The grass is definitely greener this year because of heavy rain, but it also is thicker, longer and growing like crazy, which for many has meant less time to appreciate the verdant spring and more time behind the old mower.
"We've never had it like this before," said Mark R. Hanabury, 62, who has lived in his Annadale home for 22 years.
"It is driving everyone bananas around here," adds his wife, Phyllis, who said the lawn on their half-acre lot must be cut every five days, about twice as often as last year.
The Hanaburys are not alone. Other homeowners, workers for lawn care companies, cemetery caretakers and neighborhood children are putting in long hours guiding mowers through jungles of grass, and then bundling up the cuttings.
"Normally at this time of year we can keep up by cutting once every two weeks, but now we can't keep up by cutting once a week," said Raymond J. Costanzo, superintendant of Arlington National Cemetery. In some cemetery spots, blades have grown five inches tall between cuttings, he said. About 50 Arlington Cemetery workers are mowing 575 acres of lawn, nearly twice the average number doing the job, Costanzo said.
The reason behind all the growth is simple: rain and more rain. Five inches fell this year from June 1 to June 23 at National Airport, compared to 2.2 inches for the same period last year, a spokesman for the Weather Service said.
"Certainly, this spring with the moisture this June, we've had more growth than is typical," said Thomas R. Turner, a grass specialist working for the University of Maryland.
"The turf is in much better shape this year than it has been because of the amount of moisture we've had," said Ronald D. Fox, assistant manager of Metro Turf and Industrial Equipment in Alexandria.
Young lawn mowing entrepreneurs are satisfied with the meteorological turn of events. "We've been mowing a lot more lawns and the grass has been growing a lot more," said Thomas D. Mette, 15, of Silver Spring, who tends about 10 yards.
Local governments are scrambling to reassign workers to the grass detail. "It's really been hectic to keep up with the stuff," said Donald W. Clark, Fairfax County maintenance supervisor. "Not only is it growing faster, but the crews can't get out there when it's raining."
Advice of little cheer to beleagured homeowners comes from Joseph W. Stout, president of Complete Lawn Services Inc. of Arlington: "The grass should be cut so that only the top third of each blade of grass is taken off." Cutting any more can damage the lawn, he said.
So lawns that sloth or necessity have let grow out of hand should be trimmed a little at a time by raising the mower blade and then lowering it a bit in successive trimmings, he said, until the grass is finally cut down to size. What that advice means for lawn tenders, said Stout, is still more trips to the back yard.