Friday, February 16, 2007

my personal green revolution

I am not a lawn person. Striving for perfect turf and weighing the relative merits of Bermuda versus zoysia are not activities that interest me. I do not believe in devoting hours to uprooting every dandelion in the yard. In fact, I kinda like dandelions. I reserve the potent chemicals for the likes of fire ants (a nasty invader, anyway) and poison ivy (which isn't an invader even if it is invasive, but will make you itch. Besides, my neighbors have never really gotten the hang of identifying it, so I just do their yard too and save us both a lot of trouble.)

It therefore took about half a dozen years of living here (not counting the drought years, when trying to grow anything new would have been a waste of time anyway) for me to come to the conclusion that it was really time to try to grow some grass. Having a yard comprised mainly of a dozen different varieties of weeds didn't bother me, but having sizeable bare patches and erosion did. So did the proliferation, after a few wet years, of an annoying woody-stemmed weed I couldn't identify that threatened to take over the entire back yard and couldn't be controlled with the lawnmower. Having occasion to call a local tree surgery outfit over some unavoidable pruning, I gritted my teeth and made an appointment with their turf guy as well.

When the turf guy arrived, he surveyed the backyard.
"This'll take us a year of treatments. You've got poleanna," he announced. I was intrigued. Being an occasional listener to a Saturday morning gardening radio show, I'd heard quite a bit about poleanna. The impression I had was that almost everybody seemed to have some, and everybody was anxious to get rid of it. Other than that, I was in the dark.

When we arrived in Geawgia, it was quite a novelty to be in charge of our very own yard. The novelty wore off a bit after the numerous oaks and hickories dropped several tons of leaves on that yard over the winter, but we were determined to make a good go of landholding, even if the plantation was a mere third of an acre. So we listened to the gardening show for helpful hints. Poleanna was a topic that seemed to come up quite often. The show wasn't a whole lot of help to us in figuring out what exactly it was, although it offered plenty of remedies for it. I think Diazinon was the standard recommendation. At least, I know it got about as many mentions as poleanna. Still ignorant, we soon came to use the name for any weed we couldn't identify:
"What's this?"
"Dunno. Must be poleanna."

It wasn't until recently that I acquired some idea what the mysterious herb might be: our county Extension Service agent published a column on it on the newspaper's garden page. Poleanna, it turns out, is actually Poa annua, or annual bluegrass. Not that I would have figured that out from the standard pronunciation down here. Everybody, to include the folks with graduate degrees in horticulture and botany, seems to call it "poleanna." (I've observed that it's risky to assume too much about folks here in the South based on their diction. That guy you're talking to who sounds like he just fell off a melon truck might be a lawyer, surgeon, or college dean. Phi Beta Kappa to boot.)

"Really? Which one is it?" I asked, scanning the weeds around my feet. Finally, I was up close and personal with real poleanna! Turf Guy pointed at a vividly green clump on the ground between us. One of those that I had previously classified as "what the heck, it's grass."

I examined it. Then I stood up and eyeballed the backyard. From the looks of things, the greater part of what constituted grass in it was poleanna. I still wasn't sure why we didn't want it in the yard, since it was green and mowable. I figured if it looked like grass, I wasn't too concerned what shade it was. But he was the expert. Maybe an annual grass, even one of a genus popular with Kentucky-bred horses, wasn't the best thing to have holding down the soil in a yard prone to erosion. And there was still the matter of those darn woody weeds. Turf Guy pointed out the other delights of the yard:
"You've got dandelion," (say it ain't so!) "chickweed, nutweed..." he rattled off several others familiar and unfamiliar.
"What's this?" I queried, pointing out the dried stems of my woody-stemmed bete noire alongside the fence.
"I'm not sure, but it's real common."

The tree guy arrived, but didn't know, either. Darn, I thought. If I can't get rid of it, I'd at least have some satisfaction in being able to call it something.

We've since been pruned, Diazinoned (or some such,) and limed, so hopefully our scraggly tufts of centipede or whatever the original ground cover was will soon spread out into an attractive green lawn. I'm gonna miss the dandelions, chickweed and sorrel (but not some of the more annoying weeds,) but I have confidence that they will be back in force next spring. Whether my woody nemeses will be controlled this year remains to be seen, as it is too early for them yet. In the meantime, I suppose I should hit the field guides at the library and try to I.D. the darn things. In the worst case, I'm advised to take a sprig to the Extension Service office, where they will surely be able to satisfy my curiosity. They'll come in handy as a resource when I start on my new book idea. I'm thinking of calling it The Field Guide to Extremely Common Weeds No One Knows.

YARD ECO: While much of the country digs out from under drifted snow, I strolled out this morning and found the car lightly dusted with pollen. Ain't the South grand!

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Blogger The Ironic Catholic said...

OK Minors...
WE MUST KNOW EACH OTHER! Were you in CSA? Did you know Sr. Joanne Z? I am so shocked. But you have no email here. So please email me and I'll decloak:
ironiccatholic at yahoo dot com .

9:00 PM  
Blogger The Ironic Catholic said...

By the way, I graduated in 1985...!

9:04 PM  
Anonymous ironic catholic said...

OK, no I didn't. I just chatted with sic and he reminded me I graduated from HIGH SCHOOL in 1985. I graduated in 1989 from Mary Wash.... (sorry, it's late and it's been a long day!)

Still, I bet we know people in common. Please do email me!

9:31 PM  

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