Taking care of lawn takes lots of work, know-how

By James Johnson

I’m thinking of writing a book entitled “Don’t Know Mulch About Yard Work.”

Despite being a homeowner for more than 40 years, I am still a novice at performing work outside.

It’s this time of year that I feel my lack of expertise most severely.

Wintertime is so easy. You don’t have to worry about whether the grass is green or the plants are watered or the bushes pruned. They’re all frozen solid.

Winter is really a wonderful time of year. Staying inside is very much underrated.

Now, of course, the pressure is on. Patches of lawn need re-seeding. But wait, isn’t it better to seed in the fall? Sounds like a good idea.

But there is still the need to kill the weeds. What is so terrible about weeds, anyway? They’re usually green, and they need absolutely no care. Dandelions will grow anywhere, and they eventually dry up and blow away.

My grandfather admired these plentiful yellow “flowers.” He called them “dandylions” and took pleasure in seeing them. This small trait took a great deal of stress out of his summer days and probably extended his life by several years.

Lawns are really a lot of trouble. Getting a good stand of grass at a new home is one of the greatest challenges after getting a mortgage. Indiana has clay soil, probably never designed to sustain grass, anyway.

There is the sowing of seed, laying down of straw and the watering and watering and watering. It never rains enough for a new lawn.

A novice who goes shopping for grass seed will be surprised at the variety of choices. You can get seed for sun, shade, sunny shade, shady sun and everything in between. When I go shopping for grass seed, I really want the type that is green, will grow in a desert and seldom needs mowing. Sadly, no variety seems to meet all the criteria.

Many experts will recommend a variety of bluegrass. Don’t worry, it’s not really blue, but it is a little fussy about soil type, moisture and sunlight.

Ryegrass isn’t so particular and grows fast, but it’s the first to turn brown in a drought. Then it looks like rye bread.

You could consider creeping fescue, but that sounds like something from a 50s horror flick. Also available is a centipede variety, but I am guessing it takes forever to get started.

Of course, the grass is going to need fertilizer. Be careful, too much and you burn up the grass. Too little, and the grass will be puny. At all costs, the ever-threatening weeds must be kept at bay.

You will probably need at least an associate’s degree in this field to know what to use. Be careful not to kill the good weeds (wild flowers) and mind those sensitive shrubs and bushes, too. They are innocent bystanders.

If all goes well, you will eventually have a pretty good stand of growing grass. It is at this point you will wake up one morning to the fact that you have created a monster.

It’s a monster that, under your diligent care and feeding, is growing daily at a phenomenal rate. The monster grass must be mowed. Early or late is up to you, but it must undeniably be done often.

Now you are an unwitting participant in a silent, yet intense, neighborhood competition. You will be the bad guy on the street if you don’t keep your lawn nicely manicured. It’s almost a full-time job during the summer.

Keep track of the direction you mow. You can’t cut the same path each time. There should be equal mower distribution. If you go east to west one time, you must go north to south next time.

The third pass will require a little geometry, since you must go in diagonal strips. That gets a bit complicated, but the payoff is a reasonably happy lawn.

A topic for another day will be home gardening. My working title for the book on the subject is “Oh, Give Me a Loam Where the Rabbits Don’t Roam.”

James Johnson is a retired teacher who lives in Greenwood. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.