How to get an ugly lawn

There’s nothing quite like falling on your face on somebody’s new-mowed lawn. Especially if you know the person who owns the lawn and you don’t get arrested.

There’s nothing quite like falling on your face on somebody’s new-mowed lawn. Especially if you know the person who owns the lawn and you don’t get arrested.

Because very little in this veil of tears can compare to the deep reverie-inducing aroma of fresh cut grass from a face full of fluffy natural carpet of green lushness. Unless it’s the smell of a perfect steak grilling on the barbecue, or the sniff of a new car interior, or the adorable innocent baby breath of a puppy, or the sweet scent of the love of your life’s hair (assuming it’s been recently washed).

OK, so there are lots of memorable odourous odours, but a fresh and lavish lawn is certainly always in the Top Ten of the Aroma Hit Parade. Not that I would know, on account of it’s been a while since our tiny plot of mortgaged grass even remotely resembled an actual “lawn,” and I haven’t had the gumption to throw myself onto somebody else’s lovely lawn lately.

In fact, the Better Half and I (mostly the BH) have been hard at work (well, one of us is hard at work and the other is hardly working) getting rid of as much of our little back yard lawn as possible.

This involves paving stones, a fire pit, a new path, and possibly a future pond and a larger garden shed. Or maybe just gravel.

Anything but lawn.

You see, as I have explained in the past, at our place I am in charge of the lawn, and the BH is in charge of everything else outside.

I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that all the flowers, shrubs, trees, hedges and inanimate objects loosely described as landscaping (i.e. garden gnomes, trolls, bird baths, ceramic pigs and various unidentifiable metal sculptures) are all quite lovely. The lawn? Not so much.

So it was deemed (and we all know who does the deeming in most households) that we should have a lawn-free back yard, and that we will be shrinking the small front lawn by about half.

Which will make it “easier to maintain,” which really means that my Better Half’s Other Half (me) might actually mow and trim it and fertilize once it a while if it’s roughly the size of pool table. Heck, I won’t even need a lawn mower; a good pair of sewing scissors (belonging to someone other than the BH) would probably do the trick.

Oh, it’s not that I haven’t tried. I really have. Tried. Often. Or perhaps occasionally. OK — sporadically. But the thing is, it’s clear to me now that I’ve been fighting a losing battle. My little lawn was doomed from the get-go, and in the interests of sharing what not to do, I have made a little list detailing exactly why the weedy, sparse, ugly non-lawn really isn’t my fault.

How to get an ugly lawn:

1. Pine for it: To guarantee an iffy lawn, make sure you plant a large evergreen tree because your Better Half “likes to see the green all year.” Then wait several (10 to 20) years and notice that the mighty spruce tree is now 30 feet (28 metres) tall and has more or less permanently killed your lawn with its mighty shade and its roots, which apparently turn the soil acidic — including hydrochloric, sulphuric and lysergic diethylamide.

2. Quack quack: Make sure to momentarily ignore that one blade of weird grass that you notice poking up among the other normal, regular Kentucky blue grass blades on your lawn.

This little demon seed is called quack Grass because once you get it in your lawn, it causes you to quack up. (Sorry) Then go into the house grab the Weedex and BOOM! by the time you return (approximately five minutes) your entire lawn is fully rampant with ugly spikey infestuous quack grass. You might as well just give up, go back into the house and pour yourself an adult beverage because by the next day your grass is total quack. All of it. Every single square micromillimetre is addicted to quack. (Sorry again.)

3. Clover: See No. 2 above. (And forget about looking for the four-leaf kind. Trust me, they aren’t lucky.)

4. Creeping Charlie: This is not that weird neighbour who hangs around the back alley outside your hedge, this Creeping Charlie is scientifically known as a plant and it can become a pesky weed and take over your lawn after a heroic battle with quack grass and clover. (Unless it’s my lawn in which case all three decide to live together and destroy the lawn in harmony.) I looked up the best way to get rid of Creeping Charlie, and the article said — get this — and I quote: “pull the plant from the ground by hand.” Yeah, sure. I’m still laughing over that one!

5. Ant hills, dew worms and dandelions: This sounds like the song title of a nice ballad, I know, but if you want an ugly lawn any one of these pesky predators will do it for you. Either your lawn will be covered in malevolent yellow hell-weed “flowers” that the BH thinks are “pretty” or your yard will suddenly be covered in bumps and mounds that turn your coveted grass patch into the surface of the moon.

Overwhelming, I know, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the dark arts of lawn care. But what to do?

I see where some energetic green thumbs have made vegetable gardens out of their front lawns — and I certainly admire their skill, commitment and hard work.

I personally recommend cement.

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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