Lawn

The Guy Who Doesn’t Like Grass

Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This text was originally published in the magazine Fleurs, plantes et jardins in May 1998.


In Quebec’s horticultural industry, I’m known as the guy who doesn’t like grass. I heard it with my own ears, from one of the leaders of the lawn care industry. My back was turned, but my ears were open! I wonder where he got that idea?

I love lawns… but other people’s lawns. I find the vast green surfaces perfectly mowed and extending to infinity beautiful. I would love to have something similar at home, but I have neither the time, nor the space, nor the money. If one day I become a lord, I promise myself to have a vast green lawn in front of the castle, to show it off… and to impress the gallery.

For the moment, no matter how much I look at my house from all angles, even lying on my stomach to make it look more imposing, it still looks much more like a suburban bungalow than the Château de Versailles. Do you think a turret or two would make a difference?

Photo : artonthefilm

Keep Lawn Care to a Minimum

I must admit that I have a lot of grass around my house. A lot of it, in fact. Because grass is comparatively inexpensive to install and requires less maintenance, at least at the beginning, than a flower bed. However, after a few years of cultivation, it still requires as much effort as it did at the beginning, whereas a flowerbed (especially a laidback one, littered with so many decorative plants that weeds have no space to grow) requires less and less.

So when I get to the end of my 47-year landscape plan (I’m in year 4), there will be only a small patch of my vast lawn left. After all, it’s not just my garden that will be 47 years old, I’ll be in my eighties too and, I fear, will no longer have enough vitality to mow a large area as frequently as required. However, I hope to still have enough energy to sit in my recliner and watch my flower beds bloom. I don’t plan to end up in a nursing home just because I can’t mow my lawn anymore!

In the meantime, I try to keep my lawn as low maintenance as possible. Just mow it, nothing more. That’s enough, don’t you think?

I have already made the mistake of fertilizing part of my lawn. Although I used a slow-acting organic fertilizer, the reaction was still too strong for my taste. The grass started to grow almost twice as fast as usual. Mowing a lawn every four days instead of once a week, how does that sound? However, this lawn eventually got back to “cruising speed”.

Fortunately, otherwise I would have had to pull it out.

Fertilize your lawn? Why?

Strangely enough, when I tell people that I never fertilize my lawn, they don’t believe me. After all, you have to fertilize, don’t you, or it will die? But it doesn’t! It just grows slower, that’s all.

Photo : groveb

Also, just because I don’t apply commercial fertilizer doesn’t mean I don’t fertilize my lawn. In fact, I never pick up the mowed grass clippings. They literally melt into the grass, decomposing at an incredible rate. In fact, decomposed matter means fertilizer. Also, in the fall, I don’t rake up the dead leaves with a rake, I use the mower. Even though the shredded leaves are thrown into the flower beds, small pieces also end up reaching the grass roots and feeding them. So my lawn continues to grow well, but at a reasonable rate.

Finally, I never put herbicide on my lawn. If I were to use herbicide, I would have to pick up the grass clippings from the mowing, as they would be toxic and would poison the beneficial microorganisms that would otherwise quickly break them down. If I were to pick up the grass clippings, I would have no choice but to fertilize, which would require me to mow more often, so I would end up in a nursing home.

Green Carpet With Minimal Effort

The most curious thing is that, despite the fact that I don’t fertilize my lawn, that I never apply weed killer, that I mow it as little as possible, it remains surprisingly green… at least as green as a neighbor’s lawn who does fertilize his. My lawn continues to perform admirably as a “carpet of greenery” while requiring a minimum of effort.

If this is “not liking lawn”, nail me to the pillory of the cult of the perfect lawn. If not, let me finish my life in my garden… with my little patch of grass that I love so much, for lack of the castle that, let’s face it, I will never have…

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

6 comments on “The Guy Who Doesn’t Like Grass

  1. Lynne Pagan

    As long as it’s green & cut short, it’s good enough lawn for me!

  2. Michelle Hecht

    Thank you for continuing his work of helping amateur gardeners. I only recently stumbled upon a blog of his from 2016 and immediately subscribed. I’m heartbroken that he passed before I came aboard, but I am grateful that you have picked up where he left off.

  3. Suzanne Armstrong

    Long live the Laidback Gardener. Always good to be reminded of the best way to care for our patches of grass.
    I would love the best advice on how to keep the grass out of the flower beds. That is my worse weed by far!

    • Mary L Discuillo

      It’s called weeding

    • Mathieu

      The easiest is the out in a plastic or aluminum border between your grass and your flower bed. Otherwise youll always be weeding.

    • I agree! It always wants to encroach, but I have learned to edge and in places put plastic lawn edging just below the surface, so it can’t be seen. Also be careful when overseeding the lawn that the breeze doesn’t carry the seed into the beds, because that does need weeding out eventually 🙂 I enjoy Laidback Gardener as well.

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