Ashlei Payne | For The Virginian-Pilot

When I exit the garage to get my newspaper about 6 a.m. every morning, I’m greeted by soothing shh-shh-shh sounds.

Yes, it’s May and the pollen is gone and the lawn sprinklers are going.

When we bought our house in West Neck Villages in early 2016, I frowned when I saw the underground sprinkler control box on the garage wall. I knew immediately what was coming – green grass envy and high water bills.

I’ve had experiences with sprinkler systems and neighborhood men who love their lawns. While living in Kiln Creek in Newport News years ago, I watched the men, including my husband Ken, stand in the cul-de-sac, admiring their lawns and chuckling good-naturedly about which one of them had the best-looking lawn.

The unofficial losers walked back to their garages, grumbling and heading for the irrigation control boxes. You can bet the next morning – mornings, afternoons and evenings – the sprinklers were running and the lawn-care companies were pouring on the nitrogen.

About that time, I started the “Diggin’ In” gardening column for the Daily Press in Newport News, where I was a reporter and editor for decades. As the gardening writer, I started a crusade to teach people about the pros and cons of…