mower. And as I do, I plot ways to reduce the amount of my corner townhouse lot that is occupied by green weeds and some actual grass. As I mow, I ask, what good is it doing? What good am I doing? Yes, the clover feeds bees, but like my neighbors, I keep mowing it down. (I did plant red clover in a garden bed, and am anxiously waiting for it to bloom). I have no fruit trees for them. I have a couple of spindly blueberry bushes that the birds enjoy, and six trees, five of which could host a few bird nests and some squirrels . No vegetable garden (neither forbidden nor encouraged by the HOA). Lots of flower beds that I carefully hand-weeded and mulched over the space of the last month, forsaking the use of Roundup as a chemical of uncertain properties that I do not wish to encounter. My brother the Vermont organic farmer says that it poses risks to human health.
My next door neighbor has a tiny yard and a green thumb and was lamenting not being able to raise vegetables when I saw the light. A space between my patio and hers, about 150 square feet, enough for some vegetables—and a piece of lawn that will no longer need mowing. Two gardeners to tend to the planting, weeding, and watering. I checked the sun to make sure every part of it was getting some sun during the day, and found someone to trim some lower branches on two trees to reduce the shade. So Monday is the appointed day to trim the trees, dig up the grass, and till the soil with organic topsoil and fertilizer. No chemicals allowed!
I know that lawn is useful for younger families with children who play there and for picnics, but in my retirement community I see none of that, just a lot of hired help showing up weekly to mow and spray a lawn that is not used for anything. Even dogs don’t get to play on the lawn, because they have to be on a leash. So the next step is to convert as much of my yard as I possibly can to smaller trees, bushes and shrubs that invite our birds and bees and butterflies to stick around. Butterfly bush. A few fruit trees. Every chunk of land converted to a different use means less grass to mow and to neglect. Mowing uses human and electric energy when I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint. Willful neglect means not using a variety of herbicides and pesticides to make my lawn look like part of a gold course.
As I embarked on this war, I have been more aware of other people’s lawns both in my retirement community and around the city as I drive by. Many of the homeowners have shrunk their lawns and expanded the other kinds of vegetation that makes their little corner of the world more inviting to the passers-by, as well safer and more supportive as to our neighbors the squirrels and the worms (good for the soil), the bees and the butterflies, the rabbits and the birds.
As my friend Mary Ann says, I have a WOG—War On Grass. Won’t you enlist in my army and join the battle?