Friday, June 12, 2009

Dr. Strangelawn, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Weeds

As a single mum with a full-time job, a commute, a house, and two girls in soccer, you can imagine that my schedule is, well, a little on the full side. And one thing that often gets ignored is the dandelion plantation lawn.

And really, to call it a lawn is to besmirch the word 'lawn'. (The fictional motive I created for the murder in CSI: Carp, episode 1 is totally believable to anyone who has actually seen my lawn.) After casual perusal careful study, I've determined that the breakdown of the plant species in my lawn is as follows:

Dandelions 45%
Plantain 35%
Pricky things that I step on when I go to retrieve toys off the lawn barefoot after dark 10%
Grass 7%
Clumps of daisies and violets that I am forced to mow around or the girls cry 2%
Weird plant that resembles the unholy offspring of Devil's Snare and a mutant blackberry bush that send up shoots into the lawn from its lair under the pool 1%

Not exactly the stuff of golf greens. My real-life neighbour has a lush carpet of emerald perfection that just mocks my poor excuse for a lawn. I used to worry about it. I used to worry that if I didn't get around doing something about the weeds or mowing the lawn on time, then all my property would need would be an old washing machine in the back yard and a rusted out pickup on blocks in the driveway to look like it was inhabited by people named Cletus and Brandine.

But the time involved in trying to make my lawn into something resembling Glen Abbey is not something I have any intention of spending. And really, unbroken expanses of green are a little boring. Dandelions are cheerful. And so are the violets and occasional johnny-jump-up that have colonized the grass in the back yard.

I started thinking about how to make the most of what's growing there now. Hmmmm, if the planned LCBO strike happens, I have the raw materials to brew up enough dandelion wine to keep most of Carp happy through the summer. And plantain is an amazing natural remedy for bee stings -- you pick some leaves and chew them up and then put the wad of chewed up leaf and spit on the sting site, and it relieves the pain. According to my calculations, if the girls get stung by 18 bees/wasps per child per day for the summer, then I'll be able to use up most of it. Mind you, I might get a bit tired of chewing up plantain and/or run out of spit before hitting the 18-sting mark.

So, I do what I can in the mowing department, fitting it in around soccer practices and games, pool maintenance and laundry, grocery shopping and dentist appointments, trips to the library and the splash pad. I don't worry about how much of the lawn is really weeds, because a having perfect weed-free lawn is not as important as all the other good stuff going on. And as my neighbour Chris told me: "If you mow it short, it all looks like grass anyway."


  1. Do they really cry if you mow the violets?

    For as much as I love gardening, I simply refuse to get too worked up over my grass. It's just going to get stompled by kids anyway.

  2. Yes. They really cry if I mow the violets. Well, Leah does, anyway.

  3. Love your neighbour Chris.

    I wouldn't be able to mow the violets either. I never ever kill flowers on purpose.

    Grass really isn't worth the time. Or the water supply. Don't you sort of secretly suspect that behind every lush, unbroken expanse of perfect emerald green lurks a judgemental over-achiever (or possibly a serial killer?).

  4. The Man has waged war on our lawn. I'm not sure where the battle line is drawn but I'm not sure he's winning. But I think wild flowers are lovely.

    (Chris is a person after my own heart. )

  5. Plantain?? Aren't those kinda like big bananas?

  6. Biblio - now I'm worried that my neighbour really *is* a closet serial killer.

    Nat - life would be pretty boring without the wildflowers, I hope you lawn still has some.

    Apathy - I thought so too. In fact when someone told me that those weeds were called plantain, I thought they were kidding me. But I looked it up, and that's what they're called. It would be cool if I had some of the other kind of plantain, but then that would mean that my yard would be even more of a jungle than it already is.

  7. I watched a TV programme about a zoo that said wallabies are really good at keeping grass nibbled short. And wallabies would be cute as pets, right? So all I need to do to sort out my rainforest masquerading as a lawn is to (1) build a wallaby-proof fence round my garden, and (2) find a pet shop that sells wallabies. Sorted!

  8. I actually love the assortment of green on our lawn - especially after a fresh mow. I think it's the clover that is especially fragrant.
    It,s the mushrooms that creep me out - I mean, how can they grow that big over such a short period of time?

  9. Loth - *smacks forehead* Wallabies! Why didn't I think of that. I wonder if they are available via mail-order or online.

    Meanie - I have a decomposing stump of an old maple tree in my yard, and the varieties of fungi that are colonizing it and the big roots at the surface are truly amazing. Stomach-turning, but amazing.

  10. I am 100098% sure your grass looks better than mine!
    Our lawn looks like a SWAMP!

  11. Your lawn sounds like fun. To have a golf green you need a lot more than time -- there are pesticides and re-sodding and stuff involved. Blech. Toss some wildflower seeds around and let it go completely mad

  12. my philosophy?
    Mulch the front yard entirely - leave whatever perennials and trees that may be there...
    The back is for the kids playing, who cares if it looks like carpet or beat up old turf. Like your neighbour said - cut it so it all looks like grass ;-)