Lawn maintenance with a vacuum cleaner?

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Gardening wasn’t really my family’s thing. My parents grew up in New York, my mother in Queens and my father in Brooklyn. Their idea of gardening was repainting the concrete slab in the back of the house green to look like grass.

But once we settled in Kentucky and had a large backyard and landscaping to tend, my father begrudgingly weed-whacked and mowed. He was very excited when he bought a riding lawnmower. Our quarter-acre backyard became the Indy 500 racetrack as he tore around the yard—cutting the grass in 45 minutes flat.

On the other hand, I loved working outside in the dirt and seeing colorful flowers line the fence line. Mom, my sister, and I planted dozens of bulbs—crocuses, tulips, and daffodils. Every year I smiled when the first slender crocus popped out through a thin layer of snow.

The yard brought me many happy memories—planting flowers in our deck’s planters and even watching a half-dead, frostbitten tomato plant come back to life and become as tall as the fence post, supplying us with more than 60 juicy tomatoes.

My father is no dummy—and has three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. to prove it—but…

But for my dad, gardening was still just a chore. Even riding-lawnmower racing got old after a while. Once, my father had just finished fertilizing the lawn. When he tried to pour the remaining granules back into their floppy plastic bag, he spilled a large pile on the grass. The brightly colored beads taunted him. He tried to rake them up, but only pushed them deeper into the grass.

My father is no dummy—and has three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. to prove it—but he grew up with a patio for a backyard. Gardening was not something he studied in grad school.

But like I say, Dad was smart. So he pondered his spilled-fertilizer-granules problem until an ingenuous idea came to him: ‘Eureka! This’ll work!’ he thought.

When Mom and I turned down our drive from a shopping trip, we saw him in all of his glory: my dad was vacuuming the front lawn!

He looked up and gave us a small wave, thinking about nothing but sucking up fertilizer. The vacuum indeed picked up the pellets, but it also sucked up all the loose grass and dirt! The mess blew out the filter and stunk up the house every time Mom turned on the machine. It whirred loudly and made popping sounds as the granules hit the plastic parts. After a couple of failed attempts to clean and fix it, my mother shook her head, hoisted the vacuum into the garbage can, and placed it on the curb. Fertilizing soon became my sister’s job.

And the replacement Mom bought? She made sure it was top of the line, the best that money could buy. Yep—a Hoover.

Dad couldn’t argue.


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