Moving to Wisconsin just so happens to correspond with my acquisition of a yard to care for. When I lived in Huntington Beach, Southern California, there was a tiny patch of grass in front of my apartment, and I didn’t have to tend to it at all (except to clean up random litter and dog poop). I know there are neighborhoods in So Cal where homeowners strive to make their yards pristine, perhaps even competing against their neighbors to have the best, most beautiful lawn. I’ve never experienced lawn-envy or lawn-care pressure, at least not until I moved to Wisconsin.
When I first moved to Wisconsin, there were several empty lots in our little neighborhood area (aka “subdivision”) where houses were still being built. Now the construction is complete, and everyone has a beautiful magazine-cover-worthy yard. I’m constantly impressed by how beautiful the lawns look in my neighborhood. There are a few houses where the owners are constantly outside (weather permitting), working on their lawns and gardens.
And then there’s our house…
When it comes to making my own lawn as beautiful as my neighbors’, I see three barriers (excluding any Weed Barriers, of which, turns out, there are none in my yard).
ONE – In Southern California, we were encouraged to let our lawns die.
Dead grass meant you were doing your part to help conserve water for the drought. For me, this meant I needed to expend zero effort for my own tiny lawn in front of my apartment.
Of course, other people didn’t take my zero-effort approach, so this first excuse of mine is not a very strong one. The water restrictions didn’t stop other people from competing with their neighbors for the most beautiful lawns. Instead, competitions between neighbors revolved around different standards for beauty and impressive design.
TWO – When I have spare time, I would much rather leave my house and explore a new park than work on beautifying my yard.
I’ve lived in Wisconsin for almost a year now, and I am still discovering new parks and lakes to explore. Of course, a logical counter-argument to this second excuse of mine is that yard work is like a chore – it’s not fun, but it must be done. Almost anyone would rather go play with their friends or their dog than do chores. Alas, that brings me to excuse three…
THREE – I think the “weeds” in my yard are pretty.
When my husband first lamented that we were not doing a good job with the weeds in our yard, I expressed my surprise:
[So Cal Girl]: “You mean these pretty yellow flowers?”
[Wisconsin Native Husband]: “They’re not flowers, Babe, those are weeds.”
[SCG]: “What about this one?” (pointing to another really pretty plant)
[WNH]: “Yep, that’s a weed too.”
Time for an adjustment…
Having a beautiful lawn feels like a First World Problem – a Home Owner Struggle that pales in comparison to the struggles others experience in their lives. But it still comes down to being a good neighbor. If my neighbors are spending this much time and energy taking care of their homes and yards, what kind of neighbor would I be to let the pretty flowers and weeds grow wild in my yard, where they could easily spread in the wind into a neighbor’s carefully cultivated garden?
While my husband attempts to recalibrate my standards for lawn beauty, I’m attempting to get better at gardening. Our landscaping will get there, eventually.