Insights from Burning My Lawn

Our yard, especially our front lawn, was never really healthy. I could blame the builders and the company contracted to initially sod our lawn, but as the owners, we haven’t done a very good job of fertilizing and maintaining it.

Over the summer, with a month of extra time on my hands, I decided to make a change.

To provide some relevant background, I am not one to spend hours on the lawn every weekend. Even though it may need mowing, I sometimes skip a week. I tackle the weeds only when they become a major eyesore.

That should help explain why I burned the lawn when I tried to fertilize it about a month ago. I quickly reviewed some YouTube videos and skimmed over the instructions on the fertilizer bag. A few days later, I had burn marks on the sidewalk from the granules that spilled over, and patches of my lawn were brown from too much fertilizer.

It was embarrasing to say the least.

One evening, as I was taking out the recycling for pick-up, one of our not-so-friendly neighbors happened by, totally ignoring me, and scowled as she looked at our front lawn in disgust. Without saying a word, I could hear her judgment loud and clear.

This bothered me so much, I kept dwelling on the mistake I made.

Now, several weeks later, I’m over it. Things always seem more intense in the moment. In retrospect, I learned a few things.

Life After Death

The brown patches were areas of the lawn where the grass was unhealthy. They were thin and weedy to begin with and the excess fertilizer actually finished them off. Based on some online advice, I spent an afternoon dethatching the brown areas and removing the layer of dead turf. I also gave the lawn some extra water.

As the weeks passed, the stolons from the healthy St. Augustine grass began growing to fill in the unhealthy areas. While I’ve read it will take time for a complete recovery, the grass is growing better than before.

I needed to remove the bad grass to make room for the good grass. Where there was death, now there is new life. And the grass is greener where I watered it.

My Theory of Relativity

At the time fertilizer burn took over my landscape, everyone else’s lawn seemed so much greener. That’s when I felt the worst about the mistake I made and how I looked in comparison.

What’s interesting is that, since then, the hot summer sun and lack of rain has made other lawns in the neighborhood full of brown patches. In comparison, my lawn doesn’t look so bad anymore. It really hasn’t changed that much yet. It’s just that, relative to others, what I thought was the blight of the community, is now just another lawn needing to weather another hot dry summer.

It’s all relative.

Because I was fixated on the results of my mistake, it seemed so much worse, and it felt like it would take forever for it to get better. Once the surroundings changed as well as my frame of reference, the time to heal seemed to speed up. And I no longer felt so bad about the mistake. It taught me a lesson and reminded me about the importance of perspective and how relativity can significantly alter the way we see things.

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
 Albert Einstein

Change of Seasons

My summer experience reminded me about keeping things in perspective. Not to be too hard on myself. Fertilizer burn is not the end of the world. Even though we’re told not to sweat the small stuff, it’s funny how we react in the heat of the moment. I made a mistake and I learned from it. I’m grateful and carry on.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
 — Albert Einstein

Some change happens naturally, like the change in seasons. Individual changes are up to us. We need to try new things and mistakes are inevitable along the way. No need to dwell. Learn your lessons and move on.

The kids start school again tomorrow. It’s the end of summer break and fall is around the corner.

As this season ends and the new one begins, I’m feeling good about the changes to come and the lessons to learn — especially from the little things that happen every day. It can take time for some changes to make a real difference. Some of the best changes happen over several seasons. And we sometimes need to make room in order for better things to come our way.

To make the most of change around the bend, let’s

  • try something new
  • make a few mistakes
  • check our frame of reference
  • clear out some of the dead stuff
  • plant some seeds of change
  • grow