Posted in Great Outdoors

Grassroots Movement

Last year at this time, I might have added “I can’t grow grass” to my list of can’ts.  You might have read a post I published way back when I started this blog, In Lawns as in Life, about my trials of lawn ownership.  Over this past summer, I read The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey and learned a lot.

Cover of "The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A...

The previous owner of my home used a lawn service, which is basically junk food for your grass.  It keeps it green and looking good, but underneath, it is sick and weak.  Once I took it off of that service, it didn’t have anything to fall back on.

Even worse, I threw some more chemicals on it without knowing what I was doing.  I burnt it out.  The soil eroded and the weeds found some awesome hard, lifeless gravel in which to germinate.  No matter how much I watered, it was a losing battle.

The brown eventually disappeared, but what was left was very weedy.  Early last spring, Bubba and I tossed some seed on it, as a start — I had only begun to read the book, and knew I was done throwing chemicals on my lawn.  The seed germinated and did thicken what grass was left.  I kept reading.

In September , I chose a patch — the worst patch — in the middle of a thriving crop of Creeping Charlie.  I took my metal garden rake to break through what soil was there.  As the vines of Charlie caught in the tines, I pulled up as much as I could.  I know there are still plenty of nodes that have broken off and are waiting to propagate next spring, but the hope is that I am making an environment that is less comfortable for them.

Next, I opened up four bags of good organic
compost I had purchased from my garden supply store.  Using my rake, I spread them out evenly to the depth of about an inch to and inch and a half.  I then spread a nice mixture of seed over the top.  By a mixture, I mean that your grass seed has to have a mixture of spreading and clumping type grasses.  It makes for a diverse community, which all work together to make a healthy lawn.  Of course Paul Tukey states it much better in his book.  If I could communicate it as well as he did, I would have written my own book!  So read his book if you really want to know what I’m talking about.

I used my garden rake to incorporate them lightly into the compost and watered religiously — and I’m not a religious person, so that is saying a lot!  In a week to ten days, my little grass babies were popping their heads up toward the sun.  It was perfect grass weather this fall — wet and cool.  Never one to think what I’m doing at the time is of any importance, I am sorry to say that I didn’t take any photos of the process.

Now I am here to say that I CAN grow grass.  Already I wish that spring was here so that I could check in on my little patch to see how it weathered the winter.

DSCN1843The idea is to stop feeding the grass, and to start feeding the soil.  There is still raking to be done, and next spring my little patch will receive another dose of compost.

It is important to note that Creeping Charlie has many culinary and medicinal uses.  In my midwest suburban neighborhood it can also be used to piss off your neighbors, which I am not inclined to do.  And so I will continue to battle the

I really don’t want a whole yard of grass which requires so much of our good water to be poured out on the lawn.  But it is good to know that I can grow grass, and do it without chemicals, in a few places where I would really like it.

Peace . . .

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Posted in Great Outdoors

A Poem So Lovely As a Tree

I’m going to put this right out there.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  If you came here for some great advice on transplanting a volunteer maple sapling, promptly hit that little back button on your browser and head off in another direction.

There are no trees in my yard, front or back.  I’ve been thinking about a tree since I moved here over 4 years ago.  If raking were all I desired, there are several neighboring trees that supply the leaves.  Yet I would also like shade and scenery.  Teasing my barren landscape, little maples have been popping up in the worst places.  This summer there was one growing inches away from the foundation of my house.  It was either move it or kill it.  I asked my friend Mary, being a master of many talents including gardening, if she thought I could transplant this volunteer sapling in my front yard.  She replied, “Oh sure!  Those things grow like weeds!”

And so it did.  The thing grew a good eight feet tall while I was waiting for the right time.  Today the neighbors two doors down are digging an unsightly hole in their front yard and messing around with their gas and sewer lines — we’re all pretty sure there are no professionals involved.  I figured with the possibility of the whole neighborhood going up in a mushroom cloud, there isn’t going to be anyone concerned with me planting what may very well be a dead maple tree by the time I get done with it.  This seemed like the perfect day.

Step 1.  I dug up the sapling, trying to preserve as much of the root as possible and, I’m afraid, not as much as necessary.

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Step 2.  The soil was loosened up by soaking with a garden hose, and a nice round hole was traced out with a spade.

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Step 3.  I dug the hole, making a little berm along the down-side to discourage water runoff.  At this point, I was laughing wondering if the neighbors thought I was starting my own sewer/gas-line project.

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Step 4.  The seedling was set with purchased topsoil to keep it in place — which is smack in the middle of my front yard.  Everywhere else seemed too close to the neighbor’s pine, the driveway, the city easement, or the house.  Smack in the middle it was!

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Step 5.  The side branches were pruned to encourage straight growth and lessen distress on the sapling.  Have I mentioned I do not know what I’m doing?  I sound good though, right?

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It’s been a few hours, the sun has almost set.  The top leaves look a little . . . sad.  This is where I plead for comments on ways I can improve this little guy’s chances.  I have always been pretty lucky with flowers, and can grow enough vegetables to keep the two of us and a rabbit in fresh produce for the summer.  I can grow weeds like you have never seen before.  I can NOT grow grass to save my soul!  But a poem so lovely as a tree?  We shall see . . .   We shall see.