I have found the secret to growing the best lawn of all time, but first, let's talk briefly about the obsession and cultural norms that drive our lawn mania.
Several experimental, mechanized lawn mowers were invented in the mid-1800s but they never achieved wide acceptance because they were ungainly, not reliable and few people needed a lawn in the frontier where growing food was more important.
In the 1920s and '30s a couple of mechanized and mass-produced lawn mowers were patented and sold but the Second World War and the Great Depression effectively prevented any establishment of culturally accepted lawn maintenance standards, regardless of the determined efforts of several seed companies and lawn mower manufacturers.
During the '30s and '40s a few large seed companies in the U.S. encouraged families to maintain their lawns. More specifically, they played on the heart strings of women by asking them to maintain their lawns as a "healthy stress-relieving activity that maintained appearances on the home front" in the absence of their husbands, who were away at war.
In the '50s and '60s the postwar population boom provided abundant marketing opportunities for lawn seed companies, lawn mower manufacturers and other allied lawn care industries to promote lawn care as "a healthy practice, the man's responsibility and a enjoyable retirement pursuit." The 1950s established the cultural norm of women as caregivers and homemakers working in the kitchen to care for the family while men went off to work. Men of that era were also seen as the primary marketing targets by the lawn care industry working to sell the ideology of "man's work, good citizenship and keeping up appearances" as related to lawn care.
Today, as far as lawn care is considered, we are still driven by those innocent ideologies of "keeping up appearances, man's work and lawn care as a healthy pursuit." Unfortunately, those days of innocence are gone. We now know better and informed people understand that having a nice lawn is not necessarily a bad thing but it has to be done sustainably. Otherwise, we risk leaving a weakened and polluted world for our children to inherit.
Since those days of our innocence, nothing much has changed in the world of lawn maintenance. The original lawn maintenance techniques of topdressing, overseeding, dethatching and core-aerating still produce the best quality lawns today.
I know that everyone claims to have a secret way to grow their lawn better, faster and greener than the next guy, but really, nothing much has changed because over the long run, grass responds best to the original lawn maintenance techniques. And if we have learned anything about herbicides and fertilizers as related to lawn growing it is that herbicides and fertilizers are financially expensive, damaging to the environment and they must be applied forever, until we die or the lawn does which is not sustainable in a world of eight billion people.
An important thing to remember about residential lawns is that they are not golf courses and accordingly they should not be judged or maintained by the same standards as a golf course. I do realize that diehard lawn lovers generally cannot accept even one weed, bare patch or even the slightest bit of moss growing in the land of lawn.
My recommendation to deal with weeds in the lawn is to have some tolerance for a few weeds. A few weeds in the lawn are not the end of the world, nor does it mean you are lazy.
If you cannot stand even one weed or a tiny bit of moss growing in the lawn, then perhaps you need to install artificial turf, or seek medical help.
As for moss growing in the lawn, moss is a reality in a temperate climate like ours and fighting that reality is akin to fighting the law of paying taxes, it's futile. If you have a chronic moss problem then you likely have the lawn growing in the wrong location such as in the shade under trees, where lawn does not like to grow.
Controlling weeds or moss growing in the lawn can be achieved the same way it has been done for the past hundred years - by allowing the grass to grow longer by setting the mower to cut higher, which produces long lush grass that is able to out-compete and shade out the weeds and the moss.
And now to the secret of growing the best lawn of all time. There really are only two options. Option one: install artificial turf, which eliminates 99 per cent of all lawn maintenance issues. Option two: let the Joneses keep up with themselves. Remember that it is not 1950 anymore and don't grow any lawn. Instead, plant a veggie garden and eat yourself healthily into old age and happiness.
Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist and chief horticultural instructor at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. For advice contact him at email@example.com.