Why I Mow My Own Lawn

There are things you should do yourself and other things you should pay someone else to do

It seems that, for many people, there is no uncertainty about which category lawn maintenance falls into.  This is why lawn maintenance companies are plentiful in most communities.  Let’s face it, there are many other things most of us would rather do than fire up the lawn mower in our limited free time.

If having my lawn cut were my goal, I think I’d hire a lawn service to do the maintenance for me.  Manicured turf is one benefit of cutting the grass, and it’s the only benefit of hiring a mow, blow and go company to do it for me.  Lawn care companies are good at what they do: mow the grass, clean up, and leave.  What many of them don’t do is what is also very important.

The only time I walk around my yard is while I’m pushing the mower.  Otherwise, I just enjoy the lawn from my deck or from a window.  In my previous home I had a landscape maintenance company handle all of the yard maintenance.  The agreement was that they would handle everything to keep my yard looking great.  For the most part they did just that.  The economic reality of a service business like this motivates service providers to give the lowest level of service the customer will accept.  The more lawns they could mow in a day, the more money they could earn.  Taking the time to inspect and adjust irrigation systems, closely check plants and trees for health, feeding, weeding, etc. eats into profits.  Time is money.  And, this is where the relationship began to suffer.

I Paid Someone Else

After moving into the house, I noticed water would stream across the driveway on its way out to the street.  I mentioned this to the landscape crew and they adjusted the irrigation system to reduce the amount of time the water was on.  After the adjustment, there was just as much water streaming across the driveway.  Again, I reported the problem to the crew.  I also had the mindset that it was their responsibility to find the root cause of the problem and eliminate it, despite the fact I was the home owner.

The Problem Persisted

The problem continued for months, but the crew didn’t figure out why.   They had a set amount of time they could invest in solving my problem every Tuesday before they needed to move onto the next customer’s lawn.  Finally, I decided I would fix the problem myself.

One Saturday morning after the sprinklers had shut off, I traced the water flow into a garden to a point under some shrubs.  There was no sprinkler head nearby.  I grabbed a shovel from the garage and started digging into the mud.  About a foot down, I found a broken sprinkler pipe.  After a quick trip to the home improvement center, the pipe was repaired and the sprinklers were back in operation.

Ownership Is A Mindset

About a month after the repair, my water bill indicated more water was going out of the broke pipe than through the sprinklers.  I could have solved this problem months earlier, but I insisted it was somebody else’s responsibility.  The price of water in California isn’t cheap.  How much money did my attitude cost me?

When my wife and I moved to our new home, I decided I would take care of the lawn myself.  It is much easier to have someone else do it, particularly on those hot and humid summer days in Michigan.  The result wouldn’t be the same.  You see, while I want the lawn mowed and looking good, I also want to know if there are any problems that need to be addressed or prevented.  It’s hard to tell the grass is getting too much water until your shoes squish through the mud walking behind the mower.  It’s also good to know that lawn, garden, and other exterior features are in good repair–things I should know for myself rather than relying on a maintenance technician to tell me.

I Could Pay Someone Else to Do It, But Should I?

If I’m going to spend the time to walk through the lawn, inspect the grass and gardens,  check the siding and eves for hornet’s nests, adjust the irrigation system, pull a few weeds here and there, I might as well fire up the lawn mower.  Doing these things for myself gives me greater pride of ownership, which in turn, makes me want to a better job of lawn care.  In the end, I have fewer problems, lower costs, and an nicer lawn.

This is the thinking behind Total Productive Maintenance.

 

6 Comments

  1. Sean Graham

    August 1, 2017 - 9:10 pm

    “It’s hard to manage the plant well from the office.”

    One of my favorite lessons.

  2. Anthony DoMoe

    August 2, 2017 - 4:12 am

    Great post on TPM; you also put in a great plug for the Gemba Walk. You can’t know the problems unless you experience them, and You can’t rely on everyone else to take the ownership to fix them!

  3. Suman Kumar Jha

    August 2, 2017 - 4:33 am

    Good message using a very simple example.
    I recently managed a VSM workshop on E2E maintenance process and one of the key gap identified was about the ownership of assets by the people who are responsible to operated it. So the action we have now is to prepare a list of maintenance related items that can be transferred to Operations team to manage and made accountable for.

  4. Michael Foley

    September 4, 2017 - 12:42 am

    Great article! I’ve always believed that self-help is the best kind of help.

    • Steve Kane

      September 5, 2017 - 7:02 am

      Thanks, Michael!

  5. Mighty Green

    September 7, 2017 - 9:29 pm

    These are some great points! Its hard to find time to do it, but many Americans can and should consider it.