Let me be the first person to admit I hate the Green Demon. I really hate that bastard. He requires me to keep him fed, watered, trimmed, and medicated at my own personal expense. What do I get in return? Other than a little greenery… absolutely nothing.
Did I ask to have him around? Nope! He had already infested my home before I purchased it.
In case you hadn’t guessed it yet, the Green Demon is my lawn.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of park-like green spaces around my home. I like the idea that my kids can have a nice place to play outside that isn’t concrete or dirt. I genuinely like how lawns look, and that feeling of a lush green lawn beneath your toes feels incredible… but that’s where the positive shit ends.
What I don’t like about my lawn is the amount of upkeep and money required to keep the lawn healthy and green.
It’s a huge amount of wasted time, effort, and money… all for a stupid status symbol from days long past.
Lawns In Our Ancient Past
Why do we have lawns? Who created this ridiculous Green Demon in the first place?
I’ve read several theories, and a couple of the “origin of lawns” actually seem pretty plausible:
1. Lawns were first defensive areas around castles back in the Middle Ages. The grass around a castle was cut short so assassins and ninja’s couldn’t sneak up on the fancy lord and murder him in his sleep. It seems like a reasonable defensive measure for all those historical fancy folks.
2. Lawns were once enclosed areas around aristocratic estates where the animals grazed… thereby keeping the grass short (and fertilized). Seems plausible enough when you consider the lawn mower wasn’t invented until 1830, and chemical fertilizers didn’t arrive until the early 1900’s.
Regardless of the actual origin of lawns, by the 17th and 18th centuries a green lawn was the height of home garden fashion for the aristocracy. The English garden and English lawn were status symbols for the rich. Lawns represented the great wealth and power of the aristocracy.
Of course, individuals rising up in the social ranks of Western European society sought to emulate the aristocracy — They also tried to keep green spaces around their homes. The rest as they say “is history”.
Now every suburban home in America has a lawn that serves no real useful purpose.
From late February to late June, the Green Demon requires me to spend one hour a week mowing him. (Yeah I know I don’t have a huge lawn)
Those are hours of my life I really wish I could have back.
If I decide NOT to mow my lawn during those months, it just continues to grow, and grow, and grow. I’ve tried not mowing it — Eventually I have the shabbiest lawn on the block, and a Green Demon ready to take his revenge.
The next mowing ends up being hell because the grass is so damn long. It takes multiple hours because the mower gets clogged with all the excess grass. The Green Demon punishes me for neglecting him.
“That’ll teach you not to mow me you tentacled bastard.”
When July finally rolls around, my lawn stops growing — That’s the dry part of our year in the Pacific Northwest. (Yes, eventually it does get dry in the Pacific Northwest.) Three whole months without clouds or rain.
I finally get a break from mowing the lawn every week, but that’s when watering season begins…
Watering & Chemicals
While the damp maritime English climate might have been a perfect environment for growing lawns, much of the world isn’t so ideal.
When the dry season hits, the Green Demon requires me to ceremoniously dump hundreds of gallons of perfectly good fresh water on top of it… all to keep the friggin thing alive during the dry part of the year.
In the United States, roughly 50% to 70% of residential water is used for landscaping. That’s about 9 billion gallons of water every day we dump on our landscaping. Ridiculous!
On top of that, if you want to keep your lawn green and healthy you’ll have to occasionally throw chemicals on top of it — fertilizing it and killing off weeds, fungus, or insects.
The equation of care is simple — The nicer you want your lawn, the more money you have to spend.. How much money you ask?
Using Amazon for pricing (cheaper than my local hardware store), a basic annual bevy of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals for a small lawn amounted to following:
- Scotts Turf Builder Grass Seed – Pacific Northwest Mix, 7-Pound – $27.99
- Scotts 5 M Turf Builder Weed and Feed 15 lb. – $19.99
- Bayer Advanced 32 oz. Ready-to-Spray Fungus Control for Lawns – $19.97
- Spectracide Triazicide 20 lb. Lawn Insect Killer Granules – $10.48
That’s $78.43 annually just in seeds and chemicals for a small lawn like my own. (I didn’t pick anything fancy in this list either, just the cheap stuff.) If you add in some annual lawnmower maintenance and fuel, you’re easily into $100+ per year.
It’s very possible to spend a whole lot more, especially if you have a larger lawn.
Tame That Green Demon
After years of trying to maintain a nice lawn in the summer I finally just said “forget it”. It’s not worth it. For me, there is absolutely no reason to justify the expense and time required to maintain a beautiful green status symbol in my front yard.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, a mere 3 months of the year are nice enough for outdoor activities (when we might actually use the lawn). The rest of the year it rains so frequently that nobody wants to stand around in my soggy front yard.
So I gave-up taking trying to keep the Green Demon green. I purposely neglect him now — Sometimes I don’t mow every week. I fertilize extremely rarely. I won’t dump chemicals on it to kill weeds or bugs. I let my lawn dry out in the summer and only give it the barest minimum of water (keeping the lawn dormant and barely alive).
Even doing that, my last water bill was $251! Yeesh!
Yes, the grass dries out and turns yellow in the summer. It isn’t pretty. There are bare patches and moss. It isn’t a lush green space. But you know what? I don’t care! Let it look ugly! I’m not ashamed of it. When the rainy season begins again in October, it’ll green up again.
Everybody repeat after me — “Fuck You Green Demon! I am not a member of the British aristocracy. I do not need to have a beautiful green lawn to show off my extreme wealth and success. I will not be your servant!”
If you’re a like-minded person, a great move (besides doing the “bare minimum”) is killing your lawn. Yes, killing it!
There’s a growing movement amongst like-minded folks who actually do this — killing useless lawns, and putting in vegetable gardens instead.
While I don’t always agree that hobby gardening is done in an economic manner, even wasteful gardening is better than dumping perfectly good resources onto the Green Demon.
A few years ago we tried this out — we killed a section of our front our lawn, and put a garden space in it. We mainly growing garlic there, but this year we’re also trying out tomatoes and eggplant.
The best part about growing your own garlic (besides using it in homemade salsa) is that you don’t need to water it in the summer months — garlic does most of its growing in the fall, winter, and spring! You simply harvest it when garlic dries out in summer!
Of course, being the economic gardener that I am, we didn’t spend a dime on these garlic plants. Our initial “start” came from a single bulb given by a friend. Each year we save a dozen of the largest cloves for re-planting each fall.
It’s a beautiful frugal cycle that actually produces something of value!
Not convinced yet? Don’t get me wrong — I completely understand that having a lush and beautiful yard helps your property value. Real estate buyers love a beautiful yard, and are willing to mortgage their lives away for it — but you only need that value to be realized when you sell.
When I do finally decide to sell my home, I’ll probably put some serious effort into making the lawn beautiful again. But not right now.
For now, I’m ignoring the Green Demon and saving my money. Instead, I believe having a beautiful portfolio of passive income earning assets is a far better thing to maintain.
So be afraid Green Demon! — I plan to do the absolute bare minimum to keep you alive.