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Lawn Ranger : Some of Those Days He Heard Grass Grow

March 09, 1986|LOUIS HILL | Special to The Times and Hill is a Cypress free-lance writer

When we moved from an apartment into an already settled tract, we were prepared for life in the slow lane, and life, as the real estate agent told us with great conviction, so quiet you could hear the grass grow.

I recall hearing grass grow when I was a boy. I also recall hearing my father command me to mow the lawn. He, too, heard the grass grow. His acute hearing caused him to hear it every Saturday morning.

But that was before a lawn was socially important in my life. Now I was prepared to participate in the community function of growing grass for fun and pleasure. Unfortunately, my wife had seen the model homes in the tract; they had been professionally landscaped. She liked that very much.

'It's Good Exercise'

"The first thing we're going to do after we get settled is put in a new lawn," she announced. "I've already got the name of the landscaper who did the model homes. I want ours to be just like them."

"Too expensive, dear. Besides, I like yard work. It's good exercise. Saves money."

"Do you know anything about lawns?"

"What's to know about grass? Anybody can grow grass. And I can landscape with the best of them. Grass is grass."

I was wrong. Our original lawn was not necessarily grass. It was a combination of Bermuda, crab, rye and quack grass. It should be noted that all of these grasses are identified as grassy weeds instead of grass. And they do not take kindly to cultivation.

Neighbor Came Over

That was a good lawn. It was often green. But then, it was often brown, occasionally gray and once in a while, it was orange. But never at the same time.

When it comes to grass, neighbors can be helpful. My nearest one always came over to watch me when I was working on my lawn. He never worked on his because he had three sons who did it for him.

"You've got a lot of crab grass in your lawn," he pointed out. "You know the wind blows the seeds all over. I try to keep it out of mine. Lots of weed killers on the market."

I took his advice, and it worked. It worked so well that the dandelions, curly dock, knotweed and clover disappeared. But that was half my lawn.

Wife Stepped In

My wife had left me alone to handle the lawn, but she was only biding her time. When the dandelions, curly dock, knotweed and clover left, she stepped in.

"We've got to do something about the lawn. It's the worst one in the tract."

"Give it a little time," I told her. "I'm working on it."

"It's the only two-tone lawn in the area. And you've been working on it for a year. I thought you knew all about lawns. Didn't you say grass is grass?"

"OK, OK. Just give me a couple of months. If I can't make the desert bloom by then, we'll get a new lawn."

Killed With Kindness

In two months I had killed my lawn with kindness. Then it was time to deal with the sod sellers. But what kind of lawn did we want? Bluegrass, Kentucky blue, Penn blue, rye grass, fescue, zoysia, St. Augustine? We wanted Kentucky bluegrass, my wife told me. That's what the models had. That's what the professional landscapers used. She emphasized professional.

I'd show her a professional. First there was the rototiller, then the fertilizer, the soil amendment, the gypsum, the prayers, the raking, the leveling, then the sod.

It was a great lawn. A verdant carpet of living grass just waiting to put down its roots and cover all. Not a weed, not a bug, not a worry. We could finally match the model homes.

And that called for a vacation to celebrate the triumph. So we went to Hawaii where grass is meant to be worn around the hips. But on our return disaster had struck.

Water Meter Covered

In the enthusiasm of lawn-laying, I had inadvertently covered the water meter. The meter reader couldn't find the meter, but it had to be read. So he tore up a large section of my new lawn before he found the meter. He didn't replace the sod, and there it lay in humps and chunks, yellow with death, crying for water.

It had been a fine lawn and what was left of it lasted a year before succumbing to the army worms, sod webworms, white grubs, billbug grubs and cinch bugs. It was especially appealing to the community canine corps.

That lawn had reached terminal status, but it remained in intensive care for three months. My neighbor was long on advice.

"You should have planted rye grass like I did. When I lived in Georgia, I planted bluegrass and it grew so fast I had to make a compost pile. That compost pile was the talk of the neighborhood."

I do believe my neighbor can hear his grass grow, and that is what the real estate agent promised. The best I can hear is my lawn screaming for help. And help is on the way.

Next week the masons come to build a block wall around my yard.

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