Wednesday, May 25, 2011

At War with Creepy Charlie

There comes a time when one has to do something that goes against the very moral fiber of your being. In this case, I am having to actually do some lawn care. But first, let me explain. I have always been a low lawn care kind of guy. I do the obligatory mowing when the grass reaches a certain height and that has been pretty much it. However, after upsetting a few neighbors, in the interest of maintaining a 'good fence', I even added mulching a burning my leaves to that list. Still, there was a couple things that I held firm too and those were no fertilizing to cause the grass to grow even faster and no chemicals to wash off into the street and then the streams. I always enjoyed the yellow of the dandelions and those little blue flowering plants that my daughter calls Creepy Charlie.

But times change and so I am in a hard spot. My wife who is about to enter her final year in residency has gotten more than a half dozen job offers in the half dozen job interviews she did. Although we are still thinking about our options and probably won't decide until later this fall, we have narrowed it down to two. Although neither job would require us to move, one job would certainly be a little better if we moved closer to it. If she lives within 15 miles of that hospital, she can come home even when she is on call as long as she is within the time limit for reaching the hospital in case of emergency. We already live within 15 minutes of the other contender but at this point in our lives, we are looking to get a place with some more land and thus will probably move.

So with the likelihood that I will be selling our house perhaps as early as this fall or within the next year or two, I decided that I needed to increase the curb appeal. I need to reduce the weeds, green up the grass and maybe thicken it in spots so that I end up with a lush, green lawn that *sigh*, I have to mow more often. So earlier this spring, I drove to the local garden store and loaded up on some fertilizer and grass seed and then I bought some weed killer online that is good for dozens of the weeds I have including Creepy Charlie and Crab's Grass, another name from my daughter. The latter couldn't be killed by any of the brands found here in town.

Long story shorter, I fertilized the grass and spread lots of new seed throughout in early spring before the early spring rains came to keep it watered because I still haven't sunk to watering grass to make it grow even faster. The fertilizers impact is certainly noticeable and my lawn definitely greened up and is growing faster. Due to our very cold spring, I'm not sure I got very good germination on the grass seed but it did come up in some spots if not thinly all over so the grass though not lush is thicker than it was. But the toughest job by far in both degree of difficulty and going against my moral fibers has been spraying the lawn to kill the weeds.

I have been extremely careful by ensuring that I haven't sprayed at least 48 hours before a forecasted rain which is six times more than recommended and I have stayed aways from spots that see lots of running water like down spouts, the ditch out back, etc. So far I have sprayed three times, twice over the worst of the stuff and once over the rest of the lawn. While it did a fairly good job killing most of the miscellaneous weeds throughout the lawn, I'm still not sure it did anything on Creepy Charlie. Not only is Charlie Creepy but he evidently has some internal fortitude. Though the spray knocked the blooms down within hours and the edges of his leaves turned a lighter shade, I don't think he is by any many dead yet.

But I have learned some things that are giving me hope. They list on the chemical bottle how to mix a batch for 1000 square feet. Evidently my ability to gauge a 1000 square feet are not what I think they are because the first two times seemed to do best where I stopped a sprayed a particularly thick patch of weeds and not so well where I sprayed lighter patches at a faster pace. So on my third batch, I concentrated on getting it applied a little bit heavier and it has increased the kill rate including portions of Creepy Charlie. According to the label I should wait 14 days between applications and only spray twice in the spring. The parts of the lawn that I have sprayed twice, albeit it the faster sprays that evidently weren't as concentrated as they should have been, still have quite a few patches of Creepy Charlie while the rest of the lawn that I only sprayed once but did a better job has a pretty good kill. So I think I will wait 14 more days and if the weather is still cool like it has been recently, I may go ahead and do the whole thing once again but again concentrating on applying it in more concentrated format like the last time.

The Lawn Nazi with the immaculate lawn that lives across the street has been eying me and I'm sure has probably thought that I've seen the light. He has over the years dropped lots of lawn maintenance tips in our 'over the fence' chats though I obviously haven't listened. He fertilizes about once a month and not only sprays multiple times a year, but crawls around on his hands and knees once a week digging out weeds with a little hand shovel. His lawn looks like the portion of grass between the fairway and the rough at Augusta National Golf course. Sitting here typing this and looking out the window at his lawn, I can't help but see that surely there is a compromise where I can get my lawn looking good enough to increase the potential value of my house without spending 40 hours a week maintaining it like the Lawn Nazi.

So the battle against Creepy Charlie and Crab's Grass continues this year and while I hope the rewards for winning will be rich, I certainly hope I don't turn into a Lawn Nazi as a result.


Bone said...

His lawn looks like the portion of grass between the fairway and the rough at Augusta National Golf course.

In that case, I might be tempted to go and practice a few pitch shots over there :)

Ron said...

I've used Milorganite fertilizer before. It's basically cooked sewage sludge. Not gross at all... just little pellets, but I wouldn't put it on my garden due to heavy metals. I think I bought it at a Fleet Farm up there. That was probably 10 years ago.

That combined with spreading some lime and over-seeding was enough to make it look pretty good.


warren said...


R. Sherman said...

I've never been a lawn guy either, but my wife wants me to become one for the same reason you have to: She wants to move closer to St. Louis.

Oy vey.

The things we do for love.


PhilippinesPhil said...

My lawn is made up completely of indigenous grasses, clovers, sorrels and a few other low growing "spreaders." I've counted at least 6 different types of grasses in my little postage stamp of a lawn. The ONLY type I don't abide by is "crab's grass (I like that)" It is aptly named, looking like an ugly crab squatting there, taunting me. I spread the blackest of my compost over the lawn to build up the underlying soil. No one really sees my lawn; it's all behind my walls like everyone else's here--no lawn nazis in these parts.

MamaHen said...

If you haven't found them already Ed, go to Garden's Alive and look at their products. They sell organic lawn products that really work and are safe. I use their garden stuff on mine and am really, really pleased with it all. They have the only natural product I have EVER found that would kill fire ants. As a matter of fact, I've been wanting to do a post about that. Now, I've never used their lawn products because I don't care about having grass like your neighbor but they swear they have natural weed killers etc. etc. that truly work.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I am not much of a yard person except for wanting to sit in the spring and fall when the sun doesn't eat one.
We do need a picture of Creeping Charley. It sounds like something I have planted for ground cover.

We have an "anonymous" lawn nazi in our homeowners association who occasionally call the "shout out" column of the local newspaper and gives out addresses of those whom she/he considers to be particularly egregious offenders. I have only made her (it's) list twice this year.