Mow power to you: 'I never used to want a lawn; now I'm obsessed'
There was a time when Emma Townshend thought lawns a silly idea. Then she planted one. And now she can’t get enough of tending to it – even with its ridiculously annoying bumps.
Sunday 26 May 2013
I never imagined I could become the kind of person who would be interested in lawns. I never actually wanted to have grass, to tell you the truth. I thought it was a stupid idea. You've got to find somewhere to put the mower, and somewhere to put the extension lead for the mower, and somewhere to put all the clippings created by the mower, and that's before you've stored all the poisonous chemicals you need to keep the lawn in anything like good condition.
But this year I find that somehow I've changed. Something's clicked in my head. I've been patching. I've been re-sowing the bare bits. I've been out there with sand, for crying out loud. A big bag of sand, scattering it carefully over the bumpier bits of grass, trying to fill in the divots. Pestwise, I've become Bill Murray in Caddyshack. I feel like taking up yelling "Au revoir, gopher."
The biggest problem is with the little hummocks created at the edges of the turf I so carefully laid last summer, imagining that what I laid would stay perfectly flat. No such luck. It's not even a bit flat, actually. Where the turf edges met and grew together, evidently eddies were created in the space-time continuum which distort the very fabric of the lawn, leaving bits of it that cannot be described as flat by any stretch of the imagination, and making it nigh-on impossible to mow.
It's the flatness that's obsessing me. And I'm not alone. One of my neighbours, who used to find a bit of recreational dancing and loud music sufficient for a good weekend, has started talking about taking up his entire lawn and starting again, in pursuit of the perfect sward.
Then there's the bits that have died in the shade since last summer. I've reseeded with a shady grass mix supposed to make it more likely to thrive with only a few hours of direct sunlight a day. I've even, god help me, started feeding it. I began with a watering can and a cupful of seaweed extract, walking back and forth giving my tiny lawn a lovely seasidey smell. There I was, doing it all organic, like. But then I saw a giant box of proper chemical lawn care, Westland Aftercut, on sale in the supermarket and a devil started whispering inside me. And my greedy little hand reached out and grabbed it before I could so much as yell "Save the worms!"
Worms notwithstanding, the difference is astonishing. Each blade has suddenly become an Incredible Hulk of the grass world, twice as tall and four times as green as normal grass. So, OK, Aftercut's not organic by any stretch of the imagination. But it is only a box of lawn food. (And it's not one of the even more potent 4-in-1 concoctions which will get rid of moss and perennial weeds at the same time as doing all the green gigantification.)
What I have begun to realise, with even my limited experience of being a lawn obsessive (Class of 2013, we can start to think of ourselves) is that it's mostly in the mow. The more you mow, the thicker, greener, happier a lawn seems to get. It's like some sort of weird mistreatment-parallel horticultural paradigm (that people like me who have signally failed to read Fifty Shades… don't really get).
This week I've mowed the lawn once already, and it's only Tuesday. I'm already sitting here slightly itchily, thinking, "It's a nice afternoon, why not just give it one more cut?" I feel like a person who's become addicted to having their legs waxed. I just want it really, really short, and I'm quite happy to get out there whenever the job requires, and possibly more often.
In fact, I found myself pondering a breakfast cut this morning, in a perfect moment of denial, telling myself, "I mean, the bin men will be here in a minute and then no one'll be able to sleep anyway." Oh, come on: is 7am really too early to mow the lawn?
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