Earth Matters: Sometimes it takes a pandemic: my groundwater mea culpa

No Mow grass

I’m coming clean. The guilt I’ve been carrying around is a burden too great to bear these days.

Plus, I want to be the one to tell you before you hear it from someone else:
I’ve been watering my front lawn. A lot.

So much, in fact, that the Port Washington Water District sent me a letter last month suspecting a leak somewhere in my house. Eeeeek. Caught red-handed. Kinda.

Yes, I’m the columnist that brags that I haven’t used my lawn irrigation system the past two summers in order to save our precious and limited groundwater. And, on top of that, in years past I’ve probably berated you (or your house, more likely) when I’ve seen your sprinklers going late at night on my walk home from the bar.

And so, please accept my sincere apology, for there are few things worse than being a hypocrite.

In my defense, I’ve been continuing along on my Rewilding journey this year, and part of phase two has been to replace my front lawn with native grass; grass that not only doesn’t need watering but also doesn’t need mowing, hence its nickname – “No Mow” grass. Too good to be true? It gets better- No Mow grass is also gorgeous (thin, long and blows in the wind).

No Mow is a cool-season grass (suitable for temperate and colder climates) and the best time to sow is from late August thru mid-October. As warned on the Prairie Nursery website, “Cool-season lawns that are seeded in fall experience much less competition from weeds than spring seedings…”

But this April and May I had roughly 100 native plants, shrubs and trees delivered to my property and while planting them I rearranged the yard a bit, and so it made sense in the moment to tack the new turf onto the already-massive project to avoid a summer with a lawn scattered with patches of dirt.

Couple the wrong seeding season with the misfortune of using our former landscaper— who didn’t do as I instructed him to do, damnit —and we now have a lawn full of crabgrass with small glimpses of No Mow grass. Shoooooot.

How the heck am I going to convince people to stop wasting groundwater on their lawns by planting No Mow grass if said grass looks absolutely terrible?

(Per capita water use on Long Island is the highest of all communities in the North Atlantic Coastal Plain, an area stretching from Long Island down to the middle of North Carolina. And water use continues to increase on Long Island!)

Luckily for me, a busy-every-moment-of-the-day mom, this home-improvement disaster coincided with the coronavirus pandemic. The “gift of the pause” has provided me with the unlimited time necessary to weed so that the stunning No Mow grass can thrive.

And it was during these first several days spent outside that I began to succumb to the Instagram posts begging us to “use this time wisely” to choose what parts of our lives we actually want to return to. What do we want our world to look like post-pandemic?

For me, this process began with examining what it is I spend my days doing. Are the commitments of my time worth the energy and life they require? Are they bringing me joy? How can I become a happier person?

Recent research suggests that our happiness is due to the quality of the relationships in our lives. Harvard’s ground-breaking Study of Adult Development, spanning over 70 years and released in 2015, revealed that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”

Go ahead and scroll thru your list of relationships. And because it is 2020, a year like no other, let’s take it a few steps further, past your significant other, your kids, your friends, your neighbors.

What about our planet? What is your relationship like with the Earth? How great is your respect for the Earth? Do you spend quality time with her? Do you express gratitude to her?

Or is this one relationship you need to devote some more time to in 2020 and beyond? Please consider, for she provides an abundance of resources and means for humans to flourish!

In closing, I’d like to give thanks to the Earth for providing me with the outlet to bury (most of) my rage and anger and disappointment and regret into. Without all of the digging, raking, planting and watering, I might not be here today. (The spring was THAT bad.)

My time spent in the company of the Earth’s beauty, my feet bare on her soil absorbing her energy and dispelling my own, no doubt saved my life.

Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express a smidgen of gratitude for the opportunity the pandemic has afforded me. If not for the shutdown of the planet this spring and summer I would never have had time to do all of this critical work on my freshly xeriscaped garden, for my old and pink house, with my now feral children, alongside my complaining yet yielding husband.

Please oh please let me finish weeding by the end of the summer.


  1. Great writing Francine: The good news here are once established the native plants will need much less and even in some cases no additional watering to rainwater. Long term benefits of rewilding includes less water waste. My 2 year old habitat has made it this far into summer on minimal watering. I’ve been experimenting with no weeding too (as I broke my foot and can’t do it) and the natives are doing great, outcompeting common weeds. Creeping thyme and strawberries doing great as ground cover


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