Dandelion Wars

The battle is on, already.  It’s an eternal, never-ending battle, like good versus evil or modern Americans versus encroaching obesity.  Except this battle is for the highest stakes of all:  a nice, grassy yard come summertime.

The enemy is the dandelion.  Sure, there are other weeds in the yard — lots of them, to be honest — but the dandelion is the undisputed leader of the weed brigade.  It sits there in the yard, flaunting its bright yellow flower, putting on an act of innocence.  As a child, you might have have gathered a fistful of dandelion flowers and brought them home to Mom.  You certainly picked and blew with delight on a dandelion puffball — blissfully unaware that, in so doing, you were scattering nefarious dandelion seeds to every corner of your yard and unconsciously aiding the ultimate lawn care enemy. 

But with adulthood came the realization that dandelions had to be defeated — in fact, they had to be wiped from the face of the yard at all costs.  You understood that dandelions, with their wicked sawtooth leaves and spreading roots, were killing off the grass and opening the way for other, prickly weeds to quickly turn your nice, soft, barefoot-friendly lawn into a ugly, painful, weed-infested disaster. 

There were times, after a long weed-hunting day out in the yard, when contemplated your aching hamstrings and briefly wondered whether the constant battle against dandelions was worth it, because you seemed to be fighting a desperate rear-guard action against an implacable, inexorable inhuman foe.  You wondered: Would it really be so bad to let the weeds win?  But you quickly dismissed that thought as ridiculous and self-defeating.  You grasped that it was your duty, as a good neighbor concerned about property values and the wrath of other homeowners on the block, to fight the good fight. 

Well, it’s Memorial Day, dandelion fighters!  That means it’s time to get out those tools and gloves, scan for the familiar dandelion signs, and get down on your knees and get back into the fray.  Once more into the breach, dear friends!  

Another Humiliating Lawn Care Moment

For years, we’ve had ground cover in our front beds.  It was some kind of leafy, viney plant that produced little blue flowers during the spring.  It kept the beds covered, looked reasonably good, and — most important of all — was virtually maintenance-free and imposed no significant weeding duties.

IMG_1227Several years ago, however, some grass invaded one of the beds.  It was a gradual invasion at first, and I thought it could be controlled by pulling the grass plants out of the beds.  But I was wrong.  Grass plants apparently establish some kind of intricate below-ground network of roots.  Once grass plants get established, it’s virtually impossible to pull them out one by one, because the roots remain and new blades of grass just grow out.  And it was impossible to identify all of the growing grass, because the shorter, newer blades were hidden by the ground cover.  As a result, my weeding efforts were doomed to failure, and there was no viable alternative.  We couldn’t spray the grass with some kind of powerful herbicide because the grass was mixed with the ground cover, and spraying would just kill the ground cover.

So, despite my best efforts, with each passing year the encroachment got worse and worse.  This year, the beds were totally overgrown with tall grass, making the house look like it had been abandoned.  Because there was no other choice, we finally exercised the nuclear option and decided to strip out all of the plants in the beds, grass and ground cover included.  We had it done today, and I think our neighbors were appreciative.  When I went out to look at the work tonight, our neighbor across the way gave me a thumbs-up and said “looking good!”

Pretty embarrassing.

Staving Off The Dreaded Brown-Out

These are the times that try yard owners’ souls.

Every summer a point arrives at which your yard begins to teeter on the edge of browning out.  In Columbus, that point is here.  You know it is coming when there are days of high heat and blazing sunshine and no rain, when the grass at the nearby park or playground turns brown and crunchy, when the ground feels like concrete beneath your feet.  At that point, a crucial question is presented to the suburban lawn warrior:  do you water incessantly, hoping to somehow stave off the inevitable, or do you give up the fight and let the hot summer weather chalk up another victory over the concept of the lush green carpet that is the aspirational goal posed by every lawn care ad?

No one wants to be grossly insensitive to the needs of our environment and basic principles of water conservation, of course, but no one wants to be the first house in the neighborhood with a dead straw-colored yard baked to a brick-like hardness, either.  June is awfully early to be presented with that difficult choice.  Usually we in the Midwest make it until mid-July, or even early August, before the obligatory brown-out occurs.  By then, our fellow homeowners typically will collectively throw in the towel and let Mother Nature do what may — in much the same way that gluttonous men at Thanksgiving dinner will abandon any pretense of pride and propriety, pointedly loosen their belts, and pound down another piece of pumpkin pie.

Of course, there is an alternative:  pray for rain.  You might just see me this week, making heartfelt sacrifices and doing a spastic rain dance in hopes of currying favor with the Rain Gods.