When we moved into our current home in the summer of 1975, my husband suffered terribly from allergies, so it was clear I would have to maintain the property. A decade earlier I had seen a woman mowing a lawn for the first time, so I was liberated enough to undertake this new activity.
I asked a neighbor what was involved in caring for a lawn. “It depends how good you want it to be,” was his quick answer.
“Just slightly better than the worse lawn in the neighborhood.”
“Then mow it.”
There was an old, heavy push mower in the garage, and I used it faithfully when needed. When it broke, we bought a new mower, which was MUCH lighter and easier.
In November, 1977, I contracted myasthenia gravis. The following spring I attempted to get some exercise by walking down the street. After a half a block, I had to lie down on a neighbor’s lawn to get enough strength to walk home.
My 12-year-0old daughter suggested I garden. That would provide exercise and when I needed to lie down, it would be in my own back yard, “which is safer, Mother.”
I followed her advice and found I enjoyed gardening. Within a few years my endurance improved amazingly. Soon I was raising almost all the family’s vegetables with no poisons, commercial fertilizers, or power machinery, gardening a half hour a day. I loved it!
Eventually I began to bike the three miles up hill to Montclair State, where I worked, each morning. Evenings were a breeze downhill. Biking is still my typical form of transportation at age 72.
After my children left home, I decided to see if I could make the rest of the property look nice without any poisons, commercial fertilizers, or power machinery.
In August, 1987, I filled a garden cart with weeds from the front yard each evening after dinner. Twenty carts were filled with weeds from my 20′ x 45′ yard! Then I scattered “Lawns Alive” from “Gardens Alive.” I did not fertilize, dig or aerate the lawn.
Last year when I was outside, a passer-by told me I had the best lawn in the neighborhood and asked what I do for it.
“Never water the lawn!” was my first response. If you do, the roots don’t go down as deep. When droughts come, my lawn stays pretty longer than others, and when the rains come, it turns greener faster. Not watering is the easiest step toward a nice lawn in NJ.
“Mow high” is the other standard advice and I follow it. That gives the lawn room to breathe and nourish itself. Allowing the clippings to fall where they like fertilizes the soil.
When some spot looks suboptimal, I don’t ask it questions. I hand-scatter compost over it. It always perks up. I continue to dig weeds out by hand. It doesn’t take more than a half hour a year, no more than six sessions at five minutes each. There aren’t many weeds.
I love working in my garden and on my property. In our 70’s, both my husband and I have remarkably good health. The MG is incurable, but I live happily with it. The vegetables and fruit are delicious, and we get many compliments on our lawn and flowers. I give many flowers away. One doesn’t need any poisons to live a great gardening life!
To learn more, read my gardening webpage, most easily found via a Google search on “Pat Kenschaft.” Or ask to join my gardening/environmental email list by emailing [email protected]
This article was originally published on safeyardsmontclair.org.
Photo by cimorenegal via flickr