Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The magical fall comeback

I didn't post all summer for one reason. I was ticked off.

Spring wasn’t too bad. The dandelions were less numerous this year and the crabgrass seemed more manageable.

Then midsummer came along. Hot, dry, hotter and drier. Did I mention it was hot and dry?

Attempting to avoid a repeat of 2010, I had a mid-summer application of corn gluten meal ready to go. Before the crabgrass took over the neighbor’s lawns, I had it down. Thought I'd nipped it in the bud.

I was wrong. I might have well flushed $100 down the commode, or so I thought. The crabgrass spread like Britney Spears Twitter gossip, in spite of my corn gluten vigilance.

It was a dark moment in my organic lawn journey. After 24 months of toil, way too much money and countless weekends lost to lawn labor ... my lawn looked about the same as it did when the chemical squad was spraying and salting my yard with nasty herbicides, insecticides and other miscellaneous life-icides.

I'll be perfectly honest, I was ready to throw in the towel in this folly of an organic lawn experiment and buy some big-ass bags of cheap-ass chemical weed-&-feed for spring.

Just thinking about the lawn put me in a dark mood. I harbored fantasies of to sending Tukey email to give him a piece of my mind and calling Mike McGrath on his radio show to yell at him.

Of course, I wouldn’t do either of those things, no matter how angry I got. First, my mom didn’t raise any pinheads and second, it’s a lawn, for God’s sake. It’s not the kind of thing that warrants that kind of emotional expenditure.

So I stewed and plotted. I had a compromise planned. Come spring, I’ll go to the turf warehouse and by some straight pre-emergent, without herbicide. Maybe that way I could get a jump on the crabgrass without killing the clover I’d so carefully encouraged for the past two years. At least the crabgrass was green, albeit the wrong green.

Then something uncanny happened. By August, when the hottest part of summer was over, the lawn transformed itself. As the crabgrass died off, new growth of good grass and clover replaced it. Little by little, the days grew shorter, the nights grew cooler – and the lawn got greener.

This is what a healthy lawn is supposed to do. But here’s the news flash: it had never happened here before. Any other year, the crabgrass took over all summer. When it died, come fall, it left a brown desert in its place. When the chem-squad was showing up every other month to spread poison, they were killing the soil. Dead soil, dead lawn – every fall, like clockwork.

As I was plotting revenge fantasies against Tukey and McGrath for leading me astray, watching the crabgrass race across the lawn, the roots of the good grass were feeding and growing below. As soon as Mother Nature took the crabgrass out of the picture, the lawn bounced back – like a champ.

That’s big. And unprecedented.

Sorry, Paul. Sorry, Mike. Sorry for doubting you. Sorry for muttering unkind things about you, under my breath. You guys are OK in my book. I'm glad I hung in there.

Thank God I never sent that e-mail.

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