Changing times for the weekend warrior

March 14, 2009|By JOE LAMP'L / Scripps Howard News Service

There's one thing the Wicked Witch of the West and the "weekend warrior" have in common, and that's a lot of W's. The witch is dead, but, unfortunately, the weekend warrior as we know it is not. I know that sounds a bit harsh, so allow me to explain.

Just so you understand, the weekend warrior is not any specific person. In my use of the term, it refers to millions of people across America who on any given weekend from April to September use as much firepower as possible as they take on their requisite landscape- and garden-maintenance duties. The weekend warrior is much like any heavily armed soldier ready to do battle with anything that crosses his or her path.

The typical armament of the weekend warrior might include an all-wheel-drive, zero-turn-radius, superhorsepower riding mower, although standard-issue walk-behind models are the most common and equally destructive. On foot patrol, you'll likely see them loaded down with a deluxe, high-velocity backpack blower (designed to literally blow away the enemy), tank sprayers equipped for non-selective chemical warfare and often mixed with a cocktail of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Although most weekend warriors view their active-duty time outdoors as part work and part sport, all would agree, the sooner the job is finished, the more time available for debriefing in the officer's club.


These weekend warriors can strike at any moment! They are highly active in broad daylight and clearly unafraid of detection. In fact, many are so brazen in their assaults that they parade around half-naked as if to say, "Look at me." This is usually not a pretty sight. In spite of these brash, in-your-face maneuvers, many weekend warriors are active from before sunrise until they run out of light in the evening. As long as the big-box stores don't sell night-vision goggles, darkness is our only reprieve.

Although not easily seen in the predawn hours, the weekend warriors' detection at this time is readily apparent by the ever-present, high-decibel levels of their equipment. Thanks to a setting sun and an innate need for liquid reinforcements, most weekend warriors' code of honor mandates a cease-fire until at least the ensuing predawn redeployment.

Embellished? Maybe - but only a little. But the fact remains, in these times of global conflict, should additional troops be required, we need look no farther than our own neighborhood. Each weekend from spring until fall, approximately 50 million lawns are cut across America, many by the weekend-warrior types I've described above. Sadly, the cutting of those lawns produces tons of carbon dioxide that spews into the atmosphere as a result of non-emission-controlled gas-powered mowers.

As unsuspecting as they are of this "aerial assault," the ground offensive is even worse. The indiscriminate use of chemicals is killing far more than intended, while runoff and residue from fertilizers and pesticides are harming ecosystems, polluting watersheds and making their way into the bodies of pets and people.

For years, I was among the ranks of this kind of weekend warrior. Fortunately, through a few interesting experiences, I realized that things needed to change. I began searching for more eco-friendly answers and solutions. It has been many years since then. But along the way, I've made it my mission to not only change the way I manage my garden and landscape but also to inform and inspire others to do the same thing.

Of all the barriers to breaking old habits in order to change to more sustainable and eco-friendly methods, education is still one of the biggest hurdles to following through. According to a recent National Gardening Association survey, 57 percent of consumers say that having environmentally friendly lawns and landscapes is extremely or very important. The reality is, most people don't know how to get there. Let's work on that. The environmental health of our communities and ultimately the planet depends on it.

Joe Lamp'l, host of "GardenSMART" on PBS, is a Master Gardener and author. For more information, visit

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