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JANICE WELLS: Kick the grass habit

The P.E.I. Environmental Health Co-op is hosting its 11th Dandelion Festival at Stratford Town Hall on Victoria Day from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
A high-maintenance all-grass lawn isn’t healthy for you, your family and pets, the ecosystem or the environment. - Contributed

There was a time when I was the only non-smoker I knew. I wasn’t cool, but I didn’t like the taste and didn’t see the point of it all. I don’t remember caring about the smell, maybe because it was everywhere. Maybe I thought that was just the way cars and houses smelled.

Now the smokers aren’t cool. They huddle in doorways. They can’t light up in public places and don’t light up in private homes.

Now that the smell isn’t common, it’s “smella non grata” everywhere.

F.U. (Former Usband) smoked four packs a day. He lit a cigarette before he got out of bed in the morning. He smoked at the dinner table. He smoked in the shower. Even then that was excessive and even he finally managed to quit.

Now to the point; do you think mowing your lawn when dandelions are in bloom will ever go the way of smoking? One time you’d be driving along a street with a neat grass square in front of each house and if you came to one full of uncut grass and weeds you’d either think nobody lived there or have uncharitable thoughts about the kind of people who didn’t even bother to keep their property neat.

The other day I drove by a line of about six houses with unmown grass and dandelion flowers and I was impressed with all those people caring more about bees and butterflies than appearances. Of course, I know it’s a grand excuse if you don’t like mowing your lawn anyway, but when I came to a neatly mown lawn I actually had a bit of a negative thought about whoever owned that house.

I’ve always been pleased when I drive past a house with a front yard that is planted with actual plants instead of grass. On the very rare occasions (twice) that I have come across a front yard planted with vegetables I want to knock on the door and hug somebody.

The one that stands out had trellises of bright red tomatoes among other herbs and veggies. I was told later the gardener was an elderly (probably younger than I am now, ha ha) Italian man. That made sense; southern Europeans are not known for verdant lawns. You have to work really hard to maintain a lawn there, so they have too much wisdom and practicality to spend countless hours and money on frequent cutting, watering and fertilizing, herbicides, and pesticides to keep a green carpet healthy so they can cut it back again.

Americans spend more money on lawns than the country spends on foreign aid. Lawns take up tens of millions of acres, just a little less than farmland. I’d say we’re not much better (just much worse at studying ourselves).

A high-maintenance all-grass lawn isn’t healthy for you, your family and pets, the ecosystem or the environment. I think the main reason why there are so many lawns is that most people don’t know what else to do. They’re not gardeners and grass is the easy choice, but growing and maintaining a beautiful lawn isn’t easy and there are great, pretty, low-maintenance ground covers out there. If you love the look of a perfect lawn, there is actually artificial grass now that is a long way from Astro Turf. Ha ha – not really.

Before I endeth my annual lawn sermon, I will admit that I myself am a sinner. We have grass. In my previous house I had no grass. There wasn’t much land and I liked to garden. This house has a large established garden with fruit trees, evergreens, shrubs, grass, moss and goutweed, all of it here before we were. The goutweed is taking over the grass and we have lots of dandelions. The only way to get rid of the goutweed is to move, I like the dandelions and eat the greens. If I could, I’d replace all the grass with a well-behaved groundcover or clover.

Clover stays green with little watering, has pretty flowers, smells sweet and is good for bees, butterflies and earthworms.

Maybe someday a lot of manicured lawns will become “lawna non grata.”

Janice Wells offers her own unique take on life as a baby boomer, often served up with a twist of humour and a splash of gin. She lives in St. John’s, N.L., and can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.


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