April 20, 2011

Crocus and violets and squill, oh my!

A number of readers have asked why this blog does not carry ads. The reason it does not is because of posts such as the one you are now reading. After digesting this entry, ask yourself, WWSD? That is, if you were the senior vice president of advertising for the ScottsMiracle-Gro Company LLC, the manufacturer of Scotts, Miracle-Gro, Ortho, RoundUp, EverGreen, Pathclear, Weedol, Fertiligene and Substral, would you want your banner ad above this entry?
Our green lawn
The photo at left is of my lawn. It was taken this morning, April 20, 2011. You will note that my lawn is lush and green. You may also want to know that less than a month ago (and, per the post immediately below, as recently as ten days ago on one section of the lawn), it was still covered with snow.

My neighbors also have green lawns this morning, but they all have lawn services. Those services have put down an early season fertilizer to ‘make the lawn green up faster’. While I have not included photos of my neighbors’ lawns, please be assured that my lawn is just as green as theirs. Those lawn services have also applied a crabgrass preventer either in the form of an ‘organic’ product such as corn gluten or an ‘inorganic’ product containing trifluralin, benefin, pendimethylin, dithiopyr, prodiamine, or siduron.

The perfect tool to
green up your lawn
I have applied… a rake. Two weeks ago, we raked our lawn with a spring-action, steel-tined rake. We scuffed at the base of the grass to get rid of accumulated dead grass and heaved the resulting detritus into the woods where it will decompose. In the course of raking, I also noted the appearance of a number of early-season dandelions. When I rake, I carry with me a screwdriver. When I encounter a dandelion or other unwanted weed, I dig into the soil next to the culprit and pull it up, root and all. This is an extremely effective dandelion and weed preventer.

Crocuses in the lawn
Why not apply the crabgrass preventer and be done with it? Because last fall I did not apply a broadleaf weed killer like 2,4-D; MCPP; or dicamba. The reason I did not do that is because my lawn contains clover. It also contains squill, violets and crocus; all of which would be killed by the application of those chemicals. The clover puts nitrogen back into the soil, plus it remains green even in early August when the rest of the lawn goes dormant. The squill and crocus do not, to the best of my knowledge, enrich the soil, but I rather enjoy seeing them in the lawn for their brief flowering, and I have been known to pick a bouquet of violets, especially the white ones. Call me a romantic.

Squill!  Oh, my!
Instead of a spring fertilizer application, last fall I mowed my leaves into the lawn. I did so several times. The leaves decomposed over the course of the fall and winter, supplying the equivalent of a healthy dose of spring fertilizer (which I am augmenting by spreading a thin layer of compost). I know the leaves decomposed because, when I raked these past weeks, there was no leaf matter in my piles of dead grass. 

Lest the lawn chemical companies of the world fear for their economic survival, please be aware that in a few weeks time, I will apply 400 pounds of crushed limestone to my lawn and perennial beds (and I will repeat the process in October). We lime the lawn in order to ‘sweeten’ the acidic soil- itself a product of the grinding down of New Hampshire mountains - that is the bane of living in New England. The sweetened soil, in turn, yields healthier, hence greener and lusher – grass. I have already purchased the lime, for $3.14 per 40-pound bag. That’s $31.40 into the coffers of the agri-chemical industry.

Friday is Earth Day. Be kind to your mother.

April 13, 2011

Coming on Strong

Two events coincided this week: the last of the snow disappeared from the lawn and the first of the marsh peepers were heard. Welcome to April in eastern Massachusetts, where spring arrives in a hurry.

The last of the snow on
April 11.  It vanished
As noted last month, Betty and I made our annual bet back in late February as to when the last of the snow bank would melt. I picked April 10, she chose April 15. Technically, my date was closer, but then April 10 came and went with a ten-square-foot pile of stubborn ice still in place. It finally succumbed to a 65 degree day and was gone this morning.

The marsh peepers are a welcome arrival. Peepers (more accurately, Pseudacris crucifer) are small chorus frogs and, to be more accurate still, they were already here. They’re creatures of the wetlands and the bog around the pond below our home is a perfect ecosystem for them. And, because it is conservation land, the peepers are likely to remain happily ensconced.

A marsh peeper
It is their sound that is new. The mating call of the peepers begins at twilight and, by 9 p.m. ,it is a raucous cacophony that sounds terrific – as long as retiring indoors is an option. April is the loudest month, May will be somewhat quieter.

The hellebores which provided the sole sign of spring just two weeks ago have been joined by crocus and daffodils. We have planted crocus almost as an afterthought over the past decade, sticking clutches of 25 or so tiny bulbs in shallow areas, often on top of more desirable bulbs such as allium. The crocus are clearly spreading – we have thousands now – and they’ve even insinuated themselves into the lawn.

Crocuses in the
Manhattan bed
The daffodils come in waves. One group bloomed this past week, another is a week away from showing color and yet another is still green shoots with nary a bulge to be shown. Hyacinths have come out of nowhere in the Manhattan bed. By week’s end there will be more than a hundred of them, all purple, in that site alone.

Spring is coming on strong. It is a terrific prize to be treasured after a winter like the one we’re just gone through.