By Mordechai Schmutter
I would definitely recommend living somewhere with a lawn, if you absolutely had to live somewhere. Lawns are great. They add color to your life (green, sometimes brown), and it’s the first thing people see when they come over, especially if you haven’t mowed in a while.
There are also other benefits to having a lawn:
• It’s a good indicator of where to stop shoveling snow.
• It gives your kids a place to play where they don’t get hurt when they fall down, which happens more often than you’d think. (In fact, they don’t so much go outside to play as they go outside to fall down, inasmuch as, when they do fall down, they come inside and they’re done for the day.)
In general, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to your lawn, but it does require a lot of maintenance. You have to plant it and water it, and then you poison the stuff that you don’t want, and keep cutting the stuff that you supposedly do. And why? It’s not like you can put it in a salad. But it gives people something to do.
Here are some tips:
The good news is that if your property has room for a lawn, there’s a pretty good chance your home already came with one. If it didn’t, you should probably ask why.
What type of grass to grow. Scientists say there are over 9,000 species of grass, and they all look pretty much the same. (If you think your job is boring, try cataloguing 9,000 different types of grass. “No, it’s not so bad! We also get to watch it grow!”)
The type of grass that most people have—and you’ll know this when you ask them—is “I don’t know, grass.” But the easiest kind to grow, by far, is crabgrass. It can grow with almost no effort at all.
How to plant grass. Planting grass is like planting anything else. You smear a ton of fertilizer all over the place, to the point where, when people drive by, they turn to each other and go, “What is that smell?” Then you dig a hole, drop in a seed, cover the hole, and water it. Unfortunately, your lawn is going to need 30 billion seeds, and you’re going to get bored after doing maybe ten. So after a while, you’re just going to scatter grass seeds randomly and hope for the best. That’s pretty much what the experts recommend anyway. Unfortunately, this leaves the seeds wide open to . . .
Birds. Birds love eating seeds, and they’re going to be thrilled that you left 30 billion of them lying around on your front lawn. So how do you keep them away? Hanging up a nice, realistic-looking scarecrow might do the trick, and also cause accidents in front of your house. My neighbor Tim recently scattered grass seed, and to keep the birds out, he laid chicken wire horizontally across his entire lawn. And then, to hold down the wire, he stuck several plastic forks into the ground, pointy-side up. The tines also acted as a deterrent to keep the birds from landing on the ground.
For weeks afterward, everyone who passed by had to ask me about it:
“Are they planting forks?”
“Yes,” I eventually said. “It’s a really good idea. This way, they don’t have to keep running to the store to buy forks. They just have to take them inside and rinse them off. Also, it definitely keeps bikes off their lawn. But if I did it, I would grow the handles 6 feet long, so that if I’m at a kiddush, I could reach over the crowd for a piece of kugel.”
Watering Your Lawn
You want to make sure that your lawn is getting enough water. Some people are better at remembering to do this than others. I would probably plant my grass, and then check “grass” off my to-do list and forget about it until the grass was brown, and then put it back on the list. But some people water their lawns every day, rain or shine. Especially rain. Because the rain alone is not doing a good enough job, apparently. And sometimes, I see sprinklers on but no people around, so apparently the proper amount of water is what comes out when you turn on the sprinkler and then go on vacation.
How to water a lawn. There should be a faucet on the side of your house, behind some bushes. Plug a hose into that, turn it on, and in one second, you’ll be covered by a spray of water from around the faucet, because no matter what you do, you’re not going to get the hose in tight enough.
Several times, your hose will probably stop working. To fix it, peer into the hose and have someone else straighten out all the kinks. When a stream of water hits you in the face, it’s fixed. If that doesn’t happen, someone’s probably standing on the hose.
Turning off the hose. You can never turn off the hose in a way that you’re sure it’s off, because no matter which way you turn it, water will keep trickling out for a good half hour. You’re going to need someone else to peer into the end while you stand in the spray near the house and yell, “Is it still coming out?” and then suddenly turn on the water full blast, to get him back for before. Watering the lawn is fun.
You also need to take the time, once in a while, to get rid of your weeds. Weeds are grasses that grow among your other grasses, but they’re the wrong kind, so you want to kill them.
How to weed. The simplest way to kill weeds is to spray toxins on them, but a lot of toxins will also kill your grass, because toxins are toxic. The other way to get rid of weeds is to get down on your knees and pull them out, one at a time, preferably on the hottest day of the year. If you don’t pause every five seconds to wipe your brow, it’s not hot enough. Also, make sure to wear gloves, while you’re at it. And if you don’t stop for food or sleep, you’ll soon be left with a nice, weedless lawn, and lots of dirt patches where there used to be weeds, like your lawn is going bald and none of the other lawns wants to say anything. We’d recommend getting your lawn a really big yarmulke. Or you can go back to seeding and fighting off birds, perhaps by standing on your front porch with a shotgun.
The other thing about lawns is that even the grass that you do want doesn’t grow to a nice, manageable height and then stop growing. Especially if you’ve been watering it. There are no one-inch lawns in the wild.
The best time to mow your lawn. The best time to mow your lawn is sometime before you start losing newspapers. But you definitely want to keep the grass short enough that you can at least see the street from your house. If you have upstairs windows, that gives you some extra slack.
What type of mower to buy. For example, you can go with a corded electric mower, which is the kind that we have, and so far we’ve never accidentally driven over the cord, although that doesn’t mean that you won’t. A lot of people buy a gas mower, because they don’t care about the price of gas, although I have no idea how to refill those. Do we have to walk it up to the gas station? Maybe that’s why some people have a driving mower.
A lot of people think that a driving mower is cool, like a go-kart. But it’s basically a really loud car with no muffler that you have to keep under one mile per hour all the time. It’s not like if you floor it, the grass will get cut faster.
But it’s important to know that whatever kind you buy, you should know how it works, because you’re going to spend more time fixing it than actually cutting grass with it. Especially if you try mowing your plastic forks.
Alternatively, you can get some livestock. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.