Taming The Green Demon

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.

castle lawn
Castles often maintained well cut grass just beyond the walls. It was easier to see the invaders (or ninjas) that way.  Could these defensive tactics be the origin of our suburban lawns?

Of course, individuals rising up in the social ranks of Western European society sought to emulate the aristocracyThey 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.


Mowing Sucks

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.

It won’t stay green for long unless you dump fertilizer and chemicals on it.

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:

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).

ugly lawn
Yes, my lawn is ugly.
really ugly lawn
I’m not kidding, it’s really ugly.

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!”


Kill It!

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.

growing garlic
Yes, I grow garlic in my front yard! It’s the perfect crop for frugal bastards like me.
tomatoes and eggplants
This year we’re trying tomatoes and eggplant in the front yard too. Note the “expensive” landscaping stones and “fancy” tomatoes cages.

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!

garlic harvest
Roughly half of this year’s garlic harvest by the Tako family. The other half is still growing. I see homemade salsa in my future.

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!


Final Thoughts

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.


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

37 thoughts on “Taming The Green Demon

  • July 19, 2017 at 2:26 AM

    I’m totally with you on the hassle of maintaining a garden. At the FAF household, we have a bare minimum of maintenance when it comes to our backyard. Neither Mr. FAF nor I enjoy mowing the lawn. We haven’t invested anything in yard work except for a basic tool which cost us ~$20. We get a notice from the HOA every once in a while though (we live in a townhouse), and it’s like an alarm for us to get our act together.

    • July 20, 2017 at 6:58 AM

      Ahhh… the dreaded HOA! Thankfully we have a very minimal HOA that never really bothers us about such things.

  • July 19, 2017 at 2:31 AM

    I laughed all the way through this article! While the rain keeps our “lawn” green, we do little else to maintain it other than the occasional mowing. Like you said, it could be a lush, gorgeous, silky green lawn, but we live on the back portion of our lot, 1/4 mile from the road… who are we trying to impress?!?

    I fully support your decision to say “f*ck you”, kill the lawn, grow a garden (mmmm, homegrown salsa!) and deal with the pretty green demon when you need him.
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Hard Work and Yard Work

  • July 19, 2017 at 3:34 AM

    We don’t do much of anything for our lawn. Now I don’t live in an area that requires watering, but weeds do own my garden. Still I live next door to a woods where my neighbors have no grass. I just don’t see the point, like you. Instead we do fruit trees and a fun little hobby garden.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Root Cause and Lessons Learned

    • July 20, 2017 at 6:59 AM

      Fruit trees are great! I wish we had room for some!

  • July 19, 2017 at 3:54 AM

    Thanks for reminding me of another reason to be thankful that I live in an apartment. 🙂 We have a beautiful green space and are across the street from a nice wooded park and I don’t need to do any work to maintain any of it! We’ll see how I feel when I buy a place and have to decide how to approach the lawn situation…

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:01 AM

      Sounds like you have a very good setup already! Be careful when buying a home so that you don’t buy yourself too much work.

  • July 19, 2017 at 3:59 AM

    We have a huge lawn (maybe an acre of grass?). Luckily, we only have about 3 months of mowing, but it’s still a pain. We ended up co-buying a riding lawnmower with a friend. It cost $350! And yes, we do fertilize it once a year. It is a really dumb tradition, when you think about it. An absolute waste of resources that could otherwise go to growing food. We do have a garden in the back of our lawn, but it’s a tiny, tiny part of it. Unfortunately, neither of us is willing to buck tradition and stop mowing, since we’re a prominent house on a corner, one of the first you see as you enter our neighborhood. The only good news is we don’t have to water it. All the snow keeps it green regardless. But we have a well so our water’s “free” anyway.

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:02 AM

      Well, free water certainly helps the situation… but I still wouldn’t want to be mowing an acre of grass. That must take hours to mow!

  • July 19, 2017 at 4:01 AM

    I’ve come to despise Bermuda grass. For it to look great It requires a ton of water and chemicals. It turns brown in the fall and the ugliest weeds spout before it greens up in the spring. If there is one bit of shade it does not grow. As FAF said, the HOA relentlessly will come knocking that we don’t maintain proper mulch beds. Then I am out edging the half dead grass and dumping more mulch. If I don’t the HOA will take care of it and bill me later.

    Such a money pit.

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:03 AM

      Completely agree Turning Point Money! The Green Demon is a complete money pit!

  • July 19, 2017 at 5:12 AM

    Yes! It’s time for all of us to un-lawn. Here in Texas it’s absolutely stupid to have a green, lush lawn. It’s unnatural, expensive, and bad for the environment. It’s always better to opt for local plants that can naturally thrive in your area.

    We’re also killing our lawn, slowly but surely. We put tarps over the grass and let it die over the course of a few months. We plan to have zero grass and to xeriscape our yard completely. Unfortunately we’ll still have a chunky water bill because we also have a food forest in our yard. Still better than throwing it all away on grass that we can’t eat!

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:05 AM

      Absolutely! Although I hear it *is* possible to eat grass if you’re hungry enough. I’ve seen pictures of people collecting it for food in North Korea for example. No idea how it’s made edible though.

  • July 19, 2017 at 6:40 AM

    I had a gorgeous green demon. Then the gophers invaded like my back yard was Normandy. Gas, Traps, and Poison couldn’t stop the invading Gopher Alliance. My demon was wrecked.

    I took a lesson from policing and enacted an environmental policing solution to the slow murder of my lawn. I swapped it out for hardscape pavers and fake grass with gopher wire buried under the fake grass.

    I lost every battle, but won the war. Now I have a gorgeous backyard which requires minimal maintenance.

    So there’s another option. Lobotomize that demon and save the time and energy. The new stuff they have now actually looks really good too.

  • July 19, 2017 at 6:44 AM

    Not a big fan of lawns either, but the Pleasantville Police (aka the HOA) require us to keep it looking reasonably good. My goal is always to have the second ugliest lawn in the neighborhood, and we’re on pace.
    Paul recently posted…TGIF: Lazy Summer

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:08 AM

      “second ugliest” huh? Well that sounds rather clever. 😉

      The Pleasantville Police are one of the reasons why I strictly try to avoid HOAs. In my view, they often do more harm than good.

    • July 19, 2017 at 4:33 PM

      plant moss where there isn’t enough light. It’s green and it grows.

      • July 20, 2017 at 7:09 AM

        Oh, I have *plenty* of moss. It doesn’t stay green in the summer. It dries out, dies and often leaves a bare dirt patch.

  • July 19, 2017 at 4:12 PM

    The HOA won’t let me kill my lawn. I finally caved and hired a service to keep it mowed. It was just miserable pushing a mower in Houston in August.

    I am human or cephalopod and have checked the appropriate box.
    Financial Velociraptor recently posted…Written Put Blackstone Group (BX)

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:10 AM

      I’m going to guess Houston is a little “hot and humid” in August. I bet the grass grows really well there. 😉

  • July 19, 2017 at 4:55 PM

    I have no lawn and I’m ridiculously smug about it! My neighbours house just changed hands and I’m watching their beautiful green lawn slowly yellow and die.. oh well, they used to water it twice a day, EVEN IN WINTER!!

    Also, yay garlic! When we bought this house the old owners had left a garlic bulb in the cupboard. A month later it sprouted in my cupboard so I stuck it in the ground. Three years later, still growing free garlic from that one bulb. Boo-yah!
    LadyFIRE recently posted…Frugal date nights: Board Games

  • July 19, 2017 at 6:37 PM

    Too funny.

    You know, yard maintenance was in fact the reason I began my quest to become FI.

    My wife and I both had our own homes before we met. My home required tons of yard maintenance. Her small town home did not. One day, she watched me bust my ass to get the yard work done and said, “Honey, we can’t live here.”

    That comment encouraged me to take a really hard look at how moving into her low mortgage, low tax, low maintenance home would effect our financial lives. I ran the numbers and that’s all it took. The numbers were staggering. My house was on the market the following week.

    I don’t miss the yard maintenance or the cost. Sure we pay $150/month in association fees. But that pays for all grounds maintenance, snow removal, common area maintenance and garbage pick up. Not a bad deal and we still come out way ahead when you look at the big picture.

    I say down with the green dragon. You will probably be the only millionaires in your neighborhood with a shitty lawn 🙂

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:14 AM

      Probably! It’s pretty popular in my neighborhood to keep a nice green lawn. You should see the rivers of water running off the yards and going down the storm drains. It’s appalling how much is wasted on lawns.

  • July 19, 2017 at 8:04 PM

    We had a dirt patch, we then sprinkled some grass seeds with some wildflower seeds around the edges. We ended up getting our rent reduced for doing our own yard work. We also scored a free lawnmower and timing from our neighbor. We are definitely in a different boat than you, but our “lawn” is about the size of a shoebox so maintenance and upkeep is simple and it doesn’t cost us much of anything. My favorite part is seeing all the flowers pop up from seeds I got from my parent’s garden. Frugal win!

    • July 20, 2017 at 7:15 AM

      A shoebox sized lawn sounds rather pleasant in fact. Plus a free mower! That’s awesome!

  • July 20, 2017 at 9:12 AM

    I hated mowing the lawn when we lived at our old house. I have allergy and it was miserable to mow. Life is great with no lawn at our condo. Our duplex had a very tiny lawn at the front, but we took it out and put in a few low maintenance herbs. The tenants won’t take care of a lawn. I’m thinking about putting in a planter box when we move it.

  • July 20, 2017 at 7:40 PM

    Hmm I agree, good thing about where we live is that there’s very little outside land, so we just have a patio. No grass to tend to. I feel lucky not having to deal with all of that nonsense!

  • July 21, 2017 at 8:50 PM

    Your garlic and vegetable garden looks good! I don’t have a lawn to deal with as of yet (just some planters with green onions and geraniums and a blueberry bush that is dead but I haven’t had the time to get rid of it) but I understand your disdain for the green demon.

  • July 22, 2017 at 1:48 PM

    Practical thinking! I love it.

    I think this is why my landlord in Toronto killed the grass on his front law, paved over it, and then swapped up the backyard lawn for a veggie garden. This was HUGELY beneficial to us as renters as well, since he gave us free tomatoes and cabbage every summer. I love it when other people do the hard work and you get to reap the rewards 🙂 In gratitude, we fixed his sink and saved him the money of calling a plumber.

    • July 22, 2017 at 2:56 PM

      Believe it or not, one of the few reasons why we own a house is because we wanted a veggie garden (not a lawn).

      Seems like you had the best of both worlds!

  • August 9, 2017 at 5:45 AM

    Nice lawn garden! Our gardens, both vegetable and perennial flowers, have been slowly taking over our yard. The perennial flowers save me from weed whacking and generally take care of themselves. And if you are going to bother spending extra time and resources, why not grow some food 🙂

    Great post, and nice garlic!

    • August 9, 2017 at 7:25 AM

      Thanks Mr. CK. Our main garden is actually in the backyard. The “lawn garden” is mainly our garlic/experimental garden.

  • August 10, 2017 at 1:56 AM

    Hey man you made me laugh. Lawns are a total pain. Prepare to be jealous. My family lives in a HOA controlled housing development where they take care of all the front yards. We’re talking , mowing, aerating, fertilizing, watering, trimming bushes, everything!
    My wife has told me several times she can never go back to doing our own lawn.

  • August 17, 2017 at 12:02 PM

    I agree 100% with this. We have such a small front lawn it would be better off becoming a garden. Just makes sense. The ROI of a garden compared to a lawn while you live there is huge. Great post.
    Chris recently posted…Top 5 boot dryers for 2017


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