Friday, July 15, 2011

What do you do with a black thumb?


You see all that beautiful fescue grass? It died.

It’s been a week of putting out little fires here and there. A car inspection here, a permitting thing there. A lamp breaks… you hunt in vain for a good cheap replacement, etc. David’s had the same kind of week at work.

And I realized tonight that I was fantasizing about having a paid gardener. David wondered why I wanted that instead of a full time maid/decorating consultant. I thought about it, and I realized that I feel like I’m making incremental improvement on the house. The yard, however, is another story entirely. Since we’ve lived here, we’ve gone backwards, not forwards.

Behold the seeding and aerating experiment of fall 2009. We paid a guy to kill some weeds, seed, and aerate. It wasn’t cheap. We watered religiously. The grass grew. It was BEAUTIFUL. And then we had a horrible drought. We were paying through the nose to the city to water our lawn. We stopped watering and prayed that the grass would survive. It didn’t. Now, our yard is a wasteland of crabgrass. It looks worse than it did before we seeded because of the patches of ground that were toxic from the guy’s weed killing technique. So almost all the nice fescue died, the crabgrass came, and we now have bare patches on top of that where fescue never grew in the first place. Sad end to story.

Did I mention that I fertilized twice with the fertilizer that’s supposed to keep crabgrass from growing at all? I did. I might as well have spread the yard with bunny feed. Maybe they would’ve eaten the crabgrass…

But I have other examples of my black thumb, my friends. This is not the only sad yard story.

Around the same time that we seeded, a pipe burst under the front sidewalk. We had to replace the sidewalk. They dug up our nice, new grass on both sides of the sidewalk. We replaced the soil. We bought grass seed kits that said “GUARANTEED TO GROW GRASS!” We watered. The grass never grew. Now there are patches of crabgrass and black dirt on both sides of the sidewalk. There is no actual grass.

I called my Master Gardener mom and asked her when to plant tulip bulbs. I had my friend with a yard like the Garden of Eden come over to help. She brought her bulb planter thingy. We put in special bulb fertilizer. We planted 20 bulbs from two different packets.

Not a single bulb came up.

I got a bunch of hardy mint from my mom to transplant on the side of our house. I’d planted some of her mint at the rental house we’d had, and it took over the place. I planted it here. I watered it. It died.

I grew sunflowers in little cups with Seth. When they had come up nicely, and Mom told me it was time, I planted them in the yard. I watered them. They died.

My dad and David mulched the pathway around the large flagstones leading from our deck steps to the fence gate. That was over a year ago. The mulch is now completely covered over with crabgrass. Crabgrass likes our mulch a lot. I want to tear up the crabgrass and cover this area over with rocks. David won’t let me. He knows the boys will just pick up the rocks and throw them in the yard so he can then lose an eye while he’s mowing. He’s right.

We replaced our deck. In the process, we made it a little bigger and had to dig up the monkey grass and hostas around the edge of it. Now we have hard packed red clay around our deck instead of grass or overgrown plantings.

From the proceeding paragraphs, can you guess how excited I am about trying to plant anything there again? Yeah. Not much.

Our yard has defeated me. I’m fed up. I’ve watched David and my dad sweat over it, raking leaves by the ton, putting down mulch, trying their best to beat back the weeds over the last 3 years.

But we’re not making progress. The weeds are winning. Sigh.


Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

Oh, I can empathize! We finally have grass growing (sort of), but it has been an uphill battle. One thing that helped us was to get our soil tested. We took samples from various trouble spots (and one seemingly good spot) to see if it was the same problem all over, or different problems in differents places. It really helped a lot because it gave us a more effective approach. For us, a local garden store tested for free (though I admit we bought their supplies, which were a little more than a box store would have charged). In my opinion, totally worth it because we quit wasting money on stuff that didn't work at all.

I have been there. On one spot we haven't done anything with, I planted something like 80 sunflowers this year. Not a single one came up! Sigh.

Ellen said...

Thanks, Brandy. I think we may do the soil testing this time. I think we have an area where they graded with a lot of rock under it because not much grew there even with the seeding. We have to try again to get grass to grow or we'll have erosion problems. I'm just not looking forward to trying it. =)

Robin said...

Ellen, save or get used newspapers from family and friends. Spread them thickly over the areas that are where you can't/ won't grow anything. Then spread landscape fabric over the newspapers, then cover with mulch. Should keep weeds and crabgrass out for a while. Invest in a sprayer and buy stock in Roundup. Just kill everything and "naturalize" with mulch. Whenever weeds pop up, get out the sprayer and douse with Roundup again. Eventually nothing will grow there and you'll have less of a yard to manage.