Years before committing to an organic lawn maintenance plan, I made an environmentally conscious choice when selecting a lawn mower, which in part was based off of childhood annoyances.
My very first job was the summer after 5th grade when I mowed lawns for $5 per house. The few complications of that job stuck with me through the years: I was reliant on my parents to take me to purchase the gas (which I often forgot about until too late) and my two cycle lawn mower wasn’t really reliable or durable.
I remember my elderly neighbor’s lawn mower. It was orange, ancient, and electric. To my eleven-year-old eyes it might as well have been the first electric lawn mower in history. While he was beholden to the length of his extension cord, the mower never broke down or needed gas. It also had a pretty sweet feature where the handle pivoted from the center of the mower, so instead of having to turn when he reached an edge, he just flipped the handle over and kept going.
All of this came to my mind when I went to purchase my first lawn mower for my own home. I also knew that gas mowers are significant polluters. Therefore, I chose an orange electric Black and Decker. Not only would I never need to make a last minute gas run, but it was significantly cheaper than its gas counterparts, and because an electric mower has far fewer moving parts, I hoped it might last as long as my childhood neighbor’s did.
The biggest concern in purchasing an electric mower is dealing with the cord or waiting for a battery to charge. I went with a corded mower, because my lawn is too large for an entire cut on one battery charge, and when I purchased it the battery technology was not as advanced as it is today. It took a few mows, but figuring out the strategy to minimize dealing with the cord came quickly and has gone relatively smoothly (in eight years I have only clipped the cord once).
Once I committed to mowing with the long cord it only made sense to go electric for everything else. This includes a Toro trimmer, a Greenworks dethatcher, and an inherited leaf blower. In going electric, instead of using fossil fuels, I have tried to reduce my carbon footprint from my lawn maintenance as much as possible. Another added benefit of going electric is the reduced noise level, reducing the volume for both myself and my neighbors.
All of these benefits compile when used with a lawn and garden design that minimizes work when mowing. A large portion of the yard is bordered by either hosta or boxwood. Weeds and grass have trouble growing under these plants so they provide a natural border. Both of these plants allow me to run the mower right up against them, thus eliminating the need to edge before mowing and saving a huge amount of time. Most weeks I only use a pair of hand trimmers to clip around the mailbox and one tree (maybe the sandbox), and that is it.
For a variety of reasons, I also cut the grass higher. It is healthier for the grass because it allows it to grow a stronger root system, which also prevents the intrusion of weeds. Throughout the hot, dry months of July and August it keeps the grass from going dormant or requiring watering. I also commit a slight suburban sin by not cutting the lawn every week. It really doesn’t need it that often. Yes, it may look shaggy by the end of the two weeks, but I find that more appealing than a dry brown lawn that has been cut too short too often.
Over the years, I have come to see a difference between lawn care and gardening. Lawn care is maintenance, which is a chore, while gardening is a hobby. I really don’t like to do chores, so I have done a few things to reduce the amount of time I spend on this chore.
From electric equipment to organic products, all of my choices in switching to an organic lawn have added up. Using less expensive equipment that lasts longer and requires less maintenance, not needing to drive my car to purchase gas for the mower, and using a system designed to save time with organic products, all compounds into a lot of environmental, monetary, and time savings.