Eating disorder prevention: drought tolerance

Our poor front lawn. One half is normal, but the grass closest to the front walk is noticeably feathery and yellowed. You can see the earth beneath. There is a clear line where one area begins and the other ends -- as if you are entering a different yard. Standing on one side you would think us indifferent homeowners; the other side indicts us as negligent.

It might surprise you to know that this yellowing area is the one we so carefully re-seeded this spring, tenderly fertilized and watered. Everyone was shooed off it for weeks as it came up. It seemed to be going so well and then one day I looked out and saw the new grass was nearly dead. I've been trying to resuscitate it with soakings at dawn and dusk for the past week. I still don't know if the roots are alive and if I can revive it. People strolling by look askance at my waste of water, but we invested so much time and money I risk throwing good money after bad with grim resolve.

You know where I'm going with this, right? I haven't mentioned anorexia or bulimia, or genetic predisposition, or nature or nurture, but you see what I'm getting at.

You see, we didn't know that the seed we planted was a luxuriant but drought-intolerant strain. The sparse but perennial older thatch we had disdained for its spiky and spotty nature turns out to be ideally suited for bone deep drought and clay baked sun of our local summer. Now the older lawn is the strong side and the smart side, too.

The "what-ifs" haunt us. What if we hadn't planted the wrong seed in the first place? Why weren't we satisfied with the original, if less lively, sod? Our neighbor's grass is greener -- what are they doing differently?

Why didn't we keep watering it? And why didn't we notice the new grass faltering -- is it too late? I wonder if we will we always have to coddle it like this. Perhaps this happens every July and will get better on its own. It could be this July in particular, and perhaps later we can return to benign neglect. I dread the week we planned to go away, when all this watering may be for naught.

I regret now the way I bragged on the lawn to a friend. I wish I hadn't said anything because she will notice that our fortunes have been reversed. She doesn't even have space for a lawn and here I was crowing over miracle seed. What else have I been vain about? She must think I'm awful. She may even be happy to see this comeuppance and I can't blame her.

Look at these two areas: the same ground, the same watering, the same silly homeowners. Neither good not particularly bad. Naive, maybe, but not stupid. Caught unaware but not uncaring.

Had we hired a professional from the beginning we could have avoided the problem. I didn't have these problems when I lived up North. Why didn't we at least read a book on lawn care before we bought those bags of seed? We read the promises on the front but looking back I wonder if there were cautions on the back. I didn't think of it. Did my husband? I don't know. If I bring it up he'll feel defensive. He probably resents how I didn't help out in the first place, and how I teased him over the whole project. Best not to rehash it now. Better to just focus on what to do now. I don't want to fight.

We should probably take this up with the garden store: this seed is probably not created for our climate zone anyway. We certainly shouldn't have to pay for it. I'm feeling environmentally guilty as well: we've created a lawn that may need a high level of hydration permanently. But it isn't really my fault. We are a society bent on foolish appearances and wasteful practices. Someone should speak out on this. I need to write a letter to the editor, or my Senator. I wonder if other homeowners in my town have the same secret, have made the same mistakes. As soon as I have the energy I need to go talk to others.

But you know what? It's just like me to mess this up. The basement has plenty of seed packets that germinated or rotted because I didn't get around to planting them. The projects half-finished -- ambitions I didn't pursue.

We can do this, though. I can water this grass every day and figure out what it needs. It's much softer and greener and thicker than the other grass and I bet it will come up earlier in the spring. It will probably do better in the fall as well, and thrive in the rainy season. It may be good to have both kinds of grass and maybe over time they'll spread into each other's areas and be a better overall lawn. In any case this is the lawn we've got, and I think we can embrace that. We'll become better gardeners, and spend more time outside. We're learning. It will be okay.

It's just lawn, right?


  1. It's not your fault... Next time, instead of bragging, you can pat yourself on the back and know, intrinsically, that you did your best.

  2. What animal model would be best to follow in this situation? An elephant so that you can water it with your trunk? A mole so that you can dig up next door's lawn and make yours look better in comparison?

  3. I've had a similar problem with growing grass in an area where there was an above ground pool. I seeded, covered it with those roll out liners, watered it heavily as my dad suggested. Around the edges (it's a circle), the grass grew great, but in the middle, it became one big mud puddle, and the grass stopped growing there.

    So I've come to the conclusion that I will just have to get a whole bunch of dirt to even out the land, then reseed again, and see if that will work.

    Keep working on the grass, experimenting with what works. It'll get there with love, nurturance, and vigilance.

  4. Farming is a 7 year cycle. In 6 years time, it will have sorted itself out.



  5. How funny!
    Our dog has dug up a huge part of the lawn, lots of rain makes it easy to dig! Husband was all about re-planting lawn, "I said let's extend the garden" problem solved.
    Flowers maybe Laura

  6. Hi Laura,I attended an interesting ED conference in Sydney a few weeks ago and they've just published online one of the keynotes on prevention of eating disorders by Prof Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. It's available to watch at


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