04 May, 2008

Dandelions, Clover, and My First Lawnmower

Oh dear. My neighbor down the street is going to hate me. I watched him today out of the corner of my eye as I racked thatch. With weed tool in hand, he carefully scanned his yard for any interlopers, deftly pulling out offending dandelions and other noxious weeds by the roots and tossing them into a pile at the curb. His lawn is a verdant expanse of cool grass, interrupted only by carefully laid out flower beds, trees, and shrubs.

My own lawn, in turn, has been somewhat neglected over the years. It's more clover than grass, and hundreds upon hundreds of sunny dandelions and cat's ear dot the surface. I have no intention of trying to eradicate all the flowers, as I rather like dandelions.
(Dandelions are related to sunflowers, and I suspect that if they did not wither and wilt when you plucked them, they'd be held in high regard by gardeners.)

Another neighbor stopped by while I was working to introduce himself and to let me know he and his wife were delighted to see that we were investing time and energy into transforming the yard with new bushes and trees. (There really wasn't much in the way of landscaping before we moved in.) But then he bent down to poke the lawn with his finger, and sort of hopped up and down on it, proclaiming that it was choked with thatch (hence the springiness) and lacking in nitrogen (a veritable welcome mat for clover). I cheerfully told him I liked the clover, and kind of hoped it would turn out to be the white and pink clover of my childhood. He looked at me like I was crazy. But he's probably forgotten how wonderful it is to lie in the grass on a summer's day, plucking clover.

Still, as much as I like the idea of letting the lawn go wild, perhaps even scattering wildflower seeds here and there and letting it all return to a prairie-like state, I do concede that I live in an urban area. And so, I'll try very hard to keep the grass trimmed and I'll try to minimize the impact my dandelions have on my neighbors' lawns, perhaps by deheading them before they go to seed.

But I think lawns are kind of unnatural, and over the years I hope to reduce the actual grassy patches, increasing the space for flower beds and planting native greenery that won't hog water or demand lots of attention.

Still, for the moment, we do need to keep the grass cut. Now here's where I need to make a confession. Before today, I have never mowed a lawn. Yes, I'm 39 years old, and I had never, ever, in my entire life, had to cut the grass.

How'd that happen?

Well, when we were kids, the chore fell to my brother Ed, plain and simple. I had other tasks, mostly indoors. Ed's chore was to cut the grass. Then throughout my days as a renter, I was never held responsible for keeping the grass cut. That was the landlord's job. Later, living in a condo, the association hired a company to cut the grass (what a ripoff that was, too, at $50/week for five minutes of work).

So now, with The Box House, there's a fairly decent size lawn that needs a'trimming. It's small by most suburban or small-town standards, but for a city lot there's actually quite a bit of grass. Mom thought we should hire a service, but I'm cheap and said we could do it ourselves. Ted has mowed more than enough lawns over the years to be enthralled with cutting this one, and so the task has fallen to me. I'm actually a bit excited.

So this week, I bought a lawn mower. I feel so grown up. It's a Scott manual push mower (trying to minimize my carbon footprint and all). And so far, I love it. It's soooo incredibly easy to use, and contrary to any reservations I might have had, it's actually pretty lightweight. I got the entire yard done in about 20 minutes.

I do need a few other tools--edger, string trimmer, etc.--to really do a good job, but I think I might actually enjoy the chore of mowing a lawn.

Just don't ask me to take out all the dandelions.

EPA Factoid:
Lawn mower exhaust is full of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.s). An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found that approximately 9% of some types of air pollution nationwide comes from the small engines required to run lawn and garden equipment. In metropolitan areas, the concentration of lawns causes this number to increase in some instances to 33%.

I am not a lover of lawns. Rather would I see daisies in their thousands, ground ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated plantain with tall stems, and dandelions with splendid flowers and fairy down, than the too-well-tended lawn.
—W.H. Hudson, The Book of a Naturalist, 1919


Ethan@OneProjectCloser said...

I've often wondered about the manual push mower. Is your yard mostly flat? Is the mower tough to maneuver? I almost like mowing the lawn, as my mind can wander.

Jen said...

Joanne, I so totally agree!

I really just do not care for a "perfect lawn". It looks odd to me.

I like a few of the wild flowers that pop up and give you a sunny surprise. They make me happy and smile.

Grass is over rated.

Amalie said...

I agree with Jenni-- overly manicured lawns are a little weird in my book. I actually mowed the yard yesterday and I do rather enjoy the task. We've got a guy who keeps stopping by offering to do the yard and "make it look like a golf course" for $30 every 2 weeks. While the offer was tempting, like the house, I want to own the satisfaction of the job. Once I get a weed whacker, I'll be in goood shape.

And there's nothing wrong with clover-- it smells nice when you cut it.

Jennifer said...

I love our new pushmower, too! We have the Brill model.

When I was researching grass alternatives, White Clover was a very common suggestions... it doesn't need mowed more than twice a year, it is drought resistant, and foot traffic hardy. :) YOu could rip out the grass and sow the whole thing with clover!

Joanne said...

Ethan--We do have a slight rise to the yard, and some dips, but a lot of it is flat. The model we have has two sets of wheels, so it's actually quite maneuverable. The only thing I find is that occasionally sticks and twigs will get caught and I have to reach down and pull them out. Otherwise, it gives an excellent, clean-edged cut.

Jenni--Grass is overrated, but I don't think my neighbor and I will agree on this one. :-)

Amalie--Wow, thirty bucks sounds cheap. It's more like fifty, sixty here for a small yard. So far, like everything else, I like saving the money if I know I can do it myself.

Jennifer--All clover does sound nice! At least it's green.

Sandy said...

I LOVE that lawn mower!!! I'm with you about the clover and the wild violets and the dandelions...