About this time of year is when many of us start to think about what needs to be done to get our lawns, trees and other plantings in good condition for the season ahead.
Many homeowners rely on contracted services to take care of such matters, but until just a few years ago, I was one of those who preferred to do it himself. It wasn’t a matter of the cost, but mainly one of how it was done.
From the time I got my first power mower in around 1960, I always believed I could do a better job without help from someone who mowed grass for a living. This feeling was mainly because I could make decisions as I went along.
If I thought the grass needed extra trimming in a certain area, I could go ahead and do it. I didn’t have to worry about a contractor’s opinion. It was my grass, my mower, and my opinion on how it looked that were important, not how much a contractor was making for the job that mattered the most.
This year seems to be a good one for rhododendron blossoms. I have several of these shrubs on different parts of my property, both front and back. They look better than they have in several years.
One aspect of watching the grass grow and seeing how the shrubs are doing is comparing yours with those of the neighbors nearby.
It may be that the way they were pruned in the past few years has been very effective. This is probably true of some other of my shrubs, too, even though I can’t always remember what some of them are called.
When we first moved to this location, learning about what was planted here was part of the excitement of having our own house, and we spent a lot of time at it. We were the second occupants of the house, and my job nearby with a research company in Princeton Junction seemed to be one at which I might be successful for as long as I was motivated.
It turned out that I worked for the company for over 40 years, and there was no need or motivation to change where we lived, less than two miles away. That’s a pretty easy commute. I’ve always wondered what the attraction was in taking the train to work every day.
One aspect of watching the grass grow and seeing how the shrubs are doing is comparing yours with those of the neighbors nearby. When you live in the same house for so long, there’s a good chance that you have been able to watch what’s been going on near your neighbors’ houses.
Sometimes an unexpected event can happen like when a seemingly healthy tree loses a limb. That’s particularly true after a major storm.
Cleaning up the damage after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, was particularly difficult. I lost one large tree and parts of several others. Fortunately, there was only limited damage to structures on my property, mainly to fences. But the yard clean up was well beyond my own capability, and I needed help from a lawn maintenance company that had the necessary equipment and knowledge.
When we moved here in 1957, I remember that we knew several people who were just getting acquainted with the technology involved in mowing the grass.
This was about the time that rotary mowers were coming into use to replace the “reel” type ones. Some of our friends were going to extremes. This meant that they were trying to turn their lawns into what looked like the putting surface on a golf course.
One guy I knew bought a special lawn mower to keep a portion of his front lawn just that way. But after a year or two, that desire faded away. I think he even gave up golf.
Parts of many properties that have large lawns contain planting and decoration other than grass. What can be grown successfully on a certain property usually depends on how it has been used in the past.
If it was once a farm—as was most of the West Windsor and Plainsboro—the soil is likely to be well suited for growing grass. But, to some extent, this depends on what was grown there on the farm, since crops like wheat require the soil to be handled differently than the soil for growing corn or potatoes.
Eventually, of course, the ancient history of what grew in the soil that now supports your front lawn grass will probably not matter.
Weather conditions can have a major effect on how your grass grows. This year, there was a warm period in February and March, and the grass seemed to “wake up” earlier than it usually does.
But then it turned cooler and the grass went back to sleep. Similarly, in April and early May, the weather has been inconsistent for growing grass. Since there is little I can do to change the conditions, the best I can do is hope for the best.
That means that even if we have an abnormally dry spell in May and June, my hose will stay where it is in the pump house. I’ll let it out in July and August when it’s most likely to be needed.