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MOSTLY MEMORIES
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 • Posted June 16, 2010

The Grass Welfare Program (A special favorite of mine)

Well here we go again(that is not a new expression but it worked well for Ronald Reagan so why not for me) This time my discourse is on the Grass Welfare Program, developed, I suppose by the makers of commercial fertilizer.

When I was a kid we lived in four different houses that did not have grass lawns. Which was just as well because we did not have a lawn mower. What we did have was dirt yards with lots of weeds that had to be chopped with a hoe, and we had the hoes.

We kids, there were five of us of chopping age, had to chop weeds all summer long and how we hated it. We envied those people with grass yards and lawn mowers and we wondered why Papa would never plant grass. But I guess, on looking back, his reasoning was"I don’t have a lawn mower but I do have five good weed choppers.

While we did not have grass we did have trees and never in my memory did we ever fertilize one of them. Whether the people with grass lawns used fertilizer in those days I do not know, but I do know that when we bought a house with a grass lawn and many, many trees (this was in 1928 and I was in high school) we never, not ever, used fertilizer.

And do you know what? That grass and those trees grew and grew without any help from us or from fertilizer. As a matter of fact they grew so much that the trees had to be pruned every now and then and the grass had to be mowed every week.

So, I’ve been thinking: if grass and trees did so well on their own back in those days, why is it that nowadays they have to be fertilized once or twice every year? Now I can understand why they both do better with fertilizer but my question is: did they really need it in the first place and could they have gotten along without it?

It seems to me that mother nature has been doing a pretty good job taking care of her grasses and trees for all these many years but now along comes some "do gooders" (the makers of commercial fertilizers) and they tell us that this poor grass and these poor trees need some help and we just happen to have a product that will provide more food for them than mother nature is providing.

And they, the do gooders, brainwashed us into creating a Grass Welfare Program without stopping to think that grass might be just like people, in that once you start feeding them, they would quit working for their own food and just sit around and wait for Welfare to provide the food they need.

When I retired in 1972 we bought a house from an estate. This house had lain empty for four years and the grass lawn, with its 39 Oak trees had been ignored all those years. The trees were in good shape and the grass was in fair shape but reflected the lack of regular watering.

Having been of the opinion for several years that the fertilizing of grass was equivalent to putting people on welfare I refused to put my new yard on the poverty program. All I did was apply water—as needed—and the grass turned the desired shade of green and started covering the bald spots that had developed during the years of neglect.

However (why is it that every tale generally has to have a "however" in it) the back yard was a disaster. Being at the edge of town this back yard had been used as a dumping ground for some 50 years and my immediate task was to turn this area into a grass covered yard.

And herein lies the story of how a non-believer in the poverty program "fell from grace" so to speak, and accepted the religion of the fertilizer people. I was in a hurry to have a grass covered yard and could not wait for mother nature to provide it for me, so I joined the "do gooders"and put my back yard on a program, fertilizing once or twice every year.

In 1978, while visiting a friend in Iowa, I read an article in his farm magazine about the use of fertilizer. As I remember it the article was telling how the use of fertilizer would increase the yield year after year to a certain point, and at that point the yield would start decreasing until zero yield would be reached. This, if my memory serves me correctly, was due to the fact that fertilizer after a certain number of years would have destroyed certain organisms in the soil that were required to produce crops.

As I understood it the soil would need revitalizing with organic fertilizers such as I used on a yard in San Antonio.To get this fertilizer I borrowed a pick-up and drove to a farm at the edge of town where one could buy cow lot manure by the load. The farmer said to me "You know I used to pay to have my cow lot cleaned and now you city fellers come out here and pay me four-bits a load to haul it off".

While this type fertilizer brought in a lot of strange weeds as well as Johnson grass it did produce a good healthy yard. After returning home from Iowa I went out into my yard and I said to my grass, "Listen grass (I happen to be one of those fellers that talks to flowers, grass and trees) I have had you on a poverty program for the last six years, but from now on you are going to have to feed yourselves because I’m quitting. No more fertilizer".

So I did quit, and do you know what? That damned grass had gotten so lazy that it would not grow as I thought it should so I finally gave up (just like Congress has done on reforming the Welfare Program) and I said to that grass "alright, since I just have to have you hanging around this house I at least want you to look pretty." So I started feeding the lazy stuff again and it started growing and looking prettier every year.

Now I have to start wondering when he commercial fertilizer I am using will have reached it’s production peak. Then too, I wonder why I don’t just borrow a pick up again and look for a farmer who will let me pay him to clean his cow lot.

In doing this I figure I would be starting a self help program that would accomplish three things (1) it would help the farmer,(2)it would help the grass by restoring many of the organisms required by the soil and (3)it would help me return to "my old time religion " of letting the grass get it’s nourishment from mother nature.

FOOTNOTE:

Just this last month, after paying a $100 water bill this old fellow(called a tightwad by some) went out into his yard and said this to his grass children: "Now listen guys I have been giving you water every time you holler and say you are thirsty but fellers I’m telling you right now that you’re drinking too much so if you want more water then get off that welfare program you have been on for the last 10 years and start digging a little deeper, there’s water down there somewhere so hunt for it".

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