On many occasions, a legendary lawn right across from the bench overlooking Evans Creek Pond has stopped pedestrians walking through the neighborhood. Some just stop and stare at it. Others get down low to feel the grass just to make sure it is real. Many are wondering just how the owners have managed to make their front yard look like a golfing green, earning the envy of almost every other aspiring gardener and landscaper.
Ted Burkhalter, 74, and his wife Elena, 71, who own the house and lawn on NE 19th Street, are happy to share their secret sauce for immaculate landscaping, and his strategy can be replicated by almost anyone else.
Burkhalter said that mowing his lawn every day during the growing season is the key to having a nice yard, and landscaping is something he really enjoys. It takes him about 15 minutes if he does it each day, and leaves very little clippings to deal with.
When the weather is not as nice, he tries to mow it at least once a week, but water runoff sometimes prevents him from doing so.
Burkhalter also said having a powerful lawn mower helps. His lawn mower is from a company called California Trimmer. It is heavier than a regular lawn mower, and cuts the grass cleanly instead of just tearing at the roots like traditional lawn mowers do.
To keep his yard healthy, the Burkhalters also edge their yard, water, and feed it in the summer with Scott’s fertilizer and hand feeder.
“A lot of people have landscapers put down chemicals to get rid of weeds and make their grass green,” Burkhalter said. “But the key is to cut your grass. Your grass likes to be cut and groomed, just like your hair likes to be groomed.”
The couple avoids using weed-killing chemicals and pulls the weeds by hand if they get any, but they rarely get any weeds because of how often Burkhalter cuts the grass, which mows weeds down before they can germinate.
About once a year, Burkhalter will aerate the lawn. This is the process of poking holes in the grass to let in oxygen to the lower layers. He also does this by hand.
While Burkhalter usually manages lawn care, his wife Elena focuses on the flowerbeds and edges. Both agree that the details of their edging are what makes their yard complete.
“A person who mows their grass but doesn’t put an edge on it is like a man who gets all dressed up and doesn’t shine his shoes. It is all about details,” Burkhalter said.
Even the expert sometimes needs help. Burkhalter occasionally uses Google to find out more information about landscaping and what he can do to keep his lawn healthy. Once he even called Washington State University to talk to professors about his grass when it came down with a fungal disease called powdery mildew.
Burkhalter’s passion for his lawn keeps him motivated to stay on his strict maintenance schedule. He also admits that he does it to connect with his neighbors.
“I have a reputation now. If I don’t keep it up my neighbors will think I’m sick or something,” Burkhalter said. “They are going to say, ‘Oh boy, the old man must not be feeling good’.”
Sue Bangasser, 62, who lives near the Burkhalters, has long been an admirer and occasional gawker of their immaculate lawn.
“Ted’s lawn is legendary,” Bangasser said. “I’ve seen kids on bikes stop, hop off their bikes, and touch the lawn to see if it’s real. It’s a great community-builder because people always stop by to talk to Ted about his lawn.”
Both Ted and Elena Burkhalter acknowledge that some people may think they are obsessed over their lawn, but that does not bother them.
“I really appreciate that he takes so much time and care for the yard,” Elena Burkhalter, his wife, said. “A lot of people just see it as a chore, but we really enjoy being out there.”