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Groups of people shouldn’t get together in large groups right now. Yet, lawn enthusiasts may safely flock like plastic flamingos to The Lawn Forum and enjoy each other’s company online. Created by Alma native John Ware, The Lawn Forum is visited daily by thousands of people from all over the country and around the world. Camaraderie and common ground are found in discussing tools, techniques and turf types. Although lawn care may be only a necessary chore to some, it is an enjoyable hobby, a source of pride and an opportunity for physical activity outside to the users of The Lawn Forum.
John and Whitney Ware of Alma have been married nine years and have two daughters. Ware, the director of Customer Development for Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corporation, jokes, “I tell people I sit behind a computer for much of the day, so I come home and take it out on the lawn.” He also serves as an elected official on both the Alma City Council and the Alma School Board. Ware acknowledges that managing and moderating the website is a lot of work, but says, “it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of.”
Always enjoying lawn care, Ware cites an appreciation for tidiness and order. As a kid, he earned $5 an hour helping a neighbor maintain a 5-acre lawn; “he’s probably still laughing about that,” Ware reflects, before soberly recollecting that he wasn’t paid at all for his efforts mowing his family’s yard. His interest in lawn care sharpened after he and his wife, Whitney, bought their first house in 2009. He was obligated to care for the lawn—at the least, to keep it cut—but Ware decided, “if it was something I was going to do, I wanted to learn to do it well.” He applied himself to researching his lawn’s type of grass, bermudagrass.
Bermudagrass, a warm-season turf type, is common in Arkansas. As Ware researched care methods, he discovered that some of the best information available originated from the University of Arkansas. The Department of Turfgrass Science shares courses on soil, physiology, weather and turf types, as well as a resource guide and calendar for Arkansas homeowners specifically. As Ware says appreciatively, “They conduct a lot of valuable research for establishing and maintaining everything from golf courses and sports fields to home lawns.”
Applying his research helped Ware improve his lawn, maintaining a uniform green turf with plenty of curb appeal. As Ware continued to learn from experience, he saw the need for a space where what he knew could be shared with others, who could, in turn, share their experience and knowledge. “My vision was to create a friendly online community geared toward DIY lawn and landscape enthusiasts—a place to freely exchange ideas, best practices, struggles and success stories.” In January 2017, Ware launched his website, The Lawn Forum. “I had no idea it would become as popular as it is,” Ware admits. Members from all 50 states and more than a dozen countries use The Lawn Forum. Over 100,000 registered members and guests visit the site every month.
People visit the site for different reasons, whether looking for landscaping inspiration or seeking help with weed eradication. In Ware’s own words, “The Lawn Forum has discussion forums for both warm and cool-season grass types. We also have subforums dedicated to things like equipment and tools, soil fertility, weed identification, organic lawn care, pest control, vegetable gardening and fruit trees, irrigation, and landscaping. If it has anything at all to do with lawn care or landscaping, there is probably a discussion about it.” Not only is there a wide range of topics, but there is also a comfortable attitude toward lawn care. “We recognize that there is more than one way to do things, and everyone’s situation and expectations are a little different, so there is something for everyone at The Lawn Forum.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic prevented people from leaving their homes, daily traffic on The Lawn Forum averaged around 7,000 users. There is often a spike in site visitors in the spring, but current trends reflect more than that. The first week of April, daily traffic was closer to 11,000 users. A ticker on the bottom of the main page shows that the most users ever online at one time was 1,732 on March 15, 2020. This was a Sunday evening when many had already been self-isolating and social distancing for a few weeks.
Like many people, Ware has lately been working from home. He affirms that there has been a considerable increase in traffic due to people spending more time at home, and that there is more discussion of special projects that previously weren’t afforded time. Many posts and comments refer to quarantine yard work and lawn projects. “Social distancing is the best thing to happen to my yard,” South Carolina-based user cutigers08 states, while another person, tongue-in-cheek, bemoans social distancing for preventing friends visiting to appreciate his lawn.
In recent weeks, the online community has been more important than ever. Every day, The Lawn Forum unites people with a common interest. People are encouraged to keep themselves busy with practical yard work, earning themselves a restorative dose of sunlight and fresh air at the same time. There’s a sense of community. Someone in Slovenia shares what his situation is like, while people in Alabama and Pennsylvania reply. The shared hobby of lawn care is an obvious comfort. As a Texas poster, FlowRider announces, “I turned off my television. I am going outside in my yard—because there, life is better.”
Photos provided courtesy of John Ware and The Lawn Forum
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