LXXIX – Zen and the Art of Lawn Maintenance

Wednesday June 24th, 2015

Unless you are confined to your TV chair you will have noticed that this spring and this newly installed summer has been wet and cool. The lawn grows extremely quickly as a result of this type of weather.  It has been so wet that we have as yet not required a sprinkler to water.

We live in the cellar and as cellar dwellers we have certain duties and responsibilities typically assigned to ‘steerage’. I have become the de facto groundskeeper. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to cut grass. I enjoy a walk behind mower (a good thing since no other option exists) provided that it is self motivated (at least one wheel is assisting us in moving forward). This machine is not the Toro of my dreams but a knock off with a reliable Honda engine. It is a rear bagger, which I highly recommend. Not only does the bag collect the clippings but it also collects the Frisbees, tennis balls, sticks, ropes and flotsam related to sharing the property with an Australian Shepherd.

I almost remember my youth when we could spray with readily available herbicides like agent orange (245T) and 24D. I’m not sure if the foggy memory is related to the use of these sprays…where was I? These sprays were very effective controlling broad leaf weeds in our lawns and a country in south-east Asia. Today we use sprays that are similar to what we use in salad dressing and the efficacy is questionable at best.

With a new child in the house my use of sprays is limited to my personal war with Toxicodendron radicans. This particular war has been going on since 1988 when the Wrights first started to domesticate the vegetation here at 126 Cedar Cove. Poison Ivy!

dandelionDandelions are the scourge of lawns and lawn mowing. I am certain that they (dandelions) have the ability to duck down when the (non Toro) mower is near. I use three methods to counter their strategy. I believe they have this ability but I suspect that it is reflex and not a conscious act.

  1. Stop and back up quick. This method gets about 50% of the bastards that duck quickly and forget to hold for the appropriate count. The problem with this is you have to use all your power to back up the mower. You have to disengage the forward motivator. This method also affects your gas mileage if that is a concern on your lawn.
  2. Overlap or the Taraxacum officinale SASHAY. This method allows the scheming weed time to pop up and think he has the world by the ass. On the next pass all you have to do is swerve and mow it down. Your gas mileage and the T.O.L. (time on lawn) will be affected.
  3. You must be diligent. If required you have to use both tactics above: First pass stop and back up and mow forward and on the next pass swerve and nail it again. If both fail then stop and back up over again. It may be necessary to locate the dandelion just off centre of the mower and leave it there for a minute. 99% mowed down by this point.

Dealing with the 1%. When the salad dressing sprays and the mower strategies fail you have only one method left. Dig the bastard out. It is vital that you dig them in such a way that the majority of the tap root is removed. I have all the equipment and Personal Protective Equipment. I recommend a head light and night attack. At the very least the neighbors won’t be able to sleep while you are crawling around the lawn in your ‘Honey I shrunk the Kids’ costume.

The last item to discuss related to lawn mowing quality is blade sharpness. If the blade is not sharp you get those unsightly white torn looking blades of grass. It is possible to get a blade too sharp, it’s all in the angle. There are safety steps that must be followed. You must disable the mowers ability to run…Just sayin’ Everyone knows someone with lawnmower fingers…


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