Rather than male ego trips, lawns offer creature comforts


 It is humorous to think of a plant as being controversial; talk about taking things too seriously. But in gardening circles these days, the most controversial plant is turf grass. Some people say it lacks merit, offering nothing for wildlife and requiring chemicals, water and pollution spewing machines to keep in good shape.

Famous British gardener Monty Don, host of the BBC’s “Gardener’s World” television show, which, thanks to streaming services is a favorite show among gardeners around the world, made news when he laid out “his most controversial advice ever” in a radio interview. The urge to keep grass short, he said, is a “male obsession, linked to controlling rather than embracing.” The comment ruffled more than a few feathers, particularly of the male variety.

I won’t argue any of these points, although I won’t go so far as to blame the male ego. But I’m on Team Lawn. To me, turf grass provides a place for your eye to rest in an otherwise highly textured and color-saturated garden. It helps draw your attention to certain parts of the garden or guide you to the place that I, the gardener, want you to focus on next as you stroll around. And, of course, there are practical aspects of lawn, not the least of which involves being a dog owner, but I also just want a soft spot to walk around barefoot on occasion or set up a hammock.

It’s the dogs that are to blame for the fact that I spent much of last weekend fixing the lawn when I should have been soaking up the tantalizing taste of summer  blown in on strong west winds. I did a pretty good job training our two Newfoundland dogs, which have a combined weight just under 300 pounds, to stay out of the flower beds, but I failed at training them to go to the back of the yard to go to the bathroom rather than stop at the first patch of grass they find. And because they tread on the same patch of lawn multiple times a day every day creating an impenetrable layer of ice that was the last to melt, they managed to kill most of the grass we look at every day.

The repair process was no quick fix, involving aggressive raking and removal of the dead grass, applying a thin layer of compost, starter fertilizer, seed and then mulch, all cordoned off with caution tape to keep the guilty parties at bay. I would have rather been doing almost any other job in my garden, including pulling weeds.

My approach to lawn is casual. If it’s green, I’m good with it. We don’t use herbicides, and if the lawn gets two fertilizing treatments of organic Milorganite, it’s a banner year. And even though I know that good lawns come from high mowing, I’ll admit that sometimes we cut it a little lower than we should just because it buys some time before it needs to be mowed again.

Lawns truly are high-maintenance gardening, but much like the diva plants that I coddle in my garden, to me they are worth the effort. Surely Monty wouldn’t approve of such an attitude, but I’ll show him what a difference it makes when he swings by for a visit. Perhaps we’ll kick off our shoes, pull up a couple chairs on the lawn and talk about it.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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