Sunday, August 21, 2016

War on weeds.

In addition to making sourdough bread (which I am still doing, every week), I've been pre-occupied lately with yard work. Okay, let's be honest - when am I NOT pre-occupied with yard work? Even a couple of days before my wedding I was outside pulling weeds.
So, about a year ago I declared a fatwa on ground ivy. Also known as creeping charlie, this stuff spreads by long runners to blanket the lawn and infiltrates into the mulched beds. It's not a bad looking little plant and has a spicy smell but I hate it. It's a member of the mint family if that gives you any idea how invasive it is. My dilemma is that I'm not willing to use poisons, so my one recourse is to pull it up by hand.
And lately, I've noticed an upsurge in crabgrass. I also hate crabgrass. I am weirdly particular when it comes to weeds - crabgrass and ground ivy have earned my wrath but I'm happy with clover and wild violets. At any rate, I made the decision to try to improve the grass in front by de-thatching and weeding and then over-seeding with grass seed when the weather cools a bit.
This involves raking through the grass one patch at a time to scrub up the thatch and pull out vines of ground ivy and then digging out the clumps of crabgrass. I would like to say here that I love this garden tool. It has tines on one side and a hoe-like blade on the other and is incredibly handy.
While I work, I can watch the cardinals battling for territory in the dogwood tree and the hawks being chased by angry crows in the sky above me. Bees hover nearby and earthworms move out of the way. And I am often supervised by Hödr, who lounges in the sun like a panther in the jungle.
There at least half a dozen holes in the front yard, which I believe are entries and exits to some interconnected burrow. This is the largest of the openings. I don't know who lives here - rabbits? chipmunks? a chupacabra?
I worked for hours and hours last Saturday and Sunday and left this pile to be taken away by the city. I ended the weekend sore and sunburned. I was more careful this weekend, working in long sleeves and retreating into the shaded area as the sun took over the yard. By mid-day yesterday, I'd pulled probably 80% of the crabgrass and ground ivy out. I say 80% because every time I look, I find renegades.
This morning in advance of the forecasted rain I scattered milky spore powder, a safe method of infecting Japanese beetle grubs in the soil without harming the pollinators I love. It should soak into the ground. When I researched it, the article I read said you could tell if a grub was infected if you lopped off one its legs and milky liquid ran out. Um, no. I will not be testing it. I don't mind the grubs dying but I'm not amputating their tiny legs.
So now the front yard has bare spots and is largely violets with sparse patches of grass. I am planning to put some compost out next month and then scatter a seed mix of grasses that are shade and drought-tolerant and mini white clover. And then hope that I end up with a bunny-friendly yard that doesn't make me wince at the sight of it.

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