The Crosby Chronicles: Zen and the art of lawn maintenance

Before I became a homeowner, I would frown down upon houses in my neighborhood whose front yards looked like a scene from a horror movie.  

“How can you live with an ugly brown patch” I would think. I would just figure seniors on fixed incomes lived in those homes who couldn’t afford gardeners or high water bills. Little did I know how expensive it was to maintain an attractive lawn.

Since I’ve became a homeowner back in 1995, the one expense at the top of the list has to be landscaping. At our first house, we had no sprinklers or lawn in the backyard, so we had to hire someone to do that. Shortly thereafter, we moved.

At our second house, we encountered the same problem: brown backyard with no PVC pipes.  So we hired the same man to install sod and sprinklers.  

And ever since then, every couple of years, we’ve removed dead ivy here, replant a rosemary shrub there.   Quite frankly, I don’t want to think of the hundreds, no, thousands of dollars we’ve spent on trying not to be one of those eyesores on the block.

Just recently we pulled out the brownish ivy in our front yard, replacing it with low maintenance plants.   Add in lighting and the bill is large enough for a weeklong vacation somewhere nice.  For the time being, we’ll continue to ensure our home looks nice for the neighborhood.  However, I can foresee a future time when we may not be able to afford it.

We all take landscaping for granted. But it takes a lot of water and a lot of maintenance (translation:  a lot of money) to keep plants thriving.

Now when I walk the dog by a drought-resistant front yard or no yard at all, be it full of rocks or weeds, I am no longer critical but think of how wealthy those people are in those homes.

As the old saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But if it is, that’s okay with me.


Brian Crosby is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher.  He can be reached at


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