When you’re young, the backyard and front yard are areas of wonder but also never-ending chores. There are leaves to rake, weeds to pull, grass to water. Many teens and early 20-somethings don’t see grass when they look at lawns, just long, sweaty hours work. With lawn work in service of the deeply uncool goal of having a perfect lawn, the drudgery of backyard design seems pointless.
But when you get a yard of your own, things change. First you try to keep your yard up to certain standards of the block. Over time, however, the sense of ownership and self-satisfaction of a beautifully kept yard become paramount. A yard, for many homeowners, becomes a sacred place, not just something that has to be maintained, but that should be. It’s part of your home, a place where your kids run around and where you can find peace. It’s an ecosystem that you’re responsible for, one that, with work, can evolve over the years to suit your family’s needs. You’re helping things grow. It’s easy to be proud of that.
Certain dads take lawn care and landscaping to a very high degree. The delight they feel for their backyards and the work they require is contagious. In hearing from men who have taken it upon themselves to bring their yards to new heights, it’s hard to not want to immediately head to your local lawn and garden shop and start planning. Fatherly spoke to seven men across the globe with deep affection for their yards, who see the space and imagine wonders, and have transformed them into their desired retreats. Their yards are their kids’ playgrounds, art canvases, sources of soulful joy. They reflect their personalities, their stages in life, and their commitment to a job well done. Here, they talk about their yards and why they provide so much happiness.
It Provides Nourishment for My Soul
My yard is always a great project on the weekends. My wife and I spent all of this Mother’s Day working on our front yard. I broke some tan-colored stones down one by one to landscape the flower beds. It was quite labor intensive work, but I love making something I can be proud of.
Shopping for plants has become my favorite hobby. As the seasons change, flowers and plants come and go. One of my favorite things to do is stroll through the garden center and find plants that I think will really thrive in that season. Tending to them and watching them grow nourishes my soul a bit. —Tim Reitsma, Vancouver father of two
It’s My Desert Oasis
I love my yard. There, I said it. In Scottsdale, we have great weather almost year round, which means everything in the yard grows fast — and wild, if not routinely maintained. I refuse to say I prune my trees. I discipline them. I don’t do it in a negative manner. I do it in the same manner parents discipline their children: to make them better.
As I work past the long thorns desert trees tend to have, I inform the tree why the selected branches have to go: either they’re growing downward or sideways, impinging on the house or roof, makes the crown off-balanced, or vulnerable to the coming monsoon winds. Often, the tree responds. If it disagrees or just wants to assert itself, the thorns draw blood or rip my clothing.
I like to walk the nature path through my cactus garden. Created from a third-acre section of my back yard, it is filled with hundreds of plants, none of which were purchased. I call it my cactus orphanage. The specimens were collected from other peoples plants, trash heaps, or the Mayo Clinic nature trail when they have trimmings. Native trees spring up and generally get to keep their chosen place. The walking trail is easily adjusted to accommodate them. True to the nature of the garden, minimal discipline is needed, except, of course for those determined desert trees that have minds of their own as to how to add branches.
We men do not always exhibit the nurturing souls that women do. Caring for our yards provides us an outlet for that. –Steve Warford, Scottsdale, AZ father of one
It Keeps Me Sane and Creatively Fulfilled
I’m a father to a three-year-old daughter, dog, and soon-to-be son (next month!). My backyard keeps me sane, especially during times like this. I love being in it so much that I started a few blogs dedicated to gardening/yard work and DIY pest control. Every time I go into my yard I seem to find a new thing to write about. My current project is leveling an area of ground to put in a giant new swing set. My favorite thing though? Grilling with a beer, of course, which is what I’m doing right now. —Derek Gaughan, Clarks Summit, PA soon-to-be father of two
It’s My Canvas
My yard makes me happy because I take pride in making it look beautiful. My lawn art however, brings joy to everyone that sees the yard when they pass by. It currently allows me to burn off the stress of the current times. I’m just trying to make people happy.
I take pride in the way it looks. I love when the edges are perfect and I mow in a different direction each week. After each week, left to right, up and down, and on diagonals because it makes the lawn look professional even though I’m just an average Joe. Over the years, I have celebrated birthdays, graduations, and recently offered hope to the neighbors and friends that can enjoy my lawn art in person and on social media.
It makes me humble when others tell me how much it means to see the word hope on the lawn during these troubling times we are living in. -Rick Keshner, Palmyra, PA father of two
It Brings Me Satisfaction — And I Can Show Off to the Neighbors
By keeping my yard at a top-notch level, I have a great playing surface for my kids. We use it for some sports, sprinkler fun, Easter egg hunts, and more. And I put a ton of work into it. I make sure the grass is cut correctly so as not to kill it, it is watered and fertilized as necessary, and there are no weeds, ivy, or anything else that might take away from its beauty. As I keep it in top-shelf shape, it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Full disclosure: I do show it off, although in a modest fashion. I don’t invite people over to look at my yard, but when we have a backyard barbeque, I love hearing the positive comments. And even if we’re hosting a dinner party or any other event, I usually get some remarks about how great my yard looks. –David Bakke, Peachtree Corners, GA father of one,
It’s My Gateway to Freedom and Relaxation
Owning a yard gives you a lot of freedom. It’s possible to grill outside without neighbors complaining about the smell. You can let your little ones run wild without worrying about other pedestrians or cars. And these are only two examples.
Our yard is quite big, which means that we have many birds and even a couple of hedgehogs living there. Thanks to the fence, my boy can run around on his balance bike without me worrying about the traffic. It’s a very relaxing feeling to sip a cold one in a garden where I know every stone and watch nature. And my toddler can run as much as he likes until he’s ready for a nap.
In the evening, we can usually spot the hedgehogs snooping around looking for something to eat. They’re surprisingly agile. But while they’re fun to watch, I wouldn’t recommend hedgehogs. They produce heaps of excrement, which you have to then avoid while walking barefoot on your lawn. —Gert Mikkal, Rakvere, Estonia, father of one.
It Reminds Me of How We Came to Live on This Earth
Gardening is a form of meditation for me. I’m able to focus on working the earth and it helps distract me from anxiety about work.
First thing we did was add a gravel patio with a fire pit where an old garage foundation was. Since then I’ve planted trees and shrubs throughout our yard as well as many perennials. Currently, I’m trying to reduce the footprint of our grass and incorporate a large native plant bed to help our local ecosystem and educate my daughter on the circle of life. Right now it’s just topsoil on kraft paper with a few plant plugs but I assure my wife that it will be amazing — someday.
I enjoy chasing my daughter around during the day to make sure she doesn’t swallow any of the rocks, throwing a ball for our two dogs, and ending the day with a grilled meal on the deck.
I maintained a small container garden in Brooklyn that sparked my love for gardening. I never focused on plants we couldn’t eat in Brooklyn because why waste the space? Now I’ve planted over a thousand flowers here and frequently cut bouquets for my wife. I’m not sure at what point finding beauty in nature escaped masculinity but I enjoy a good dahlia. Gardening and nature help us remember how we came to live on this earth – how little control we actually have – and somehow that makes me feel better existentially. –Chris Ventura, Kinderhook, NY father of one