Confessions of a yardworkaholic

Lawncare isn’t cool—but man, what a high

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Illustration by Babeth Lafon

A few summers ago, as my family pulled into our Kirkwood driveway after a vacation, my yardwork addiction hit a low point.

Before unloading a single boogie board or sand-dusted chair, I scurried into our front yard and yanked out a few weeds. I couldn’t stand their presence another second. Although those particular weedy invaders—crabgrass and its ganglier cousin, cheatgrass—were huge enough to be offensive, I knew that pulling them before even turning off the home alarm was risky because neighbors could be watching. These are the same people who’ve chided me for being the “lawnmower man,” obsessed with fertilizer application and the watering needs of miniature Hinoki cypress trees (which are awesome). My front yard, wide open to the street like a stage, provides no harbor for hiding such afflictions. Anyone perturbed by a single dandelion is faced with a conundrum: Pluck it and be ridiculed—or do nothing and lose.

Sure enough, within a day of coming home from vacation, a pal who lives across the street wisecracked to my wife: He couldn’t even make it inside without doing yardwork!

It hasn’t always been this bad. Before buying a house in early 2014, I hadn’t mowed a lawn in at least a decade. I’d lived in a series of apartments and then a condo where weekends were spent deciding which bar to walk to, not winterizing a Cub Cadet. Back then, knowing the difference between Zoysia grass and fescue seemed like the death knell for youth, hipness, and freedom. But the advent of a second child meant kissing that lawn-free life goodbye.

“I soon found a curious delight in keeping it all alive, getting my hands dirty to raise it up right.”

Beyond the patchy Bermuda front yard, our homebuilder did little more than toss a few seeds in the sloped backyard. So, starting with a blank, red-clay palette, I gradually worked with local landscapers to transform our treeless property into a lush cornucopia of responsibility I was clueless to maintain. Still, I soon found a curious delight in keeping it all alive, getting my hands dirty to raise it up right.

At just one-fifth of an acre, my little urban lot is now home to a ludicrous array of decorative grasses, yucca, boxwoods, and 31 trees, including wax and crepe myrtles, Leyland cypress, two Japanese maples, and a now-towering row of Italian cypresses I call the Twelve Apostles. I’ve reared most of them up from saplings. And in a weird way, they feel like family, finding their way in this amorphous cityscape like my actual daughters.

What modicum of coolness I had left probably perished the instant I group-texted my buddies a hot tip about Home Depot mulch sales. But who cares? Yardwork is a great way to escape the madness of a houseful of kids, break a healthy sweat, check out new music on earbuds, and feel like you’ve earned a cold Corona in the shade. On a deeper level, for me, it’s a means of being creative and contributing to a greener planet. So, fellow lawn-care obsessives, keep luxuriating in the dewy sweetness of shorn grass and the fleeting satisfaction of neatly arranged mulch, worrying not about those snickering Joneses.

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