It’s September of 1997 and my wife and I have just moved into our first home. After having rented an apartment for a year, we were ready to take on a mortgage and all that comes with owning a house. To think that we paid less than $120,000 for that home seems ludicrous now and makes me feel old. I’m still not sure how we handled the down payment but it seemed logical to deal with that struggle rather than throwing away money in a rental.
Once you own a home there is a stipulation in each and every contract that states you must visit Home Depot at least once a week (I believe it has since been updated to include Lowe’s as well). Even if you’re like me and struggle to replace a light bulb, you have to walk into HD confidently each Saturday morning, say hello to the greeter and start wandering the aisles with your orange bucket. It is burned into the male DNA code to love these excursions and to get all giddy when looking at drill bits.
I freakin hate Home Depot. Always have, always will. It reminds me of my male shortcomings and the smell screams “You have a lot of projects to do and not the first clue where to begin.” It is intimidating and emasculating and stressful and makes me want to go back to a rental.
But there was a solution to the Home Depot dilemma back in the early days of home ownership. I could easily fool the other HD shoppers into believing I was willingly entering the store while walking through the parking lot, coffee in hand. A nice confident gait works wonders. And then after entering the store and before the panic set in, I simply made a quick hard right and headed outside to the garden/landscaping department. That was my solution and it allowed me to keep what was left of my male dignity. I had been cutting a lawn most of my life and I even knew how to replace the string on a grass trimmer and operate a gas powered leaf blower. I was comfortable in this environment.
During one particular pseudo Home Depot excursion, I became enamored with the Scott’s 4 Step Program for the lawn. I read through one of the brochures and within minutes was convinced I needed to treat for grub control and crab grass. You mean if I follow these simple instructions I can get a lawn as green as those on TV? Where do I sign up? An impeccable lawn and landscaping was going to be my thang, my manly thang (even if a man should never say thang).
Within the year, I had diligently followed the instructions and applied all 4 recommended “feedings” and my lawn kicked all sorts of ass. Seriously, take a look at this:
Like the greens at Augusta, right? And doesn’t the lawn look great with a backdrop of finely manicured lollipop evergreen shrubs and one lonesome hydrangea? I was the envy of the entire neighborhood, in my head at least. If you were to drive by my house on a late Saturday afternoon in the spring or summer, chances are you would have seen me sitting on the front stoop, beer in hand, ogling my lawn. A man’s man.
On top of the Scott’s plan, I also began to
regularly periodically spray each individual weed (bastard) with Roundup. You mean to tell me there is a weed killer that kills the weeds but DOESN’T kill the lawn? Holy shit. USA! USA! USA! Lawn perfection is possible after all.
During year 2 of “Chemicals changed my life for the better”, I woke up one morning and to my horror, saw a perfectly straight line of yellowing dead lawn smack dab in the middle of the front yard. It was clearly from one pass with the fertilizer spreader. And it looked awful. I felt awful. This was supposed to be easy, just follow the rules and the grass will stay perfectly green for life.
At that same time, we got our first dog, Casey.
After we brought her home and took her outside for her inaugural pee, I started to panic. As she set-up for urination #1, she started to sniff and chew on the grass. Up until that point, I was in denial that I was placing a foreign substance, of unknown origin, into my grass 4 times a year in rather large quantities. I couldn’t let this puppy, who relied on us for survival, to get anywhere near the stuff.
On top of the burnt lawn and new pet, I’d also begun to take an interest in shrubs and roses. The shrubs to fill in along the foundation and other bare spots and the roses in honor of my grandfather who was a serious rose whisperer.
I attacked the roses first and against my better judgment, decided to show you exactly how I first planted them.
Spare me the laughter.
I know it looked hideous with six of them in a perfect line and all a different color by the way, but it was progress. I quickly educated myself on pruning techniques and how to care for them during all seasons. While I have no photos to prove it, a few of them thrived and produced oodles of beautiful flowers. It was more rewarding than the lawn ever was and a lot cheaper and less labor intensive.
A few different shrubs were then added and my gardening passion was on fire.
That would be two different hydrangeas in the first photo and two butterfly bushes in the 2nd photo. I also believe the writing on the 2nd photo included future garden expansion plans, but I can’t say with certainty. It may just have been my son scribbling with a pen he shouldn’t have had.
Suddenly an immaculate green lawn lost its luster. And in summary, here’s why:
- I saw how easily the powerful fertilizer could burn the lawn. What the hell is in that mix?
- It wasn’t worth the risk now that we had a dog we were solely responsible for keeping alive. What the hell is in that mix?
- Shrubs and roses actually took less effort and were more rewarding.
We eventually moved into our current home a few years later with 2 acres of property and a monstrous lawn to contend with. My obsession with plants only continued to grow and eventually evolved into the blog you are reading right now. But that imposing lawn still had to be addressed.
I wanted to maintain a lawn so my children had a large place to play but had no interest in putting forth a full effort, smarting from my days as a Scott’s disciple. I decided to seed in year one (it was a patchy mess) and then take it from there after witnessing the results.
By the following spring, the grass had filled in enough to make it a true blown “yard”. Was it perfect? Not at all, but it was so overwhelmingly large that I didn’t bother trying to come up with a plan of attack. Actually, that’s not true, I followed the age old adage to cut the grass it at its highest setting, leave the clippings in the lawn and let nature take its course. I even convinced myself to enjoy the fact that the clover provided green cover and a flower source for the bees and that the dandelions were “flowers” and should be honored rather than branded as evil.
And to this day my lawn has never looked better. I literally do nothing other than cut it once a week in spring/summer/fall. That is it. And it works. All of the saved time is dedicated to the garden and plants where I have a chance to weave my wand and make beautiful art.
- I came to grips with Home Depot by making my brother in law or father in law come with me whenever the need arrived. I just nod and agree with whatever they say and steal tidbits from them to use in future social settings. “I find that the higher r value of the insulation works wonders in the attic.” At the same time, I’ve stopped buying any and all plants from Home Depot. Beyond the fact that their selection sucks, I also did so in protest as they were admittedly selling bee killing plants – plants that were grown from seed using pesticides that can actually kill the same bees the plants are supposed to attract. It may have since been corrected but I’m already too far gone.
- I like flowers and I don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about that. No, I am not into landscaping (manscaping maybe), I am a gardener. Deal with it.
- Each and every year I am slowly eradicating part of the lawn to turn it into more garden space. And guess what? I’m not spraying the lawn in order to kill it. Cardboard works just fine.
- How much more do we have to read about the harms of Roundup/pesticides before we draw a definitive conclusion about its harmful effects. Read the following: