Lawns and Manliness

What says more about one’s manliness than the perfect lawn?  The clean lines, the controlled height, the absence of  offending weeds.  Lawn exemplifies, it might be said, man’s pursuit of the domination of nature.   After all, you walk on it.  And then there is lawn as backdrop for macho sports such as baseball, football . . . possibly soccer.  Further, a well-maintained lawn implies a sort of technological expertise with its edgers, mowers, weed-wackers–all of them dangerous, gas-powered, and noisy.

Where is the lord of this manor?

This all came to my attention recently when I met Sylvia Kellogg at her new listing  9135 Spice Street in the Mount Helix area.  It wasn’t that this home had a lawn–it is set off by gravel–but what Sylvia told me about her experience in Indian Wells, a place from which she recently moved:

“They would tear up all the grass in October and plant new grass,” Sylvia said.  I was a little surprised to hear this, and she added some more explanation.  “The grass that grows in the summer–it can get up to 118° F you know–can’t survive in the winter when everything freezes.  And then they tear it all up again in the Spring and put the summer grass back.”

Lawn in Indian Wells, a place nature never intended it to be.  The trick for conquering Mother Nature, it turns out,  is to alternate two grass species instead of just one.  But this is such a Herculean effort that even the government has stepped in (no pun intended) .  Ordinance number 628 orders landscapers to reduce their watering in the fall to kill off the Bermuda grass that was lovely all summer, mow it down as close as possible to the soil, over-seed with winter rye, and start watering again.  In the Spring, when it gets too hot for winter rye, they are expected to do the reverse.

Beyond this, the government leaves landscapers and garden warriors up to their own devices when it comes to managing the intruders this situation naturally encourages.  I refer here to dandelions, clover, nut sedge–weeds–to which the soil is vulnerable when most of the grass is removed.  Like a military campaign, killing weeds requires know-how, timing, application of herbicide,  and measured effect all carefully strategized and executed, all of them satisfyingly macho activities.

Sylvia and I wandered over from the kitchen window and looked at the Jacaranda and an ornamental deciduous tree.  The shadows were moving across the gravel, making interesting patterns.  “You know, the gravel looks pretty good,”  I commented.  “And relaxing.”  Sylvia agreed with me.

You can reach Sylvia to discuss the listing at 858-444-5712.  Or go to her website at

Gravel with shadows

Cautionary Tale: Hiring the Wrong Stager

I was recently called in to fix a few problems at a house in Chula Vista that my clients had just bought as a rental property.  According to the new owners, the landscape looked pretty good, but there were a few problems . . .

On first glance, the staging looked pretty good: the stagers had added a stream bed to the front to cut back on the lawn.  In the backyard they had done the same, with graveled and mulched areas and some new perennials added for color.    But the stagers had sabotaged the existing irrigation system to achieve their effects.

Some examples:

They drilled holes into the PVC pipe to add micro sprayers to the perennial beds.  But  in order to keep the sprayers from blowing off, they had left several conventional spray bodies attached  to the system, which were spraying water underneath the rock.  They also failed to add a pressure reducer or filter to the line, which meant that the micro-sprayers would eventually clog or blow out anyway.

Weed guard under the rocks hadn’t been stapled and would eventually fray, ruining the natural effect of the rock as the bits of free fabric would start to show.

The valve for the lawns  had several spray bodies that popped up in the perennial bed areas and even under weed fabric.

The valve for the trees had been hijacked for more perennials.

The yard looked okay, but signs of how it had been subverted were starting to show up.   Several of the trees were looking peaked; a number of perennials had already died.  Nutsedge was popping up through the mulch where sprinklers were buried because of overwatering.

The bottom line is that all the shoddy work had to be fixed, and it was time-consuming and costly to do so.  Would-be renters could not be required to maintain the landscape and pay for the water if the irrigation system was unsound.

The lesson learned: there are cheap fixes out there, but the long- term effect on your reputation as a realtor may suffer if you use them.