Watching the grass grow takes more effort than you'd think

Right up there with watching paint dry, watching grass grow is said to be among the most uninteresting of activities. While I've never actually sat in the back yard with a ruler and a pad of paper to keep track of how much longer a blade of grass has gotten in the span of an hour or a day, it has struck me that grass grows a lot faster than I find to be convenient.

Over the span of about a week, my yard probably produces on the order of 50 pounds of new grass, each blade being only a few inches longer than it was the last time I cut it. If it's been alternating rainy and sunny, there will be a lot more. If it's been dry, or steadily rainy and cloudy, there will be less.

I'm sure I'm not telling anyone reading this anything new. Cutting the grass is one of those household chores that's pretty much universal in the Great American Suburbs like Harford County.

Before I get into the meat of this, I'd like to make a few observations about cutting the grass:

• No matter how good a job I do, I always have to get out there and cut the grass again in a week or 10 days.

• For someone who doesn't like to cut the grass, I sure spend a lot of time, money and effort to make sure it grows, what with buying fertilizer, spreading it around and trying to make the sandy parts of the yard more appealing to the grass so I'll have more to cut.

• No matter how much I want creeping red fescue to grow, I have a lot better luck with crabgrass.

• From a distance – as little a distance as from my kitchen window to the back yard – grass, weeds and crabgrass all look pretty much the same, which is pretty nice after the grass has been cut.

So the point of this is pretty much like the point of keeping a lawn. It's not really necessary, but it's nice to have a diversion from the things that are absolutely necessary. I have to say, much as I'm not fond of cutting the grass and spending time making sure it grows so I can cut it some more, I'd rather have grass in the yard than some sort of xeriscaped rock and cactus yard in the Desert Southwest.

By the way, on the whole, I'm inclined to think xeriscaping is the way to go when it comes to lawn care. For those not up on trends in suburban yard work, xeriscaping is simply landscaping using the grass and plants that can get by on the amount of rain that falls on the yard in question and can thrive on the kind of soil in a particular yard. It also means leaving the clippings to be absorbed into the soil, so as to strike a fertile balance in the soil. To me, xeriscaping is ideal because it means no watering and no fertilizing, which means that much less work.

So far, I've got the no watering part down. My grass grows enough, at least on most of the lawn. Fertilizer, however, is a different story. I'm trying to quit, but there's a problem with going natural where I live. The problem: my house was built on what was once a sod farm, so there are large areas in the back yard where there's no topsoil, just sand. For a few years, I've been trying to go the natural route, which is to let the clippings slowly become integrated into the sandy areas. It's been several years and I thought I was almost there this spring when a substantial amount of new grass showed up on its own in one of the sandy areas.

When the first heat wave hit, though, it was game over for the grass in the sand. I think next I'm going to try mixing some kind of topsoil into the sand, just to see how that works. It's probably going be more expensive than I want it to be, but then again the kind of fertilizer — known in my home as lawn crack because it really gets the grass growing strong for a few weeks, then it falls flat — I've been using is pretty expensive, too.

Then there's the whole matter of my yard being a place where the deer come to eat at night, but there's a lot more than grass involved with that so I'll put that off for another day.

As it turns out, there's an awful lot more to watching the grass grow than would appear when you just go out and look at it for a few minutes.

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