Low impact gardening. As in, I don’t do much these days

From the Top of the Pile

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Today, at 24 C, it seems like spring finally arrived. The green thumbs must be in their glory. A bit of rain last night, warm weather today, ah! What more could a person ask for?

In my case, someone else to do the yard work.

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I’m sure my late grandparents would not be impressed, but several years ago I gave up on gardening.

Oh, we used to plant a garden. In North Battleford. When we first bought a house in 2001, I was all over it. I even built a little chicken wire protector for my pathetic little strawberry patch.

But I think buying several bags of sheep manure resulted in a several year, losing war with portulaca. It was like the war on terror. There is no end. And there was none in the portulaca war, either, until we sold the house. Perhaps you could consider that a surrender. I believe the current owners do not have a garden there anymore, so perhaps in the intervening years one of the owners of that place conquered the weed, or surrendered and laid sod.

We tried to have a garden in Estevan for a few years. But when planting the garden resulted in one of the worst arguments of our soon-to-be 20-year marriage, I gave up and let it grow in as grass. Thankfully, we are still married. Better to buy frozen vegetables than pay for a divorce lawyer.

These days, most of my efforts have been repeatedly asking the daughter to cut the grass. Eventually, she does. Eventually.

Today I saw two of my former boss’s weed control trucks driving around Estevan. He used to be my publisher, but a few years ago, he and his brother-in-law went into the weed control business, principally in the oilpatch. They bought out an established outfit, spending their summers going from lease to lease, spraying noxious weeds. You want to lose a lot of weight? Forget the keto diet. Buy a spraying business.

Last year I glommed onto the fact that they also do weed control in town on days when it’s too windy to go out in the field. So I hired them. And my lawn looked much better.

And today, I walked in the backyard, and the eastern half is no longer 50 per cent dandelions, as it had been for years. Indeed, I didn’t see one, despite seeing several yards down the road covered in yellow. And thus, my lawn continues to look better, and I’m less likely to pollute my neighbours with yellow flowers. I phoned up said former boss to ensure I’m on the list for this year. It made a hell of a difference.

In previous years, I had spent many an hour on my hands and knees, using the old-fashioned dandelion fork. Then I got a fancier one, and it worked marginally better, but still required getting low.

Then I got one of those stand up things that you step on and four claws would grab the root. You’d then tilt it over, lift it up, and release the claws. However, after a while it didn’t release perfectly, and despite many hours combing over the front grass, it never seems to be making much of a difference.

I tried spraying, but maybe my technique sucks. Or maybe I wasn’t using enough. I don’t know. Whatever I did, it did not work.

Thus, hiring the professionals has been a worthy investment. Indeed, I think it actually cost me less than what I was spending on chemicals doing it myself. It also saved me hours on my knees, or bending over in a futile battle I couldn’t win.

Another labour-saving concept hit me last year, too. Ever since I was a kid, using my mom’s lawnmower to cut neighbour’s grass, I bagged the clippings. And ever since we first bought a house, we bagged the clippings. In dry years, when you cut the lawn once in all of August, no big deal. But when it’s been a wet year, oy.

Then this concept struck me – who has the nicest grass around? Golf course. And do they bag their clippings? Hell no. Maybe they do something on the greens. I don’t know. But they sure don’t do the fairways. The leave all the clippings there, nicely mulched, where it turns into, get this, grass.

And so it seems that our mower, too, has a mulch function. Insert the mulch plug, and voila, no more bagging grass. Much easier on the daughter, much easier on me, and we actually have room in our garbage can. Even better, the grass seems to have improved, too.

In a nutshell, when it comes to yardwork, my life has become much less stressful the less that I do. It only took me 18 years to figure it out.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@sasktel.net.

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