It’s all about the garden these days.
Digging Days have been the hardest. And T.M. has conveniently been off the hook due to “knee issues” which have rendered him unable to push down hard against a shovel or even bend to dig and delve. To be fair, he has constructed a number of raised beds and pushed the wheelbarrow here and about.
I, however, have dug more holes than I can count, relentlessly determined to plant as many perennials and vegetables as spring permits. This spring.
I am already scoping out the plots for next year. I know. I know. I promised myself that I would not go crazy this time and that I would fully appreciate and honor the limitations of an aging body. But I can’t help myself. So many plants. So little time.
And so many dandelions. Sweet, old-fashioned, yellow posies. Turning memory into wishing puffs, wind-blown dreams, every child’s proud gift to Mom. The bunnies love them and I thought foolishly, at first, that the dandies just might keep our rabbit friends occupied and distracted – far away from the lettuce and peas and radishes.
What did Mr. McGregor do? And didn’t Peter outsmart him in the end?
We thought to just leave the dandelions. Let them enhance the lawn and decorate the croquet court. Provide munchies that would sate and satisfy. Besides, they have such a sweet name. Actually from the French, “dent de lion” which means lion’s tooth (look at the leaves!) And think about dandelion wine and manna for the bees and the herbalist’s panacea for diabetes and blood building, not to mention the plain fact that they are deemed more nutritious than spinach!
But no. Civic duty, it seems, rules beyond the life of furry creatures and nutrition. Our neighbor, for instance, has a pristine lawn, only recently invaded across the border, just a bit, by yellow heads, creeping, wafting, perceptibly over the line.
In California I made an effort to suppress the dreaded thistle, and as an organic gardener I even succumbed to an annual application of Roundup, hauling my unwieldy canister up and down the hills, spraying and destroying before the tufts erupted and blew about and impregnated our neighbor’s soil.
There are, it’s true, a few thistles on Mt. Faith, but in Minnesota it is mainly the dandelion which define the bad neighbor. Lawns are sacrosanct. Good turf is a mark, not of excellence, but of the norm, of acceptability. In California, on the other hand, turf is BAD. In the west it’s all about the water. Lawn is thirsty and water is scarce, therefore Californians are encouraged to create sod-free gardens. And we did.
If you remember the film “Chinatown” with Jack Nicholson, it was all about the gangster/political war that battled to steal water for California. It was brutal and ugly and set the precedent.
However, there is an obsession in this state of Minnesota with the lawn. The mowers are ever present and persistent. Militant, you might say. When we first moved here, one year ago, one of the first queries from Aunt Lilah and Cousin Maryanne was – “how does the lawn look?” I was puzzled. Now I get it.
When questioned, my relatives all said, with some solemnity – 2-4-D. And I bit and bought it. But thought twice. And read the label and checked on my Master Gardener list of toxic chemicals and knew I couldn’t go there. I’ve worked too hard to create an enticing, healthy environment for our birds.
When I googled organic treatment for dandelions, I got a list which started with “digging up,” and then went on through boiling water, smothering with mulch, burning with a torch (all of the above not conducive when millions are involved) and ended with corn meal gluten and a product called Iron-X – the last two available from a company called “Gardens Alive.”
As it turns out, corn meal gluten is only effective against seeds and not established plants. However, Iron-X is doable, if a bit pricey. I have now hefted my sprayer around the whole property and will watch and wait. And hope my back improves before I have to treat it all over again.
I’ll report back.
P.S. Uh Oh! But what about the Creeping Charlie!