My wife can put a ballpoint pen in the dirt and it will sprout flowers. If I look at a hosta and say “la vista,” it dies. You can say she has “a green thumb,” but the proper term is “basic adult competence.” This time of year is heaven for gardeners; they toil in the loam, building banks of color, planting things that will go off in a few weeks like the pinnacle of a fireworks show. For those of us trying to fix the lawn, it’s another matter.
Gardeners get to create. Lawn people have to repair. Because the lawn is broken. Is it under warranty? No, but you can buy bags of stuff that is 100 percent guaranteed to fix that dead patch. The first bag I bought was about 3 percent seeds, 4 percent fertilizer and 93 percent Protective Growth Shield Cover, aka shredded newspaper. GUARANTEED. After it was strewn and watered, it formed a cement roof over the dirt that needed a jackhammer to remove. Checked the bag to make sure they hadn’t spelled GRASS SEED as SIDEWALK REPAIR.
I could take it back, but that would be admitting I had failed to make grass grow. They laugh at you and pat you on the back and take to the paint department and give you a gallon of something green. Try this. It’s more your speed.
Abashed but undaunted, I bought another bag, also 100 percent guaranteed. It was sun / shade / high-traffic and so on; the bag might as well have said WORKS ON MARS. Dug up the dirt, applied it as directed, watered and then placed 16 plastic cats around the spot in case the birds got any ideas. While those seeds germinated, I tackled the front yard, which has some bare spots I simply cannot coax to greenhood. Maybe the dirt’s bad, you say. You’re right! That’s why I dug it up last year, dumped on bags of fresh dirt, raked out the clots, fertilized, seeded, raked, watered, then went inside and called someone to come lay down sod.
The sod died. It was green for a fortnight, and then a corpse-carpet. Called the lawn guy, who investigated the situation and said I had grubs. Or weevils. Or greevils. I don’t know, but they had killed the sod from beneath. Is there anything we could do? “Well, we could spray for greevils,” he said. “Remember to keep children and pets off for 24 hours.” That was good advice because I was going to lead them all over to the dead sod and say, “Everyone shove your face in the greevil poison.”
That was last year. This year it’s coming in nicely. Go figure. There are weeds, but I bought a chickweed elimination fluid that includes a battery-operated squirt gun. You walk along and shoot weeds with death sauce. You almost feel sorry for them: Look, if you’d just flower all season long, or figure out a way to climb up something and earn Vine status, we wouldn’t be here today. Just so you know, it’s nothing personal, just business.
A week later, the weeds were brown but still alive, which meant I had failed to make grass grow and weeds die, which really is the definition of full-spectrum incompetence.
As for the bare patches, I went above and beyond. Seed, fertilizer, prayer. I have an app that allows you to sacrifice a virtual goat, and I slayed a double dozen. (There’s an in-app purchase that allows you to sacrifice them to myriad Babylonian deities in charge of fertility, but with my luck my wife would present me with a plastic stick with a Plus sign and say, “Does this have anything to do with the lawn?” And I’d have to confess.)
Then I laid down the big green blanket.
I love the big green blanket, and let me tell you why. A few years ago I had the lawn guys put down straw, and some of it blew away and landed in the trees, like this was Oz and the Winged Monkeys had taken an interest in the lawn. It was rather obvious whose straw this was, and I couldn’t tell neighbors: “No, not mine, talk to the Johnsons, they have that horse that sneezes.”
So no straw this year. Blankets. They come in two styles: the gossamer-thin biodegradable type that melts in the rain and falls apart if you look at it, let alone touch it, and the type held together with thin nylon wires. Experience taught me to go with the latter, and three bales were deployed and secured with plastic spikes I will forget all about until 2017, when the lawn mower blade catches one and embeds it 3 inches deep in the neighbor’s stucco.
Everything was sprinkled good, because if there’s one thing I can do, it’s turn on a faucet. Regular blue thumb when it comes to water, if I dare say. Didn’t use the chicka-chicka thing that throws water 12 feet and irrigates a 6-inch patch — no, I used the oscillator, doing its slow, steady back-and-forth with the mindless contentment of a cow chomping a cud.
Will it work? I don’t know. I don’t care. What counts is that I did something, and the big green blanket tells everyone, “Yeah, I know, it looks wretched, but I tried.” If it doesn’t work I will sod, because by the time the greevils eat it, fall will be here. Next year I’ll just put down green blankets. If only they were the color of good lush grass; I’d do the whole lawn with them. One hundred percent guaranteed to resemble grass in the hours before sunset. That’s when most people are out, walking their dogs, saying hello.
“Lawn looks good!”
Thanks, but you should see my wife’s garden. A riot of colors. All she had to do was plant the pictures on the packets.