Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lawn Improvements -- A Strange Idea Sprouts.

We live in a storybook house. Really. When we first moved in, neither of us had any idea what the house we bought was trying to be. Some said it was Arts & Crafts, others said Carpenter Gothic while someone else said it was Tudor. They were all wrong. Storybook is an architectural style popular in the 20's and forgotten by the 40's. It is a fairy tale style that was inspired by the budding industry called Hollywood. Hollywood; the kings of make believe.

Now that we know what this house is trying to be (a recent development) lawn inspiration has dawned.

Previously uninspired and lawn lazy, we've let it go for more than a decade. The lawn has more weeds than grass, nothing grows well under the massive maple trees and it's surrounded by out-of-control shrubbery that's at least a half-century old. The lawn needs help. It would be nice to hire some fancy firm that caters to the rich and famous. Ah, they would swoop in, work their magic and leave a perfect lawn behind in a few days. Alas, that's not to be. This "one corner at a time" make-over has to be done on a budget.

On the bright side, I did put in a whimsical garden three years ago that's a cross between Potager and Cottage styles. There are vegetables, herbs and flowers. (A post on that later) Now that this season's plants are all in, it's time to work on something that's been long neglected.

The front under the maple tree, opposite the garden.
Pretty bad.

Since this photo was taken early last fall, the utility company moved the gas meter twice and tore up the lawn both times. They supposedly fixed half the lawn early last fall. They came back this spring to fix what they didn't, and re-fix what didn't grow. It looks worse than the photo shows. The grass isn't growing well in that much shade and the weeds are thriving. I could call the utility company and bitch again, but new grass a third time isn't going to solve the problem.

I can't grow grass. We both hate mowing it. It never gets fed or weeded. I can't stand watering it.

Why fight Mother Nature?

Moss grows in the shade and requires little to no maintenance once established. It never needs mowing, fertilizing or watering. Or so Moss Acres says. Best of all, it looks like something straight out of a storybook. It will be perfect with this house. The one thing that grows in profusion in that spot is moss.

Aha! Brilliance strikes.

I went on-line and researched moss cultivation and killing grass. Most products and instructions kill moss and save grass. What little information I found was contradictory. Some say to use Roundup. That's bad. It will kill some mosses and spare others yet there is no information on which mosses die and which ones live. Besides, I don't want to turn my yard into a Superfund site. I won't even go into my moral issues with that company. That's a rant without end. Soooo....Roundup is out. Another way, is to lower the soil PH with sulfur. Sadly, that can take 6 months to kill the grass. No surprise, others say a low PH isn't a sure fire way to kill grass.

So much for a fast and easy way out.

Armed with a bucket, a whisk broom and an old steak knife, I attacked the lawn with enthusiasm. A bucket to dump the weeds, a steak knife to cut out tap roots and a whisk broom to sweep the moss clean of debris. No rake. Rakes pull up the moss. I find that sweeping the area before weeding is easier. I can see where the weed enters the moss without all that yard junk obfuscating the issue.

It takes me about one hour to weed two square feet of moss. The tedious way out is even more tedious than I initially thought. I'm not feeling all that brilliant any more. Heh.

Husband and I do, however, really like the way it looks. Guess there are two ways to look at this daunting task.
  1. A pain in the ass chore that requires massive amounts of patience and fortitude.
  2. The lawn will be there by the end of the summer anyway. It may as well look the way I want.
  3. It's relaxing and a good way to get some meditation in. It's far less stressful than watching the news all day.
So #2 & #3 it is. Besides, pulling grass and weeds out of moss is a whole lot more enjoyable than peeling wallpaper off the walls.

To soften the squareness of the bushes, I clipped out many of the under branches and transplanted ferns underneath. Unfortunately, the ferns look sad right now. Digging them out from under the bush was not an easy task. Sadly, they got mangled in the process. Time and lots of water should fix the problem.

A spot where the moss has been freed from the weeds (top of photo). It's surprising how much moss is there. Now that it's unencumbered, it should grow nicely. I hope.

Work in progress under the maple tree.

A grand experiment. We will see how it goes......

Lawn Improvements Part 2 -- Cue the Violins
Lawn Improvements Part 3 -- Getting There
Lawn Improvements Part 4 -- Moss Lawn Foiled By Fungus

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