Seth Brown: A kick in the grass | Columnists

Erin Browne

I am a murderer of plants.

This is what I tell people when they suggest I get a houseplant, to differentiate me from people with a green thumb who have a natural affinity for making things grow. Plants left in my care, even if they only require watering once a week, tend to wither and die. I am a murderer, and my weapon is neglect. This is also a reason why I don’t have pets or children.

In spite of this, however, the plants in my lawn manage to absolutely thrive and grow wild. Which is fine by me; I don’t require a neatly trimmed lawn because no sporting events are being played there. Aside from walking through it to get to the mailbox, my main interaction with my lawn is looking at it. And a more wild lawn with various growth is more interesting to look at than a flat, green carpet.

Given this predisposition on my part, I was quite happy to hear about No Mow May. Not only does it help pollinators at a time when bee populations have been plummeting over the past few years, but it also gave me an excuse to not mow my lawn and feel like I’m part of a respectable movement. (Usually, I’m disrespected and sedentary.)

No Mow May is great. Heck, I’d even be happy to follow it up with Just Let It Grow June and Jungle In Front Of The House July, but my partner feels differently. She also does not spend much time sitting in the grass rather than looking at it, but still prefers the lawn to be mown occasionally because it “looks nicer” and “is getting too overgrown” and apparently “we don’t want the neighbors to think that the house is abandoned.”

Like many problems, and many plants, this is rooted in something at a more basic level. And it’s this: Lawns are dumb. They involve a lot of effort to grow a plant of dubious utility (grass) that doesn’t even look terribly interesting. Lawns waste precious water that could be drunk, precious land that could be used to grow food to eat and precious pesticides that could be used on your food instead. Admittedly I don’t use any pesticides or water my lawn, but it still does take up space.

A friend of mine suggested that since I don’t like lawns and they’re dumb to begin with, that I should just replace my lawn with some shrubbery or a garden. This is, objectively, a good idea. Shrubbery provides much more shade than grass, unless you have accidentally shrunk yourself down to the size of an ant, in which case I’m sorry for stepping on you and getting formic acid on my sandal. (Do you know why it’s called formic acid? Because the name antacid was already taken.)

And gardens provide food, which is one of a dwindling number of good things in an increasingly distressing world. So clearly, replacing a dumb lawn with shade and food would be a good idea. Unfortunately, like most good ideas, this would require some work. And given my disinterest in mowing the lawn once a month, it seems unlikely that I’d be eager to put in the effort required to tend a garden. Let alone the effort to acquire a shrubbery, which I’m led to believe can often involve perilous quests and saying “Ni!” to old women like some common ruffian.

So while it’s true that gardens would be much more useful in the long run, inertia may be responsible for the lawn run. So even if it means occasionally doing a little upkeep on the lawn, and then doing a little mower, it’s still easier than reconfiguring my front yard into something else. Which means, ultimately, even though I mostly just look at it, my lawn is likely to remain for the same reason as people’s who actually spend time in it:

I’d rather just sit on my grass.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer and the author of “The Disapproval Of My Toaster,” and is glad no living thing relies on him for survival. His website is

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