While you were gallivanting off to Italy with a much younger man, I’ve been engaging in hand-to-hand combat with my long-time mortal enemy, The Dandelion.
First, let me set the stage.
The fault lies in our maple.
Our back yard is dominated by a mega-gigundo silver maple tree, which casts a lovely leafy shade over the entire garden area. Very nice for sipping morning coffee under. Not so great for growing things.
If you’re familiar with maples, you’ll know that they’re butt-lazy. Unlike other trees, whose root systems dig deep into the earth in search of water, maples take the easy way out, and simply spread their roots a couple of inches under the surface of the soil (or in our case, what used to pass for a “lawn”), in a circumference that’s about as wide as they are tall. This way, they readily suck up all the available water, leaving the area around them parched as a bone.
Oh yeah, and as their roots age they get all big and knobbly, and push up through the soil, creating lumps and bumps to trip the unwary gardener. That would be moi.
So yeah, maple trees are dicks. And we’ve got us a big one.
What’s this got to do with dandelions?
Well, it’s like this. Evil ginormous maple tree slurps up all the water that the grass would normally drink. It cuts off the sunlight the grass needs to grow. The poor grass presses the back of its hand against its forehead and goes gently into that good night. So long, grass, it was nice to know you.
At which point, the poor yellow trash of the plant world moves in to take the lawn’s place. Dandelions don’t much care about water. They don’t much care about shade. All they need is a bit of dirt (or even a crack in the sidewalk), and they’re in business.
I admit that a field of dandelions in full bloom can look kind of…pretty. Or at least very yellow. And I know their leaves, when young and tender, make a nice salad. So I’m cool with having a few dandelions out there, just to liven things up.
But when they get all aggressive and territorial, and start settling in, revving their motorcycles, and holding wild parties and leaving their beer bottles and cigarette butts all over the lawn? I’m not so thrilled.
Dandelion, I have you in my sights
I spent last weekend in the garden, and about 90% of my time was spent waging war against the dandelions that have become my unwanted guests.
Armed only with my highly specialized Dandelion Digger of Doom, I’d park myself on a patch of our ex-lawn and start digging.
Ha. Now who’s the smartass?
There’s a trick to removing dandelions, you know. You can’t just pick them or worse, mow them into submission. If you try to pick them, their root systems remain intact, and they grow back with even greater ferocity later. Ditto if you mow them down—cutting their little heads off doesn’t even faze them. Plus, they go to seed and spread their foul progeny around the garden, just for spite.
“Hahahaha,” they chorus in their insolent little voices. “Nice try.” And then they dig in deeper, and grow back bigger and stronger.
The Dandelion Digger of Doom
You have to literally dig them up by the roots, and since they’re very good at putting down long, tenacious roots, you need a specialized tool. Hence the Dandelion Digger of Doom.
On my first round a couple of weeks ago, I dug up (yes, I was counting) 400 dandelion plants before I finally gave in and called it a day. Actually, I didn’t give in, my back did, but that’s because I was bending from the waist. Just ask my chiropractor: that’s a definite no-no, and I was walking around like the hunchback of Notre Dame for a week or so.
This time I got wise, and used one of our Adirondack chairs as my home base. Easier on the back, but it does mean I have to get up and haul my chair around with me as I go. Using this strategy, I’ve dug up another 200 dandelions. As I work, I leave their corpses in little piles around the lawn as a warning to the others…though eventually I’ll collect them all and send them to the city compost, far far away from my lawn. And me.
You’d think that would do it, wouldn’t you?
Sadly, I’ve only scratched the surface in my dandelion extermination program. The yard is still crawling with them, but I’m determined to get them under control. As I go, I’m reseeding the empty patches with clover, a much more polite and friendly little visitor than the Dandelion Menace.
I’ll never have a model lawn (thanks, Giant Maple Tree!) but at least I can have the satisfaction of knowing that I have a (more or less) dandelion-free zone, however temporarily.
And that would be me.