As You Like It: This Old Yard


Next week my daughter Lisa will be marrying her longtime love, Matt. Steve and I are thrilled since we’ve been watching them gradually move toward this moment for three years. They are utterly in love, two parts of a whole, so there’s no problem there. The problem appeared when they asked us if they could be married in our backyard. Initially I was beyond thrilled — somewhere-over-the-rainbow euphoric. That lasted until I took a good look at the condition of our yard.

Digitaria Sanguinalis, aka crabgrass

When we first moved into our house in the fall of 1989, it boasted a beautiful lawn. There wasn’t much landscaping — just a few scraggly bushes out front and no real front walk, just gravel with brick stepping stones (what can I say, we were neophyte home buyers back then), but the lawn was gorgeous. The owners gave us the name of their lawn care company, and that spring I dutifully called Chemicals ‘R Us to continue their care of our green carpet. Soon their trucks came out regularly to feed, aerate, and spray some kind of stuff guaranteed to continue the greenness of our grass.

As homeowners-in-training, our learning curve was steep that year. We learned that raking leaves was not the Norman Rockwell family activity that we had dreamed of (after the first hour the kids got bored and ran off, and I acquired a hatred for brown oak leaves that I nurture to this day); that the pretty shiny leaves that grew in such abundance at the edge of our property was poison ivy; and that no matter what the season, there was always too much to do.

But it wasn’t until our first spring season that I became uneasy about the truck that visited our lawn like clockwork. When I finally read the pretty little yellow flags that the drivers left on the grass, I panicked. They instructed me to keep pets and children off the lawn within 24 hours of spraying. Lisa and Mariel had been running around within minutes of the trucks’ departure. What was going on here?

I called the company and was assured that everything was perfectly safe, that the flags were only there for silly legal purposes, that there had never been any problems and never would be. I talked to my friends who also told me not to worry. But I worried anyway. I started reading about the chemicals that were being dumped on my lawn, and I didn’t like it … not at all.

The next year I called every company in the book asking if they could treat my lawn naturally. I was accused of being a troublemaking crackpot and told rather nastily that if I discontinued the service our lawn would die immediately and become the neighborhood shame and disaster area. I looked around at the other lawns on our block and decided to risk being the grass pariah of the block.

Unfortunately, the chemical people were right. Despite Steve’s ongoing efforts at seeding, lime strewing and fertilizing, our grass has never been the same. Experts have told us that we have bad drainage, too many pine trees, too much shade, too much organic matter resulting in too many mushrooms, and generally too much bad stuff and not enough good. To give you an idea of how clueless I still am about lawn care, when I boasted to my friend Roxy about the great “new” hardy grass that had suddenly shown up, she came by, took one look and informed me that it was crabgrass. Hey, some lawns boast a nice combination of Kentucky Rye and fescue, we happen to be inordinately proud of our crabgrass. It’s green, hardy, and reliable. That’s all I ask for in a grass.

Though there have been times when I’ve looked at our lawn and sighed, mostly I’ve come to accept that we’ll never be a golf course. But the thought of Lisa and Matt being married in our yard suddenly forced me to look at our house and its surroundings with the eyes of a stranger, and it definitely needed some sprucing up. Bless Lisa and Matt (and from a distance, Mariel), they immediately told us not to worry. They would come in for a weekend and help us spruce. Matt was a trifle dubious. He is not an outdoorsy kind of guy, but he gamely volunteered his services for the cause.

Steve had already spent weeks doing the regular outdoor chores when Lisa and Matt, general contractors, arrived last weekend. Thankfully the crabgrass had arrived right on schedule, so all I needed to do was plant pots of flowers all over the front yard. I had also spent a day bleaching every bit of mold that I could find on the house so that the kids could paint. We gave them brushes and two cans of paint and off they went.

It’s amazing what some paint, nails, flowers, and elbow grease can do. After the weekend I stood back admiring our handiwork. I still have the bushes to trim, and when Mariel comes in from Arizona next week she’ll shower the place with mulch, but basically we transformed the place even if much of it is only a temporary fix. But that’s okay. It just has to look good for the one day that will begin the rest of Lisa and Matt’s days together. And it better not rain.

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avatar Posted by on Jul 11 2012. Filed under As You Like It, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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