Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 1, 2009

Lawn Wars (In Skokie, Oshkosh, and Everywhere)

I drove past the site of a former muffler shop in Skokie today, and saw that my tax dollars were spent last year to “beautify” the intersection by planting some grass and a couple shrubs. It ain’t big enough to be a useful park, and it’s at literally the busiest intersection in our town (Dempster and Skokie Blvd., …probably the main reason they could not leave it as an “eyesore”).

It’s bad enough that they installed such uninteresting landscaping. But then they really screwed it up by throwing up a huge self-congratulatory sign, with the mayor’s name and the city seal and whatnot. The sign’s right at the corner, blocking much of the view of that useless patch of lawn. Can I get my tax money back, or help build a skateboard park there, or something? Anything but this…

Which brings me to my main point: what’s the big deal about Kentucky bluegrass and lawns, anyway?! Our friends Tom and Mary from Oshkosh, WI (and from our Lake Kristine cottage neighborhood) told me recently about their ongoing effort to replace all the lawn at their “in town” house with food plants, flowers, evergreens and mulch. I’m downright envious of their courage and creative chutzpah. Mary read a book recently called Food Not Lawns, by Heather C. Flores, and was inspired to take action against the lawn Nazis at Chemlawn and your friendly neighborhood hack of a housing developer. Just because everyone’s doing it, and it’s cheap… that don’t make it RIGHT, developers!

I also recall reading an extensive Chicago Tribune magazine article, at least eight years ago, that talked about all the drainage and erosion problems that a metropolitan area runs into if we put too much grass in and not enough other varieties of plant life.

Meanwhile, my wife has devoted hour upon hour this spring, both in Skokie and in Wisconsin, to a holy jihad against dandelions. She wants to de-thatch, aerate, re-seed (our Skokie backyard is very shady), re-sod, treat for moles, treat for grubs (two stabs at the same basic Wisconsin problem), edge around sidewalks, and by any means necessary have the greenest, thickest, most weed-free lawn on the block. I suppose it’s important to have goals in life… but for me, this definitely ain’t one of ’em.

Oops. Time’s up. Excuse me, but I gotta go cut the lawn.



  1. I fluctuate constantly between wanting a weed free lawn and wanting to be ecologically correct. I usually end up doing one application of weed killer about every two years because my lawn is so horrid.

    I’m sure my neighbors quite hate me for the dandelions.

    • AH yes… the neighbors.
      I actually suspect that the culture’s whole fascination with lawncare is mostly due to this keeping up with the Joneses, pride-and-shame game.

      Dandelions are people, too! Just ask my son, he loves them. And I love the color. Screw the neighbors.

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