Monday, March 16, 2009

Free the Weeds

I've spent a decent number of hours and a decent number of dollars over the past two weeks to do a spring clean-up in my yard. The fact that I dedicated days to leaf blowing and raking just four months ago seems to have mattered little. I have a partially wooded lot, full of older and not necessarily healthy trees, and winter's after-effects include a yard full of downed branches, sticks, pine needles, and leaves blown over from the neighbor's.

I know some people either like or take satisfaction from yard work, but I'm not one of those people. It feels to me that I'm fighting repeated battles with nature, and nature always wins. Pull a weed and two replace it, cut the grass and it just grows back, trim the hedges and they climb twice as high. Why do we bother?

Until around a hundred years ago, Americans didn't have lawns. Their yards were comprised of dirt and utilitarian vegetable gardens. Until the invention of the lawn mower the only way to trim a lawn was either by scythe or by letting sheep or cattle graze, so it really wasn't worth the bother to plant grass. Our native grasses aren't lawn grass, so until the invention of hybrid grass that could withstand our climate without too much watering, lawns were pretty much the province of the wealthy who could afford the paid labor needed to trim and water grass.

What made people bother? Why replace carefree dirt and healthful gardens with high-maintenance grass? To some degree we have the American Garden Club to thank. During the 1920s these grass enthusiasts waged an aggressive PR campaign promoting the beauty and benefits of the lawn. By then, the middle-class could afford a rotary lawn mower and to buy produce rather than grow it, so the notion of a lawn for every house took hold. To a large degree we also have the American hatred of the weed to thank. One thing manicured grass can do is take up all the space, light, and nutrients available and starve away weeds.

In order to make life easier, or at least to make my life easier, all that would need to happen is that every invasive plant species currently categorized as a weed be recategorized as a thing of beauteous splendor. A cultural appreciation of dandelion, crabgrass, goldenrod, sumac, and every other thing that wants to take over my property would allow me to give my property back to the forces of nature. Nature doesn't want me to have a yard. It wants me to have a clearing filled with sticks and leaves and "weeds." I'm tired of fighting it.

1 comment:

tunsie said...

dandelion is for salads.u have a rich boyfriend that will hire a person 2 do all that stuff 4 u....tunsie.tunsie.tunsie