Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So Many Weeds, So Little Interest.

It’s that dreaded time again. When everyone is meant to start taking care of his or her lawns and I just want to take to my bed and hide.  I guess that there are lawn people and then there’s the rest of us.  My lawn overwhelms me, or more correctly, the weeds within it and my futile attempts to keep them at bay. The one and only time I used a broadleaf herbicide I traumatized all my collectable magnolias – stressing them out so badly they almost died. It took two years for some of them to recover and the others are still struggling. Lesson learned. Especially since all the lawn guys told me there would be absolutely no issues. Hmmm. 
So no more poisons are allowed on my property. I’m now 100% committed to organics when it comes to the green stuff underfoot, but that means I’m fighting a bit of a Sisyphean battle against all this hideously invasive stuff. Onion grass. Henbit.  Creeping Charlie. Chickweed. Crabgrass. Nutsedge. Chickweed. Purslane. Speedwell. Red Deadnettle. 
The list goes on and on and just makes me want to lie down on the floor. Or drink. 
Dandelions don’t make me unhappy, I kind of like the violets and clover is actually good for the soil, but I’m fighting a losing battle against the rest.
Do me a favor and look up what they say to do to remove Creeping Charlie without an herbicide. Basically there’s a photo of a lawn person laughing hysterically and the words “Good luck with that,” written in florescent letters.
So I tend to ignore most of my weeds. I just mow the whole mess and try not to look down too closely when I’m wandering around barefoot later in the season.
The truth is that I know the best way to have a healthy and mostly weed free lawn is to have healthy and happy soil underneath it. If your soil is has good drainage, lots of organic and inorganic material and has the right level of acidity, your grass can fight back and prevent those weeds from taking over.
But taking care of a lawn organically seems overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re used to the 1-2-3-4 the Scotts chemical overload regime. Luckily, Marder’s has a great pamphlet that simplifies it immensely and if you talk to a guy that works there named Mike Kusick, he can tell you all the chemistry you’d ever want to know about lawns (or not) and get you off in the right direction. I confessed to him that I was a lazy lawn lady and not emotionally or financially ready to do major stuff to all that green but that I needed a push in the right direction.
He was very understanding and has started me off with the simple task of getting more organic matter into my soil with something called pelletized compost. It’s expensive, but I’m planning on bringing it home one bag at a time and then treating myself to a glass of wine as I slowly but surely scatter it across the ground.
I would much prefer to spend the time and energy on other garden chores, but Mike K. convinced me that a good gardener treats her whole property with care and love and attention and doesn’t always obsess over the pretty flowers.
Besides, he tells me that if I get the health of the soil under the lawn back in control, there will be fewer weeds seeds to pollute all my garden beds. And that sounded very tempting. Especially since I spent three hours weeding part of a garden bed last week and I’ve only cleared space of about 200 square feet. Arggh.
Mike also told me that I was overwatering with my irrigation system and that if would just hand water the hydrangeas when they got stressed in the summer instead of turning on all my sprinklers I’d be much better off. I know he’s right, and I’m going to try again this year, but when my hydrangeas start dropping I’m not sure I can promise I won't be pumping those sprinkler heads up to full volume again. 
We all know that when it comes down to it, given a choice between the lawn and the hydrangeas, there’s no question about who's got my heart, and I’m sorry Mike, but it's sure not my lawn.
Occasionally Paige Patterson envies the Californians who use very soft and foot friendly artificial lawn as an ecological solution to the dismal watering needs of grass.