If It’s Green, It’s Grass… And Other Frugal Lawn Care Musings

20140320-183648.jpgOne Saturday not too long ago, Mr PoP was home enjoying his morning cup of coffee when the door bell rang. What joy!

It was a young gentleman from Truly Scape. For those of you not in the know, Truly Scape is one arm of the pest control company, Truly Nolen, and this ambitious young salesman was going door to door hawking lawn services. And since Mr PoP loves little more than being entertained by an ambitious sales pitch, he let the kid go for it.

Kid: I see that it looks like your yard could use some fertilizer. We have a service that would come out and fertilize your lawn for you so it would grow faster and fuller.
Mr PoP: Wait, that means I’d just have to cut it more often, right? Are you trying to create work for me?
(Strike 1 for the kid.)

Kid: Okay, but I see you’ve got some weeds in your yard. We have a treatment that kills the weeds in your yard.
Mr PoP: What, you mean my wild-flowers? But that’s how I can tell when it needs to be cut. Besides, what would the lawn look like if all the “weeds” went away?
(Strike 2 for the kid.)

Kid: Well, it’d actually look better. See, after we kill the weeds, we could plant more grass but you’d probably need to water more often. Don’t you think your lawn would look better if it wasn’t patches of green and brown?
Mr PoP: Hell no, I’m colorblind! No really, I can’t tell the difference between green and brown. Lawn looks pretty great to me…
(Strike 3 for the kid. He’s out.)

Personally, I think Mr PoP is kind of mean for letting the kid go through his entire sales pitch knowing it was for naught. But Mr PoP thought it was a valuable exercise for the kid to keep honing his sales technique. “An act of Christian charity,” as Mark Twain* would have said.

Mr PoP’s charity aside, it was a nice reminder that we haven’t succumbed to lawn-style inflation and we’re still adhering comfortably to our philosophy on lawn care.


Dollar weed is so nice to walk on, why would you want to kill it?

There are two definitions that guide much of our philosophy when it comes to lawn care.

  1. A weed is growth in a location where it is undesired. Under this definition, grass that has grown over the barriers into our gravel beds are weeds and will be pulled/killed.
  2. If it’s green, it’s grass. Here, this definition refers to low-lying greenery in an area that one would traditionally call a “lawn”.  Dandelions and dollar weed that grow in our front and back lawns amongst other low-lying greenery are just as much “grass” to us as are their cousins, St Augustine grass remaining from the last time someone sodded the yard a decade (or more?) ago.

Adopting these two definitions makes lawn care much less expensive and much more enjoyable. How?

  1. Water is expensive. If we were to water our lawn regularly with city water, we could easily double our water bill from ~$80/month to $160 or more. I have a friend in a tiered billing area, and she says in the months they water their lawn their water bill is easily $200-$250/month. Seriously expensive! Not to mention wasteful. On my early morning runs, I regularly see sprinklers that spend more of their rotation pointing into the street than toward the lawn. That’s literally money down the (storm) drain.
  2. Mowing takes time. (And time is money!) It takes Mr PoP a solid hour or so to mow our lawn. Another hour to mow at the duplex. During our rainy season, he’s out there mowing once per week at both locations to keep up with the thick growth. But when the dry season comes, he gets a break. Mr PoP can chill and relax a little more knowing that he’s only got a quick mow once every 4-6 weeks to knock down the stragglers that stick up more than a couple inches from the rest of the lawn.

It Could Be Even Easier To Care For

Really, if our property was more set-up for it, we would consider graveling the entire property and planting native shrubs similar to Ms Munoz’s front yard in the slideshow attached to this recent NYT piece, Brown is the New Green. Heck, it’d be a step up from the concrete slab painted green that was the “grassy courtyard” in my old apartment building.

But since neither gravel nor green concrete would look all that great next to our lake, we’re just going to keep the current status quo on lawn care of “benign neglect”. After all, if it’s good enough for Warren Buffett’s investment portfolio, it’s got to be good enough for our lawn, right?

Have you succumbed to lawn-style inflation? What’s your lawn care philosophy?

* 10 bonus points to anyone who knows what Twain was referring to as an act of Christian Charity.

50 comments to If It’s Green, It’s Grass… And Other Frugal Lawn Care Musings

  • Love it! Mr. PoP’s response cracks me up. We did hire a lawn service last year to repair the damage from the previous summer when the house sat empty before we moved in (and the lawn turned into the Sahara), but we’ve already cancelled it for this year. It should look better this year since we took care of it last summer. Too many chemicals anyway.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..How I Save Time and Money by Shopping On AmazonMy Profile

  • Haha, nice dialogue. I’m opposed to putting chemicals on the yard my dog and children (will) play on. Frankly, I think most of the grasses in Florida are “weeds” anyway. I’m happy letting our lawn do what it’s going to do. Watering is such a waste of groundwater anyway. So long as it’s mostly green, we’re good.
    Income Surfer recently posted..Picking Through Stocks in Beaten Down SectorsMy Profile

    • I think you’re right about most Florida grass being weeds, anyhow… normal grasses can’t grow when it’s sand and shells an inch or two down =)

  • It always upsets me a bit when I see new homes constructed in the desert southwest that have a full, think lawn if bright green grass. I don’t know why we can’t all agree to grow native species. It sounds like you’re letting your lawn become native on it’s own.

    Green lawns work well in Chicago because we never have to water, but that doesn’t mean they are a most everywhere.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..You don’t always get what you pay forMy Profile

    • Actually, you might be surprised about places in the southwest. Many of the newer communities have two water systems, one with drinking water, and one with reclaimed water (semi-processed grey/black water). So I don’t feel quite as bad about the huge green lawns in the parks, though I wouldn’t let kids run through the sprinklers…

  • I don’t understand the people who constantly water and fertilize their lawns. Water is expensive, fertilizer is expensive and they both make the grass grow faster so you have to cut it more and nobody wants to do that.

    I have at least 2 feet of snow on my lawn. I have not seen grass since late November.
    jane savers @ solving the money puzzle recently posted..My Tax Audit Ended With Me Owing MoneyMy Profile

  • Poor kid, that’s why sales terrify me. You should get a goose if you don’t want to mow, they’ll just do it for you haha. Mine ate all the grass so now we had to replant. Water is cheap so I don’t mind watering but having no sprinklers it takes the handyman a good hour every day which is a lot.
    Pauline recently posted..Little house in Guatemala, month 15My Profile

  • I refuse to water my lawn. The key is to not mow it so short because it won’t have as much dew and moisture on it in the morning. Keeping it longer lets it accumulate dew and look nicer. I don’t mind weeds either. If anyone is looking at my yard that closely, they obviously need to get a life.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..How to Survive a Divorce: A Firsthand AccountMy Profile

  • Unfortunately our HOA has a different lawn philosophy than we do. :(
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..More from the financial education does not work literatureMy Profile

  • That’s kind of funny about Mr. PoP’s responses, and I do feel bad for him but I agree it’s a good learning lesson for the kid so that perhaps he’ll think on his feet better and react analytically rather than just go off a script. :) We live in a condo so no lawn yet, but we for sure want as minimal maintenance as possible.
    anna recently posted..March Madness – half-marathon, honeymoon, and new jobMy Profile

  • We are working on improving our lawn. We have probably the worst lawn in our entire neighborhood. It just won’t grow correctly! We haven’t spent too much money on it though.
    Michelle recently posted..Wedding Update – Up To $20,000My Profile

  • We’re the exact same way with our lawn here. Once it’s cut, our weed and grass mixture sure looks like a beautiful lawn!
    Done by Forty recently posted..That Time Someone Ran Over My ScooterMy Profile

  • Haha, I lol’ed throughout this entire post. I don’t have a lawn, but we live on a hill where there are beautiful “weeds” that grow right outside of our balcony. I always groan when the apartment sends the gardener to come hack away the wildflowers.

  • Wow that’s a lot for water!!! That’s the one advantage of being a renter. The lawn care AND the water bill are taken care of by my landlord.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..A Budget Traveler In Iceland: Part OneMy Profile

    • We (and by we I mean Mr PoP) take care of cutting and pruning at the duplex, but if they want to water the outdoor plants, that’s added to their water bills. Luckily they’re on septic, so they’re not paying for sewage too, so it’s not too bad.

  • I’m pretty sure we’re breaking some HOA law or something, but no one cares. I flat out refuse to water my lawn. I’d love nice soft fescue grass for Daughter Person to play in, but I’m not willing to do what it takes to deal with it. We’re slowly replacing all of our landscaping with native plants that don’t *need* watering (not that the ones we have are getting any watering). The only thing we water is our garden when we have it.
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Housing ChoicesMy Profile

  • Thank goodness no one in the HOA cares – I’ve heard those can be nightmares for people!

  • I’m with you on the “if it’s green, it’s grass.” In Minnesota, we have a plant called creeping charlie that grows everywhere. It gets little purple flowers and is actually pretty cute, but people hate it. Honestly, it’s not worth my time to pull it out. I just try not to stress and move on with life. If I’m spending time doing yardwork, it’s on flowers or vegetables.
    Leah recently posted..NASAMy Profile

    • admin

      “creeping Charlie” totally makes me think there’s a guy creeping around the lawn at night. Who picks these names? =) but I bet the purple flowers are cute. We get some nice white ones…

  • We haven’t owned a house in years, but when we did, we were definitely of the “If it’s green, it’s grass” club. We had a huge lawn, like a couple of acres, and in those pre-Mustachian days, we paid to have it cut (rather than own a lawn mower). But instead of having the guy on a regular rotation, we would just wait until it got long enough to make the house look abandoned, then call the guy.
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..The $0 Toddler?My Profile

  • CincyCat

    My husband hates clover, but it is all over the place in our front yard! He puts some sort of weed killer & grass seed mix on it every spring, but for a few weeks, we have giant brown patches of dead clover until the new grass grows in. The clover just keeps coming back, though (in the same places), so I personally think it is an exercise in futility…

    Attempting bonus points: Twain used that quote quite a bit in reference to willingly overpaying for a service (or paying for it at all) if it meant helping someone else out. :)

    • Oh no, the poor clover! Any chance your husband is irish and you can get him to embrace the clover as part of his heritage?

      Re Bonus Points… If that’s true, then that’s definitely not the quote I was referring to. As a hint – that quote comes from when Twain was a young man traveling out west…

  • I rent in a highrise building, if taxes were reasonable (9-12K yearly) maybe I would buy a home. I miss the Sunday morning lawn up keep, when I used to live with my parents as a teenager.
    EL @ Moneywatch101 recently posted..When is Enough really EnoughMy Profile

    • $9-$12K in taxes? On what kind of house?!? A mansion?

      If you really miss the lawn upkeep, I bet you could find a friend in suburbia who’s happy to help. =)

  • I have a small lawn care business, among other things…

    Skip the fertilizer. Do a broadleaf spray towards the end of summer. That will kill all of the dandelions and you won’t have them in the spring.

    The second best thing to do is a pre-emergent herbicide in the Spring.

    Good luck!
    No Nonsense Landlord recently posted..My Eighth Property, my second 4-plexMy Profile

  • Kim

    We luckily have irrigation water that came with our lot, so there is no monthly charge, although we do have a limit to how much we can use, but we’ve never come close. It isn’t potable, but works fine for the yard. If we didn’t water, we’d have to have all gravel or be covered in tumbleweeds and dirt. Jim used to landscape in college, so we are pretty lucky that we’ve never had to hire anything out. We aren’t too picky with weeds, it all looks the same when it’s mowed.
    Kim recently posted..Fun Things You Get To Do After Paying Off Credit Card DebtMy Profile

  • I can’t believe water bills can be that high! I’m big on xeriscaping although it is costly to change one’s lawn from the status quo.

    Plus, a Simpson’s quote to enjoy that crab grass:

    There’s nothing wrong with crabgrass. It just has a bad name, that’s all. Everyone would love it if it had a cute name like, eh, `elfgrass’.
    — Homer
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  • I was actually considering hiring a lawn fertilizing and weed killing service this year, because our lawn isn’t in the best shape and it got a bit out of control last year as we couldn’t really keep up. It’s sure expensive though. I guess weeds aren’t that important; you don’t notice they are weeds from far away, I am probably just being a bit nit-picky.

  • “…an act of Christian Charity.” Twain referencing polygamy in the Mormon religion and those who marry the “homely” looking Mormon women.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..My Fight Against Bandwagon Consumer SyndromeMy Profile

    • 10 Points for Brian! I found that passage in Roughing It absolutely hilarious – mostly because all the LDS girls I grew up with were beauties inside and out!

  • Julie

    Okay, I guess I have to admit that I’m the lone transgressor here because I love to manicure my lawn. I fertilize, water, weed, mow, edge and love my lawn. I especially love to mow. In the summer, my lawn is a part-time job especially since I don’t have a sprinkler system. Every morning before work I set one or two sprinkles with timers and then on the weekends I start quite early and finish around 2 p.m. each day. Water here is much less expensive but combined with fertilizer, gas/service for the mower, string for the trimmer and professional fungicide applications it can get somewhat pricey. I don’t do it out of obligation or pressure from the neighbors but because I love it. It’s my hobby and I thoroughly enjoy every minute I spend taking care of it. And as a single gal, I love to hear that my lawn is fuller, greener, prettier than those neighbors who pay to have theirs professionally maintained.

    Now before the ridicule begins, I need to explain that my lawn and small flower/vegetable garden are the only remaining budget categories that haven’t been slashed. My budget includes the bare minimum for lawn and garden maintenance and all other costs must be funded from ‘outside earnings’ which includes cash gifts, gift cards and occasionally money made from selling stuff on Craigslist or at my garage sale. My friends and family know what I like and a Lowe’s gift card is king!

    • haha, Julie. If that’s your thing that you love doing, then by all means go for it! We probably spend on things you’d find pointless, so we’re even. =)

  • […] PoP at Planting Our Pennies writes, If It’s Green It’s Grass… And Other Frugal Lawn Care Musings.  I was very entertained by this post both because it includes an amusing story and because it […]

  • Taking care of lawns with fertilizer and weed killers seems to be a product of the ideal 1950’s. That generation and the babyboomers seem to be the most concerned with their grass.

    My generation seems to care less and less and I love it. My grass is my acreage. I let it go like crazy! It serves a purpose beyond just myself and is so much better than manicured and synthetically fertilized minefields.
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