Tree Slaying

Having trees that love to create seeds may be great if you are a squirrel, but if you are a human who does not like to have your grass smothered by acorns or deluged with elm seeds, then the battle lines are drawn.

Such was the case in the fall.  During this time, we used the wet/dry vac to collect much of the squirrel food.  After many tubs of acorns and stray yard materials were sucked up into the “tub of judgement”, I felt pretty comfortable the yard had been insulated, as best as I was able, from the potential saplings that could result.  The little elm seeds are less able to be quickly eradicated.  They are much more insidious that the obvious acorn.  They nestle into the mulch.  They congregate in the gutters to be tossed randomly into whatever part of the yard will embrace them as the gutters are cleared again for water flow.  The elm seeds partner with the wind so they are not limited to developing friendships in just our yard.

Enter the spring…

Despite all of my efforts, the “weeds” are still coming in with no mercy.  What is a weed?  It is something that grows somewhere it is not supposed to grow.  Weed mat installed in the flower beds did not prevent the elm seeds from germinating.  I sacrificed many of the occupants of a future forest as they sprung up in my mulched beds.  I pulled many a baby oak from the yard–the mother acorn providing the tail to the oak baby.  As I make my rounds doing my dead heading of geraniums, I see new elm sprouts.  While walking the yard to see the colors of the flowers, I will see a few more acorns attempting to extend their lives while being somewhat camouflaged by the St Augustine grass.

While this time of pulling weeds will pass and focus will shift to making sure the yard and plants receive enough water to stay vibrant, the ambitious seeds of this spring are a reminder of potential life anxious to be truly born. I do wince a bit when I grab hold of the stems and remove the plant from the life-giving soil.  I wince even more when I imagine my yard without someone overseeing it.  And, while calling me a tree slayer may sound a little extreme, I pale in comparison to lumberjacks.

 

New Home For Herbs

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My daughter has wanted an herb garden for quite some time.  She has suggested I rip up some plants from an area she believed was ideal.  Once some transplanted plants from last falls projects were deemed “dead”, I let her know I had a place for her herbs.

When she finally had some time available after church last Sunday afternoon, we ran the necessary errands to get the “stuff”.  We needed to go the Sprout’s for groceries, but we found a nice selection of herbs as well.  (Our 15% discount due to our “adopted sons” employment was helpful.)  We gathered our spiced up soil and a couple more herbs at Home Depot.  I considered getting landscaping stones to build an elevated bed before deciding to check out a few bricks from our “building materials that didn’t get used when the house was built” bank.

As can be seen in the first picture shown with my daughter, the chosen area does have a grade.  We ended up putting bricks over the bottom half of the rectangle.  My daughter was impressed with how I used a level to confirm the bricks were mostly level across the course (Architecture definition – a continuous horizontal layer of brick, stone, or other material in a building).  A sheet of weed mat was spread across the bed area before the full course of bricks was installed.  Due to the grade change, we needed to run a 1/2 course of bricks on the top half of the bed to make sure there was enough soil available for planting there.  My daughter truly took ownership of the project.  She realized creating a planting bed is more than digging a few holes.

It seemed to have been a good weekend to do the planting.  The days following were quite cool and rainy.  The remaining issue is whether the sprinkler system will give the plants adequate drinks when the rain leaves.  I truly hope the sage, parsley, basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, mint and dill (maybe a peppermint will join them) serve my daughter and the other women (and men) of the household well.

Amaryllis In The Hood

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While in Ohio, the amaryllis was a great way to help forget winter.  When the temperatures were cold out (usually after the first of the year), I would plant a new amaryllis or pull my old amaryllis out of the basement.  Before we left, I had 5+ bulbs I planted every year.  They truly did bring a smile to my face.

Now, in Texas, the amaryllis can stay outside all year.  My only responsibility is making sure they have a place to live and get watered occasionally.  The only downside is the red amaryllis seem to be the best bulbs for blooming.  While I still love the hug, monstrous, red blooms, the peppermint amaryllis is still my favorite.  (Note:  I do consistently like pink in my flowers.)  Maybe if I plan well, I can save some room in the hood for a pinkish amaryllis next year.

Pretty In Salmon

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When I landscaped during college, we did lots of planting of annuals and perennials.  This was especially true as many of the houses we landscaped were integrated into the Murfield Golf Course.  One of those annuals was the geraniums.  The red geraniums were quite beautiful, but they were a little too common.  My favorite was the salmon covered geraniums.  Their pink color seemed to be the correct shade of spring for me.

So, when I see a yard dominated by salmonish (pink) colors with only minor transgressions into red, I can’t help but take a picture.  (My camera is rarely about, but I have this phone…. I use it as a frequent Plan B.)  I think the hardest thing about spring in Texas is how quickly it arrives.  It leaves without warning.

I have always loved flowers and the color they provided.  I don’t think this is true with most men.  They may claim to like flowers after their wife has them plant a few flats of impatiens, marigolds, or geraniums.  While they give lip service to it, I don’t think the true appreciation comes until we get older.  As we get older and nearer our graves, we can more easily appreciate the beauty in the small things.  One bloom may barely register.  When one bloom gets together with a few other blooms, it is stunning.  When multiple plants all bloom at the same time in the same location, it is worth pausing and attempting to capture the image with whatever meager tools we have available.  This image is only a bookmark to a place in my brain where the more much vibrant colors will stay for quite some time.

Gutter Check

As a nearly 5 year Texas resident, rain has not been a frequent visitor.  When it rains, it can be just like a rain you might find in the midwest–just less frequently.  There are the teasing rains and the downpour rains.  The little sprinkles are not likely to reveal a special type of sin like what is only experienced when the heavens open and let the rain droplets all drop at once for an extended period.  This morning was one of those days.  And, the sin is failing to clean out the gutters.

My sin was not a singularity but something I allowed to occur in both the front and back yards.  Although the contents of the gutters varied slightly, both front and back were full of similar stuff:  monster pine needles, seeds and buds from our elm tree (the same elm tree that makes us toil endlessly to make our pool “floatee” free in the spring and fall) a few leaves from whatever tree is tall enough to contribute, and although not a contributor to the blockage, both gutters had a layer of the gravelly stuff originally attached to our roof shingles.

In the front yard, the surface was level.  The ladder allowed me to stretch upward and the rains continued to come downward.  After fishing around in the little creek previously referred to as our gutter, I grabbed a handful of organic material.  Even though the first handful had changed the flow and saved the flower that was becoming pelted by the faulty gutter, I took a couple more handful to save myself climbing up on the ladder again later.  (I was wet already, so a few more seconds did not matter.)

The backyard had the additional challenge of stairs.  I mentally committed to “fixing” this one after the rain.  However, since my clothes dried pretty quickly from the first installment in the “Set Our Gutters Free” project, I decided I could handle the second installment in the rain as well.  When I reached the top of the ladder, the detritus was bobbing in the gutter like it was awaiting me.  As I plunged my hand into its depths (not even up to my wrist) while precariously balancing myself on the top of the ladder, I had a slight feeling of vertigo.  The porch steps (see picture below) were causing me to stretch further than I felt comfortable.  Knowing the gutters would not clean themselves, I focused on removing this final sin (I have LOTS of other sins I seem to insist on committing, but for the sake of this post, I am only referring to the sins that prevent my roof and related systems from functioning as they were designed.).  Once I threw the globs of tree dung to the concrete below and slowly reversed my climbing, I rapidly stepped out of the rain.

Once the rain stops, I will clean up the evidence of my sins against my house.  As a homeowner (sometimes referred to as a “home moaner”), I sometimes fail to be as proactive as I need to be.  And, as an infrequent blogger, I sometimes attempt to make the mundane entertaining.  I guess I will have to leave these sins to be addressed at a later time.

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The seeds, needles and leaves gifted to our house so that it might reside in our gutters until a time such as this.

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This bucket was empty when the gutter began its excessive partying. After the party catalyst were removed, the buckets and its contents could somberly observe the tumultuous downpour.

 

Curious Squirrel Boogie

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As I was getting my nearly 1/2 gallon plastic cup of ice water assembled, I noticed I had a spectator.  My glance up from the sink revealed a tail end of a squirrel trying to seek shelter from his extreme curiosity.

I set my water down before committing to do whatever it took to get the squirrel out of our yard.  Since he was not as certain of this eventuality as I was, we did go back and forth a bit.  As I opened the back door to the porch, he was already moving along the brick-wide “path” that easily lent itself to his  exclusive travel.  My initial leap out of the door caused him to move toward the next patio (near the inner tube)  to see if I was serious in fulfilling my pledge.  As I expected this pause, I followed him along the white line, as shown above, and beyond.

After clearing the yard, he was able to move back into his comfort zone.  He quickly climbed a small tree to gain the fence.  After followed the fence to the tree, he parked on the backside of the tree feeling confident I would assume he went up to the nest above.  (There must be some territorial thing with squirrels. In the tree he was using as temporary shelter, there are a couple of squirrel nest above.  I have yet to see any squirrel gangs in our neighborhood OR yard, but that does not mean the “Acorns” and the “Oaks” don’t have a deep feud both gangs have forgotten the origin of.) After a couple of rounds of peek-a-boo as I poked my head around both sides of the back of the tree, he knew he needed to boogie out of town pretty quickly.

He dropped to the ground and ran into the neighbors yard through the plank that was on strike in our shared fence.  (Since we have the “pretty” side of the fence, we are told the responsibility for fixing/replacing the fence largely falls upon us.)  I probably grunted or yelled or performed some sort of rodent impression as he made his final dash.

This was not my first bout with these over-abundant nut lovers.  There was a time over 3 years ago when our house served as the battle ground for “Squirrel Wars”.  The emotional scars are still healing!  We still feel violated and dirty whenever we go into our upper attic…..

Geraniums Reincarnated

It was supposed to be “first frost” night in north Texas a couple night ago.  Just like kids coming down to see what Santa left them, I rushed outside to check if my uncovered geraniums survived their night of peril.  Now that they have proven themselves worthy, I will probably try and stretch their life out a few more days/weeks.  My interaction with geraniums was not always this way.  When we lived in Ohio, we handled them completely differently.

In Ohio, geraniums seem to really grow!  Texas heat has made an exception to “everything is bigger in Texas”.  We planted 3 geraniums here.  They grew, but they certainly were not full.  In Ohio, geraniums were usually planted after the last frost.  (Rarely later than 5/15.  And, if the weather from 5/5 looked good, we would often plant them earlier.  If we committed to covering them if a frosting occurred, we might even plant them a few weeks before the last frost.)  We usually planted a few new geraniums.  Our little trick (Actually, my grandmother’s trick.  She did about what we did, but she wintered hers in a dark corner of her basement.) was pulling geraniums from last year out of the basement and seeing which ones could be reincarnated and brought out of their winter slumber.

It has been a few years, but this is what I remember us doing:

  1. After providing the geraniums as much time as possible by covering them a few times during the weaker nights of frost, we determined the freeze was coming that could not be survived.  (Or, we were going out of town and didn’t want to risk it.)
  2. I dug each of the geraniums, shook the dirt out, and set them down on a piece of newspaper in the garage.  I let them dry out for a few days or weeks OR until I remembered.
  3. I then hauled them downstairs and let them winter in a dark corner of the basement.  If I was a good voodoo practitioner or Dr. Frankenstein, I would mist the roots of my subjects to try and get them to not dry out so much that the roots were brittle. (My grandmother was much more committed to the project.  In her dark portion of the basement [almost the size of an entire room w/ no window wells or windows], she had “clothes lines” stretched from one side to the other of the room.  She would attach the geraniums to the line w/ the roots side up.  She would have already pruned most of the green off of the top of the plant (the bottom when attached to the line).  She would periodically mist her roots and play “plant whisperer” with them. [Whose a good full geranium?  You are!  Who loves the Miracle Gro? You do, don’t you?  Who thinks you are the prettiest geranium on the whole street?  I do.]
  4. Somewhere in April or early May, I would find the nasty spiderweb friendly part of the basement where i deposited my precious-es.  I would bring them outside and put them in a bucket of warm water.  They would soak awhile and hopefully provide some clear clues that they still had life dwelling within them.

The mortality rate was high.  If I got over 50% of them coming back, I was happy. Of course, the true mortality rate was not apparent until they were in the ground for a couple of weeks.  The biggest did not always survive, and the smallest were often pretty spunky.  We did have one of the geraniums that survived multiple years. (maybe 5?) He was wide and had an attitude.  Fortunately, he backed it up with beautiful, endless blooms….once he recovered from his amnesia.

When we moved to Texas, our geranium collection did not make the trip with us.  I was sorry to see them go.  (I didn’t really see them go.  It just wasn’t practical considering the many miles and the happy years they gave us.  Unfortunately, they likely ended up in a trash can rather than dying in the ground as the full moon beamed down upon them.) Fortunately, although Texas is not fond of geraniums, it does allow amaryllises to stay out all winter long. So, although it is not a completely fair trade, I will enjoy the blooms I am given!

When I Do Dishes….

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As the whole family has watched the dishes mound up, it has caused all of us to feel some level of guilt.  A brave family member (usually my wife) dives in and often washes all of them or causes the onslaught of the dirty dishes to temporary be abated.  The most recent attack of the dirty dishes (in the spirit of Halloween, maybe someone should dress up as dirty dishes.  Although it doesn’t scare everyone, a pile of dirty dishes seems to make homework remarkably attractive and interesting.) had not receded over the past few days, so something needed to be done.  I washed a few dishes last night, but after letting a few things soak, I did not get back to the sink before the water was cold.  To redeem myself, I promised to finish the remaining dishes in the morning.  It was after this weak attempt that I was provided with the necessary ingredients: the cookie sheets and the drying rack (my wife baked cookies so my daughter could take them for a friends birthday).  Without these key components, it would have just been just another unsightly pile of clean things.

As the clean dishes flew out of the sink this morning, I was not sure if there was a stable structure in there.  Fortunately, I didn’t let my dish washer hands ruin my latent engineering skills. I don’t do dishes often, but when I do, I build something.

Just Peachy

Since the tradition started last year, I felt obligated to do my part to keep the tradition alive.  With last years attendees out of town for my father-in-laws birthday in North Carolina, the mantle fell upon me to fetch the peaches for the eventual syrup and jam and associated mess.

My morning did not start out so that the rendezvous point would be easily achieved.  My son (the original and younger of the Chick-Fil-A boys) needed to be at work at 9:00.  The meeting point was 25 or more minutes away from the restaurant.  (This was assuming good traffic and none of the dreaded “special weekend construction projects”.)  After picking up cash from the ATM (they don’t take cards at the orchard), I got him to work.  The traffic was very cooperative, but not too cooperative.  I pulled into the Cracker Barrel at about 9:25.  My friend is not know for being early.  In fact, rarely does he ever arrive early.  If not for his very disciplined spouse, he would have an even worse reputation.  A quick text to him, gave me the expected and undesired response:

  • Me: Here
  • Friend: On the way
  • Me:  How long?
  • Friend:  Well, about 20-30 minutes or so.

Since he lives about half an hour away, it was clear what happened.

I am known to go almost nowhere without my book.  Considering the company I keep, this does keep me from going crazy.  Fortunately, he did arrive within his allotted time.  He had to transfer water jugs to my car (we wanted to have room for the peaches).  I grabbed my boots and hopped in his car.  The car we were blocking in was patience with us as we loaded up and moved out.

The driving conversation to the orchard was light.  We were driving up 35 heading to Oklahoma.  My daughters have attended quite a few cross country meets up this way.  My friend encouraged me to “lie” to him as to when he should arrive at all future meetings to try and compensate for his inability to properly plan his time.  I poo-pooed the idea, but did not entirely dismiss it.

We eventually drove off the main road with a country kind of zig-zagging toward the Red River Peach Orchard.  Besides many scrap yards and other businesses that often accumulate in somewhat rundown areas, we met these guys by the road.

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By the time we arrived at the orchard, it was nearly 11:00.  The cool weather was supposed to turn hot later.  Since we went north and it was still early in the day, we hoped to have our buckets full before the day got too much older.  Lots of things to see there.  These are the things that stood out:

  1. As soon as I got there, I went to the bathroom.  The bathroom was fine.  After washing my hands, the towel was a shared hand towel.  And, tucked in where the towel was hooked was a spider nearly 3 inches across (not the body, but from leg to leg).  He/she scurried up the wall.  They were willing to share.  Being a country boy, I dried my hands and felt inclined to warn the Asian lady w/ child who followed me in the line.
  2. We received buckets to put our peaches into.  They were not the cleanest things.  My only real instruction was if you fill the bucket, it will be about 15 lbs.  Having been told to get 30 lbs, the math worked out pretty easily.  Once both my friend and I had our buckets, we went straight back even though we were told the pickings might be a little better behind where we parked.  As we wandered into the peach trees, my friend who had been along when the tradition began the prior year commented on how the peaches appeared quite a bit smaller.  The “lack of pruning” theory was proposed by me.  We later found out the drought was the largest part of the problem.
  3. SOOOOO many peaches on the ground.  We understood we were not part of the “early pickers”.  In fact due to our schedule, the tradition would have died if I have not able to go on this particular weekend.  Whether the peaches fell directly to the ground from being overly ripe OR they were picked and discarded after a bad spot or worm hole was found OR they were picked and found to be not quite ripe enough to meet the pickers needs, the accumulation of peaches was fermenting very nicely.  (Not being much for alcohol, I did not enjoy the smell.)  The smell was so pervasive, it made the whole experience quite a bit less enjoyable.  Whether it was whole peaches or peaches trampled under many different feet, the smell will be one of the first things I will think of when preparing for my next visit to the orchard.
  4. I am not sure if the phenomenon was worse this year than other years (the owner assured me it happens to some extent every year).  Nearly every tree had branches snapped off from the trunk.  A few trees were completely leveled.  None of their branches exceeded 3-4 feet in height.  All of them completely snapped off from the base.  The peaches remaining on the branches may have still been ripening.  I chose to pick fruit more solidly plugged into the mother tree.   CIMG5273 CIMG5274 CIMG5275
  5. A.) The wildlife did find its need to be orchard dwellers, too. (bird, hoppers, spiders, worm laying bugs) The grasshoppers were hard to miss every step within the knee high grass disrupted some gorging or other malevolent intent.  The well-fed jumpers were found covering trees and gnawing annoyingly on many beautiful peaches just as if they were doing that licking techniques older brothers do as they claimed their pieces of chicken etc.  Once the “mark” was noticed, I know I wouldn’t pick them.  There were more than one broken branch covered in grasshoppers.  Other than the obvious consuming of leaves and marking the fruit, their congregating by the dozens made no sense to me.  (Are they telling some gossip or just ridiculing the orchard owners for letting them so dominate the place?)  A person I spoke to the other morning said chickens are good to have around when the grasshoppers are so thick.  Not sure how all of those exoskeletons would have affected the eggs…..a little extra bounce in the yolk…??? CIMG5280 CIMG5281B.) The birds were not being the natural predators they should have been!  Yes, chickens could have been imported.  The dining was plentiful, but the diners were few.  There was one lonely dove who was being a good mom to whatever she sat upon.  C.) Many of the bugs were assumed to be present.  It was only in the later stages there presence was fully felt.  Many peaches appeared perfect until the little hole was noticed in the otherwise nearly perfect complexion.  In most cases, these nearly sinless tree spawn were tossed into the fermentation basin.  Of those that made it into bucket and eventually home, any mercy shed on the imperfect fruit was regretted. In many cases the pit had a fine-wiggly friend tickling the inside of the peach’s inner pit-iness.
  6. As we walked into the orchard of peach, our eyes were most immediately drawn to the fruits at eye level.  As our eye filters became better capable at zeroing in on the “better” rather than the “good”, we realized much of the good was not going to find admittance into our buckets without a little help.  Assuming my telekinetic skills were not choosing this moment to reveal themselves to me, it looked like a ladder or climbing skills were going to be necessary.  (Based on many of the trees inability to hold securely to their limbs, climbing seemed to be a decision of last resort.)  My friend mentioned the orchard last year seemed to have multiple ladders running around.  (If this tradition continues next year, the phrase “this year” needs to be much more present.  Based on what I experienced this year, a repeat next year will make picking peaches from a bin at a grocery store a much more rewarding experience.)  As we got to the back corner of the orchard, a few ladders (maybe 3?) were hidden in the branches of a few of the trees.  As we decided which trees to set the ladders up under, the closer we got to the trees, the more difficult it was to find a location where the “top hangers” could be collected.  Once the ladder was placed and the obligatory couple of peaches were sacrificed to the fermentation pit by the ladders careless movement, we climbed the ladder and looked at the fruit at eye level.  Somehow many of the succulent orbs of flavor became much less desirable treasures when our hands met them.  Of course, much of the fruit was deemed at minimum good, and it took up residence in our buckets.  The most difficult challenge was claiming a ladder after our first bucket was emptied.  The trees at the front of the orchard seemed to have some fruity family members who were destined for a fruit cobbler.  My task of securing a ladder to make their wish true ended up taking 10 minutes–the orchard had filled up and others desiring to see if the top fruit might be everything they fantasized it to be.  After pushing an older couple off the ladder and telling them peaches were the original forbidden fruit (not really), I wandered back to my friend.  The picking finished pretty well with the exception of constantly having to push the would be thieves off or our ladder.  (We did pass it on to they guy who asked first.)
  7. As we checked out, I openly admitted to eating a peach while picking.  I had picked a peach with a bad spot.  The guy who would eventually take over our ladder when we left, told me to open it up and see it was bad in the middle.  Once it was opened, I saw the peach, despite its less than perfect complexion, was perfect for quenching my peach appetite.  Apparently, the admission of this fact granted me a discount.  My friend whose peaches weighed less than mine ending up paying a little more for his box of peaches.

The drive back was similar to the drive to the orchard, but different.  My friend can talk to anybody about anything for an almost endless period of time.  So, a little drive was barely a challenge for him.  We parted knowing the job of blanching the peaches would be something we both would have to do alone.

While driving home, I did cross an overpass full of citizens waging a poster campaign against illegal aliens.  I did honk in support.  If they knew about the peach orchard and all of the peaches going unpicked, I wonder if they would have found some other way to spend their Saturday afternoon?

Sod Replacement Therapy

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As a relocated midwesterner, sod was never much of an issue when there were any problems with the lawn.  We knew the rain wasn’t going to be much of an issue, and we sprinkled some grass seed (likely blue grass) down in the spring, and were pretty confident any “naughty lawn” places would grow back in nicely.

In Texas, we do not have this luxury.  We need to buy a piece (or pieces)of St Augustine sod (one of really only a couple of choices in lawn greenness in Texas) to fix the bad spots.  Due to our winter being extra cold and somewhat dry, it seems the ugly spot ratio was much higher than normal in most lawns this spring.  And, as much as we want the HOA award for best yard, we will just have to be satisfied not being the house people say, “as least it is not our yard.”

As I did some of my own sodding this year, these are techniques used by myself and others:

  • Plugs: This is like one of the pictures above.  As I view it, there are two ways to get to effectively perform the “plugs” technique.  First, you go back to a healthy part of grass in your back yard.  You take up a few hunks–not too many from one spot, but taking a few from here and there.  You then transplant these pieces to the less than appealing area–likely the front yard somewhere.  Secondly, these “plugs” may come from the dissecting and dismembering of a purchased piece of sod.  Somehow, you can’t seem to commit to using a whole piece of sod in a particular area, so you spread out your luck over a larger area with more pieces.  Certainly one of them will take off!
  • Lay in:  Although not described above, this method is more an approach than a specific technique.  When new sod is placed in your yard, an area is created for it.  The old, dead grass is cleaned up and the new piece of sod should fit right in.  You may backfill a little once the “sod-space” is removed to account for any low spots, but the goal is to get the new sod as close to the Texas dirt/sand/ants as possible.
  • Lay on:  This approach competes with the “lay in” method.  And, maybe “layout” is a better term to describe it.  It seems this technique is pretty popular–likely because the LACK of work necessary.  If you have a spot with dead grass, there is no problem.  Just put the sod right on top of the dead grass.  It makes it obvious to all who pass that you have new sod in your lawn, and if anybody wants to bury a body, these kind of lawns are ideal!
  • Kill it all:  This seemed to be less popular, but I did see at least one neighbor who used it.  Our yards are laid out with a little grass next to the street, the sidewalk, and then the rest of the front yard.  Apparently one neighbor was SO disgusted with his appalling lawn and the ugly glances from those passing his house, he decided it was better to admit full defeat then to try and claim partial victory.  It appears he used a weed/grass killer on the whole section between the street and the sidewalk.  And, once it all died, He probably had 50 or so pieces of sod that found a new home in his yard.  Unfortunately, it appears some of the sod has also chosen to go “brown” rather than stay green.  I hope they bounce back before the summer is out—good luck to him!

Irrigation is a key to any sod replacement therapy technique.  Due to tweaking of the sprinklers, I hope my sod will claim green as its favorite color for the rest of the summer.  If not, we can see if the therapy works better after summers heat has fizzled.  Or, we can embrace the cactus and other “lovely” plants that thrive on low moisture OR we can move….