Keep off the grass

Some people like grass. I mean, the kind that is greener on the other side of the fence.

Lawns are a matter of great pride in many residential layouts. “House with a lawn” is a sort of status symbol. There are people who claim to have bought flats in a particular apartment complex because of the beautiful lawns that they saw in the marketing brochures. Maybe the green carpet gives the feeling of being at the golf course. So, it is not surprising that they go up in arms if the children are found running around or sitting on the grass. A few weeks ago, I saw this complaint e-mail about how the gardeners were planting shrubs on a part of the lawn to “reduce their maintenance work”.

Grass is being replaced by shrubs

The trouble with lawns is that to stay well maintained, they cannot be trampled upon. Footfall compacts the soil. So children and pets, and adults too, are forbidden from walking or playing or sitting on the grass.

Lawns need water to stay fresh and green, and since drinking water is precious, treated water from sewage treatment plants are used for the gardens in many places. I recall that many many years ago, in the 1990s, a group of us had visited Shantivan (Nehru’s memorial) in New Delhi, and I was really thirsty. The sprinklers were on and I thought I was in luck. One mouthful and fortunately, I could immediately spit it out. Those days I wasn’t aware of treated water, so it was much later that I made the connection.

Lawns need sunshine, so they find it hard to thrive if there are trees around them. Pesticides and fertilisers are sprayed on lawns to keep them healthy and free from insects.

It truly is in our benefit to keep off the grass!

Every time I hear “lawn complaints”, I am reminded of an email that was circulating some years ago, before the days of Whatsapp forwards. I usually send this to the complainants, and most often, I sense that they are not amused. Read and enjoy!

The lawn conundrum – A Conversation between God and St. Francis 

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature, what in the world is going on down there in the North America? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colour by now. All I see are patches of green. 

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass. 

GOD: Grass? But it is so boring, it’s not colourful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there? 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing it and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn. 

GOD: The spring rains and the warm weather probably makes the grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites very happy. 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it — sometimes two times a week. 

GOD: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay? 

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags. 

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it? 

ST. FRANCIS: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away. 

GOD: Now let me get this straight: They fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away? 

FRANCIS: Yes, sir. 

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work. 

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it. 

GOD: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life. 

ST. FRANCIS: You’d better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away. 

GOD: No way!! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing the leaves away they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves. 

GOD: And where do they get this mulch? 

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch. 

GOD: Enough!! I don’t want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight? 

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber,” Lord. 

GOD: Never mind — I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis! 

Writer unknown

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