A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden

Seeds, Smack Talk and Assorted Gardening Madness in South Pasadena, Los Angeles

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lawns Part 1: It's a Lawn Story

Lawns- ptooey! Who needs them? People that want to play badminton and have garden parties, that’s who! 2 years ago, when we first moved into our apt, the backyard was a jumble of weeds growing in clay soil. For the first 6 months we would mow them down in an effort to make order of this glorious chaos- or well at least the gardeners my landlady hired would. The gardeners would also give me the “crazy eye” when I said I wanted to keep the pine needles on the hard, compacted clay soil floor as a natural mulch. And they’d look askance when I wanted to show them all the ladybug larvae that looked like little crocodiles that were growing on the knee high weeds. Well, whatevs...we still ended up tracking mud and dirt into our house on a regular basis. We kicked up clouds of dirt when we played badminton. Very annoying- we needed something under our feet, and quick.

So we decided to plant a small lawn, and I have to say I f-ed it up royally, my friend. Well, it didn’t start so bad.....we dug out as many Bermuda grass stolons and patches as we could....we hauled composted horse manure from the Burbank stables, and lugged it (and by “we”, I mean my hubster did, while I offered emotional support) up a flight of 14 steps, round the side of the house and onto the roughly 25 x 50 foot backyard. It was a lot of compost, like a grip or a shitload. We rented a rototiller from the orange home improvement store, rotoltilled it all in, smoothed it out with a huge roller filled with water and planted what I thought were good seeds- for sun and shade. I didn’t research, I didn’t discriminate, we just bought the seeds and spread them. Oh, if I could turn back time like Cher! If I could find a way, my friend!

Listen to me. Look at me. Heed my warning- and do as I say, not as I do. I will dissolve my ego and tell the tale.

The seeds ended up a cool season blend of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, which means in the spring and winter, they are a glorious green (minus a little rust, don’t get me started), but they can’t stand up to our hot sort of inland-y summers. (They would be fine and not stressed near the beach or in the Pacific Northwest, probably, where cooler, more temperate weather predominates) In the summer we practically live outside, and the surface looks terrible...and, more importantly, it guzzles tons of water if we want it to look good. Oy, vey is mire. I f-ed it up, yo. Last summer I tried tough love. Long, deep waterings every 1-2 weeks. Let those roots work for their rent! It looked terrible all summer, probably because we gave it a little bit too much tough love.

This summer, we are very guiltily watering our lawn as needed, and it looks much better, though we have tentative plans to redo the lawn with a sturdier, rhizome forming grass like bermuda (which has no taken over portions of the lawn, but now I really appreciate it’s toughness and drought tolerance) or St. Augustine, or slowly transform it into a naturally biodiverse groundcover incorporating clovers, creeping thymes, bellis daisies and other things, or my dream, rehab the lawn with all native and drought tolerant low growing sedges. Right now it has bits and pieces of white clover, supplying nitrogen naturally to the soil, a few Bellis daisies I stole from Griffith Park with my mom as a lookout and Bermuda grass creeping all over and into my 2 raised beds along the sides. Oh, and some dandelions, which I love in the lawn. It makes it look really authentic- authentic what exactly, I don’t know.

We shall see..in the meantime- above are some pics of a hard workin’ man aerating the lawn with monster spiky shoes and mowing the lawn- taking care of the lawn, the lawn, the lawn. What’s the deal with boys and lawns? They love the lawns. The lawn is manhood. The lawn is virility. The lawn, the lawn, the lawn!


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