Turning a Thumb Green

The steamy weather last weekend brought me to a place that I rarely use but often worry about: my backyard.

I live in a row home with a postage stamp-sized yard. When I bought the house, the idea of having a lawn was thrilling. I loved cutting my mom’s lawn, and I figured I could take the weed patch left by the previous owners and make it into a lush green oasis.  I took books out of the Collingswood Library, bought a new push mower, and was ready to grow a green thumb.

But the picture hasn’t been so rosy – or emerald. The small size of the yard makes mowing all turns and corners, and nothing like the long afternoons I’d spent walking around my mom’s yard, cutting the lawn while locked in whatever daydream played in my head that day. And the fertilizing routine that kept her lawn so lush? It turns out to be horrible for the environment. Watering? That can be wasteful, too – by leaving on a sprinkler, I’d be watering the sidewalk instead of the lawn, and as I try to shut down my carbon footprint, I couldn’t justify the choice.

After a year of a tidy green lawn, it’s now dry and weedy – a resting place for garbage and recycling cans, and a spot for my dog to bask in the sun.

So last weekend I stood on that lawn in 93-degree heat and decided to plant a tree. It will counter the developers who pull down trees for South Jersey construction projects. Plus, it will give me shade, and could cut down on energy costs when it’s really summer and I run the air conditioning. Once it grows, it’ll cut out my mowing needs, too. I’m also adding shrubs along the fence that can provide food and shelter for migrating birds come fall.

I’ve never been that great with plants (I nixed the idea for a garden because I kill such things), but maybe this time I’ll get it right.

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