In retrospect, using a bagger wasn't the smartest idea. Photo: jackssmallengines.com

Faithful reader D.T. Matthews writes, "When my son cuts the grass, it leaves clumps all over the yard. Everywhere he cuts, it looks terrible. My neighbors are ready to run me out of the neighborhood. What is he doing wrong?"

Grumpy's Surprising Answer: Don't be so hard on the poor guy, D. T. Do you know how many of us have sons who hang out in the man cave all day staring at their smart phones, laptops, and big screens -- simultaneously? You could take a time-lapse photo and it wouldn't be blurred. Your motion detector burglar alarm system would be silent as a lamb. At least, your son cuts the grass.

 

Whoops! Missed one! Photo: weed-pro.com

Perhaps you'd like him to cut it more precisely, like above, but frankly that just ain't gonna happen unless you pay him per blade.

There are two main reasons grass clumps when it exits the mower.

1. Either the grass is getting too high between mowings or your son is mowing too low. Never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blades in one cutting. Therefore, if the grass is three inches tall, don't cut it lower than two inches. Cutting off more not only injures the grass, but it also produces a shipload of clippings that clump.

2. Cutting wet grass. Never do this. Wet grass clumps. Wait to mow until the grass blades are dry.

Should Grumpy's brilliant suggestions fail to improve your son's performance, there is one last, albeit extreme, measure you can take.

 

Photo: tomkellyconsulting.com_

Mow it yourself.  Looking good.

Is Your Coffee Table Looking Empty? Then you need a brand new book to make yourself look sophisticated, well-traveled, tasteful, and incredibly intelligent. Here's the perfect thing -- Outstanding American Gardens: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy by Page Dickey and Marion Brenner. Featuring incredibly beautiful and clever gardens from every corner of the U.S. (including nine from the South), it'll have you drooling down your shirt in five minutes. So wear a bib.

 

Pearl Fryar's South Carolina garden. Photo: Marion Brenner

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Garden Conservancy is a beneficent organization  that seeks to preserve and grant public access to the finest American gardens. In some cases, the Conservancy preserves gardens whose creators are no longer with us. In others, it partners with current owners who face challenges maintaining extensive gardens. On "Open Days," the public is invited to visit Conservancy gardens all over the country.

Grumpy has been lucky enough to visit many of the Southern gardens during his travels, like Pearl Fryar's in Bishopville, South Carolina (shown above and below).

 

Photo: Marion Brenner

This is one garden you will never forget. A self-taught gardener, Pearl decided that vision combined with a gasoline hedge-trimmer could turn just about any plant into a fanciful work of art, called topiary. Pearl gives motivational talks to disadvantaged youth, telling them that if he could become a star by believing in himself and following a dream, so can they.

I love visiting Charleston, South Carolina (as do all members of the illuminati) and one of my favorite spaces to relax in is the courtyard garden of Peter and Patti McGee.

 

McGee garden, Charleston. Photo: Marion Brenner

I call Patti the "Grand Dame" of Charleston gardening. She knows everybody and everything about town and her garden is a classroom of classic Charleston design  -- exquisite attention to detail and inspired combinations of foliage and flowers that can only be improved by the addition of cocktails.

Right now, this beautiful, 272-page, hardcover book is available from amazon.com for a paltry $29.99. So order it. Your coffee table will thank you -- as long as you wear the bib.

 

 

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