What a Horror!

I spent the morning digging Bermuda grass out of one of the half-circle flower beds along the front ramp. It seems as if I’ve done this same cleanup in this same garden several times before, and no wonder — I have. I’ve done the fall cleanup three years in a row, as well as pulling weeds at various times during the summer each of those years. I gave up a couple of months ago, and oh, my. What a horror! Thick grass with three- and four-foot stolons and me with bad knees.

It’s actually easier to dig up an entire bed than to dig around existing plants, but I keep hoping those existing plants — daylilies — will spread and multiply and take over the whole garden. So far, it hasn’t happened.

I’m considering doing something else next year — perhaps not plant anything and wait to see what comes up. Tulips will come up, I hope, and after they die back, I’m sure the larkspur will also come up. Around here, larkspur is a short-lived plant, so after I’ve cleared out the dead stalks, I’ve been planting other things to fill in the garden while the daylilies decide what they want to do.

Maybe it’s not that important to have flowers in the front all season. Maybe it’s more important to baby the daylilies and try to keep the garden free of grass for a year and see what happens. (I suppose I could buy a grass killer that’s made especially for flower gardens, but I hesitate to fill my yard with chemicals, and anyway, it’s almost impossible to kill Bermuda grass.)

A few days ago, I wrote about gardening being an all-encompassing creative endeavor, using mind, eyes, hands, heart, and body. It’s also very much a learning experience, which makes it a good project for me because above everything else, I love to learn.

And today’s lesson was all about Bermuda grass. I have a first-hand knowledge of the weed from my efforts to contain the grass the past couple of years, but there is still much I didn’t know. It turns out the scientific name for Bermuda grass is Cynodon dactylon, though it goes by many names besides Bermuda grass, such as quickgrass, twitch grass, and couch grass. It is a weed found all over the world, probably originating in sub-Saharan Africa or perhaps on islands in the western parts of the Indian Ocean. It’s called Bermuda grass because it was introduced to the USA via Bermuda. Although around here, Bermuda grass is used for lawns because of its tolerance for sun and heat, it is considered one of the world’s most invasive weeds, one moreover, that is almost impossible to get rid of.

So, despite having learned all that about my nemesis, it certainly doesn’t help me any in trying to get rid of it. That stuff is truly scary. Even though I have a weed barrier underneath the rocks around the house and my pathways, the Bermuda grass pokes it way to the sun. And if it can’t poke through the barrier, it will grow from far beneath the path and emerge along the edges, which makes it impossible to get rid of. Sure, I can dig it up, but because I can’t get to the origin of the root, it just grows back.

Eventually, I’m sure, I’ll have to make some sort of accommodation with the relentless stuff, but if I give up the fight, I’ll end up with a huge mess.

That brings me back to the beginning premise of this essay, and my musing about not planting anything in this particular garden and see if dedicating myself to the task of clearing out the weed will help. Actually, I’m sure it will — until next year when I go back to planting and watering that garden. Then, all the bits of roots and stolons and seeds and biological detritus that I couldn’t completely eradicate, will erupt into new plants, and I’ll be back where I started from.

Still, things do manage to grow despite the horror of the gardening world. In fact, speaking of larkspur as I did above, I found these two dainty flowers today.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Mostly Flowers

This is a quickie post, mostly photos of my flowers that are blooming today because I’ve run out of time for anything more time consuming.

The weather was cool and still with bright blue skies, so I stayed outside working much longer than I should have. I cleaned weeds from around the edge of a garden so I was able to do much of it sitting, which helped protect my knees.

Besides spending too much time outside, I just got a text asking me to go in to work earlier, so here I am, in a hurry, so I’m showing off my photography skills instead of my writing skills.

I’m sure you’re just as glad to see photos instead of another essay about grass, though I won’t let you completely off the hook. As I was cleaning out the gardens on either side of my front ramp, I noticed a tangle of four-foot-long Bermuda grass stolons (above ground stems) beneath the ramp on the original sidewalk. I thought maybe the grass was growing out of the cracks, but it turned out that the grass on one side of the ramp was inching toward the other side and vice versa. Apparently, even grass itself thinks things are greener on the other side.

I’m still astonished by the growth of my New England asters this year. If anyone local wants any when it comes time to divide them, be sure to let me know.

Well, I’ve run out of time, so it’s off to work I go.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Grass-Filled Day

I experienced a bit of a dichotomy today. I spent the first couple of hours in my yard planting grass, and the second couple of hours pulling up grass.

I suppose it’s not as bad as it sounds, or as bad as it felt while I was doing these two tasks because I was working in two separate gardens, and the grasses were completely different from one another — one was a turf grass and the others were weedy grasses. I might not have paid attention to the weedy grasses but the recent chill as well as a mist of rain and high humidity made all those grasses go to seed. Not only was it unsightly, but I certainly don’t want to deal with even more weedy grasses next year. So I took the time to pull up the grass.

This problem I have with weedy grass is a good example of what happens when you remove one type of organism or organic material from an ecological niche. Last year, this island garden (as I call the strip of ground surrounded by sidewalks) was inundated with Bermuda grass. I managed to dig up most of it, thinking that would be the end of the problem, but no. Immediately other grasses rushed in to fill the niche.

Oddly, when I could have used all these grasses to create a semblance of a lawn, none were around. All I had were small patches of Bermuda grass and a whole lot of tall weeds like ragweed, kochia, and wild mustard.

Oh, well. The work keeps me busy and gives me an excuse to be outside. It’s supposed to be healthy — being outside — but even if it isn’t, I like expanding my reach and making use of the whole property, not just the house. It makes me feel . . . rich.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if the turf grass grows as well as the weedy grass does. I’m having a lot of problem with the Bermuda grass encroaching on my lawn, but I’m not sure I care if the same thing happens in the area I planted today. I just need a way to access the back of the garden, it shouldn’t encroach on my expensive grass, and no matter what grass ends up there, it will all mow the same.

I hope you’re not as bored with this post as I am, but as always, I write about what’s on my mind, and today was a grass-filled day.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Garden of Weedin’

I was outside this morning clearing out weeds and dead annuals and digging up Bermuda grass in preparation for fall planting (lilies and chrysanthemums) and transplanting (New England Asters), when I happened to look up and actually see the garden I was working on. I do see my various gardens, of course, but I tend to focus on what I need to do or what I am actually doing — focusing on the not-so-pretty things, in other words — rather than the gardens as a whole.

It could be that this morning I was looking at the garden from a different angle than I normally do because I was standing in the middle of what was, just a couple of weeks ago, a mishmash of dense grass, weeds, and wildflowers. But whatever the reason, today I really looked and it astounded me to notice that this particular area is becoming something of a garden of Eden instead of the garden of weedin’ that I’ve been dealing with.

I wasn’t the only creature out and about this morning, enjoying the lovely day and the lovely view — a black swallowtail butterfly flitted from flower to flower, so focused on drinking nectar that it didn’t even seem to mind that I was standing there taking pictures.

There seems to be a dearth of butterflies in this area of Colorado, so seeing one is a special joy. It also makes all the effort to create a garden even more worthwhile — not just something for me to do, not just an excuse for me to go outside, not just something to look beautiful, but also something that is worthwhile to other creatures, too. (Though to be honest, I could do without the grasshoppers. Prejudice on my part? Perhaps, but the truth is, they are extremely destructive beasts, eating 50% of their body weight every day. They supposedly eat 25% of available forage in the western USA. And, in fact, they ate absolutely everything Jeff and I ever planted except lilacs and Siberian elms; they even ate entire three- and four-foot saplings, bark and all.)

But this is supposed to be a post celebrating the positive aspects of my garden, not the negative ones. And there is much to celebrate today.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

A Mangled Ditty

Oh, what a tangled mess we leave when first we practice to believe . . . that we know what we’re doing.

This little mangled ditty came to mind earlier when I looked around my yard and saw the jungle-like garden areas that once were filled with dainty wildflowers. Because of all the moisture this year, gardens that, in the past, have barely managed to survive the summer, have grown into . . . well, into tangled messes. Green messes, for the most part, though a few flowers do manage to bloom.

The grass weeds, like Bermuda grass and foxtail, are growing out of control, choking the plants I want. I didn’t know there were so many types of grass here in this yard because when I came, the “lawn” was a field of broadleaf weeds with some patches of Bermuda grass. If there had been more Bermuda grass and fewer weeds, I would simply have watered the Bermuda grass so that it would spread, but unfortunately, the weeds spread faster than the grass, so I took the easy way out and sodded a large part of the yard.

As it turns out, sodding the yard wasn’t the easy way of solving the weed issue. Now I have a lawn that the Bermuda grass is invading and flowerbeds that the various foxtail grasses — as well as broadleaf weeds, of course — are taking over. I was doing well for a while, keeping on top of the weeds, but with the last couple of rains, there was such an explosion of green (everywhere except the brown swath of my lawn that still remains brown), that I’ve mostly given up. I’d spent the past month or so pulling Bermuda grass out of my lawn, yanking up kochia and ragweed as tall as my knees from the still uncultivated areas, and gathering foxtail seedheads from places in my garden when I couldn’t reach the whole clump of grass, and now my knees are protesting.

With my knees on strike, I’ve been trying to break the habit of pulling up weeds when I see them, but it’s a hard habit to break since the weeds are hard to ignore, and they need to be taken care of before they can do serious damage. Still, the hiss of pain when I stoop helps remind me to take it easy, which is good for my knees, but not so good for the tangled mess I’m left with.

I keep reminding myself that eventually the summer will end and the summer grasses and weeds will die no matter what I do or don’t do now, and then I’ll be able to clear away everything at once (weeds and defunct annuals) to get ready for next spring.

Meantime, that little mangled ditty keeps looping around in my head, taunting me. Last spring, and into the summer, I did begin to believe that I knew what I was doing, but now, not so much.

On a happier note: zinnias! Or rather, one lovely green zinnia.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Gardening Is the Answer

I finished digging the grass out of a soon-to-be wildflower meadow. For a few minutes this morning, I thought I’d get rained out and would have to save the last six-foot square until tomorrow, but the clouds spat a few drops at me, got bored, and moved one.

After I finished digging and shaking the dirt out of the clumps of grass roots, I raked the area flat, which oddly was the hardest part of the whole task. But I got that job done, too.

An experienced gardener left a comment on my blog yesterday that a wildflower field doesn’t have to be tilled, and I wondered if I had done all that work for nothing. And yet, that Bermuda grass is so strong and overpowering, I was afraid my poor wildflower seeds wouldn’t stand a chance if I didn’t do something about the grass. In fact, that grass is so strong it’s starting to go through the weed-barrier fabric on the north side of the garage. Supposedly, the contractor got the strongest fabric available, but as I said, that grass is strong. It looks like they are going to have to add another strip of the fabric, as well as finish putting up the gutters on the garage, but that is not something I can to do, so I won’t worry about it.

I’m glad to know about not having to till the soil for a wildflower meadow, so in some other spots where I want wildflowers, I can just toss the seeds and stamp them into the ground. Well, after I dig up the weeds, that is. And the grass.

A friend sent me a quote: “The answer is gardening. It doesn’t matter what the question is.”

I thought that was lovely. And it does sort of reinforce a surmise I made. A fellow griever once told me about an old woman she knew who had lost everyone she had ever loved and yet was the happiest person the griever knew. We both marveled at the possibility of finding joy despite all the sorrow, but now I know the woman’s secret. The woman was a gardener, so as I surmised, that’s the answer to the conundrum.

I wonder if I will be that person? More likely, unless gardening keeps me mellow and allows me a life of sorts without having to deal with too many irritations, I will become a curmudgeon.

Either way, gardening does seem to be the answer.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Thrill of Rain

It rained last night and most of the day. The dreariness of the dark clouds and the windblown drops could have made this an unpleasant day, but instead, there seemed to be a feeling of excitement, as if the sodden ground was thrilled by the possibilities of spring.

Or maybe it’s just me feeling thrilled. After the dryness of the past years, seeing so much rain is a joy. Besides, the chance of seeing green shoots this year, perhaps some flowers, adds a bit of effervescence to the grayness, though I don’t want to get too excited. After all, there are still weeks of possible freezes coming up, and around here, any freeze after the start of spring can kill off incipient blossoms or keep them from budding in the first place.

Still, it’s fun dreaming of greener days.

During the fall, when the workers were here putting in the sidewalk, they used a skid steer, which pretty much tore up my lawn, though lawn is a misnomer. Since I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the yard, last year I didn’t water what grass there was, so basically the workers just created more bare spots in the brown grass.

People tell me that Bermuda grass is hard to kill, so I’m hoping the rain will resurrect the grass in the dead zones. If not, I’ll think of something to plant once the pathways are in. That way, I’ll know where to plant things so I can take care of them. The scattershot approach to planting bulbs seemed like a good idea, but without knowing where I’d planted things, I didn’t know where to water when rain was scarce. This year, every time I see a bulb, I mark it with a stake, so I’ll know where to water. For now, the clouds are doing the watering for me, dumping plenty of moisture on the grateful ground. We won’t be warming up too much in the next few days, so perhaps the ground will remain wet for a while, giving any lazy bulbs time to wake up.

The gray day put the croci to sleep, but one more dwarf iris did find its way to the surface. A pleasant surprise in a surprisingly pleasant day.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Grass From Hell

I malign this poor grass. Bermuda grass is only the grass from hell if you’re trying to dig it up. It’s a chore, that’s for sure! Because of it’s extensive — and deep — root system, it takes several stabs with a shovel to get deep enough to pull out even a small chunk of the grass. And it does come out in chunks of soil and roots.

I imagine this ability to bind soils makes it a good grass in windy areas, such as this one. I certainly don’t lose any topsoil (assuming there is any at all in this ancient yard) during the high wind storms. The deep roots make Bermuda grass hard to kill with neglect. Even if it turns brown in the heat of summer, it will always come back with a touch of rain. Despite that — or maybe because of that — it is heat and drought resistant. When I figure out what areas of my yard I want to be green, I’ll water the heck out of the grass and end up with a lush looking lawn.

For now, I know one area I don’t want the grass — it’s between the two sidewalks and would be hard to mow. Besides, that island will make a great zinnia bed. And so the grass has to go, though to be honest, right about now, I’m rethinking that plan. I’ve worked a couple of hours today and yesterday, and oh, am I exhausted! To say nothing of sore and weak-kneed. The area is approximated six feet by sixteen feet, and I’ve managed to dig up maybe 24 square feet so far. Lots of hard shoveling! And even after digging up all those roots, chances are the grass will come back because not only does it have such an extensive root system that it’s impossible to get every bit, it also propagates by seed, and there’s no telling how many seeds are left behind. No wonder the preferred method of removing the grass is to zap it with Round-up, but that’s not anything I would ever consider.

I have a hunch this is the wrong time of year to be digging up grass or doing any gardening other than planting a few things that prefer to be settled in the fall, but the way I figure, I’m here now, the grass is here (and by no means green, not even on the other side of the fence!), the ground is still faintly damp from the recent though long-melted snow so the digging is a mite easier, and it’s a good reason to be out in this perfect fall weather.

The weather will change again next week, but with any luck, I’ll have most of the island grass-free, ready for spring fertilizing and planting.

I did mention, didn’t I, that we planted my greengage plum trees? (Well, my contractor and his helper did, I just stood around and pretended I was working.) I had an extra tree (I’d ordered it for a friend who no longer had a place for it) and without any better idea of where to put it, we planted in the middle of the island. I’ll have to prune it every year to keep it small, but that will make the fruit easier to reach — assuming there is fruit and assuming the birds leave any for me. In a way, it will be like a birdfeeder without all the work and the mess. (Though I am sure there will be other messes, but I don’t want to think about that.)

If by chance, I’ve whet your appetite for digging, you are welcome to join me in my yard tomorrow around mid-morning. I have an extra shovel.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God
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