Monday, April 28, 2008

They're Baaaaaack!

Mars and I are trying really hard to be ecologically conscientious stewards of the land. We don't spray chemicals on our flowers or vegetables, or add them to our soil. We grow only those things that are native to our neck of the woods. And we use an organic lawn care service. We like the results and we feel good about the horticultural footprint that we are leaving.

But damn it, the dandelions are back - almost exactly twenty-four hours after our grass received its first corn gluten treatment of the year. I know it seems inconsistent with our efforts to be green - but the sight of even one of those dumb blonde weeds in the yard really pisses me off.

It's not rational. As far as I can remember they never did anything bad to me. I was required to eat some of them as a youth, apparently some sort of Italian family rite. But now that is only a distant, bitter memory. I think I may have even liked to look at them once upon a time - when they were a part of other peoples' landscapes.

But if absence makes the heart grow fonder then sometimes proximity has the opposite effect - perhaps one of the reasons that we in the northeast feel differently than many living on the southwest border in regard to illegal Mexican immigrants. When you are trying to create your own little sovereignty you tend to get a bit paranoid about those annoying pieces of reality that keep popping up and preventing you from having things just the way you want them - no matter whether you are striving for a society built upon the ideals of justice, bravery and truth, or an aesthetically pleasing, totally healthy landscape.

A weed-free lawn is often perceived as the Holy Grail of grounds keeping - and not just because of its appearance. Healthy lawns are evidently also good for the environment.

"healthy lawns:
* Reduce noise by serving as a natural filter
* Cool the environment
* Improve infiltration, reduce runoff and filter the water which helps recharge groundwater supplies
* Provide better air quality by converting greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into oxygen
* Act as a natural air cleaner, trapping an estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt from the air annually
* Stabilize the earth by knitting the soil together with grass roots and stems to prevent soil erosion and runoff"

So however are dandelions.

"Dandelions can be beneficial to a garden ecosystem as well as to human health. Dandelions attract beneficial ladybugs and provide early spring pollen for their food...Dandelions long roots aerate the soil and enable the plant to accumulate minerals, which are added to the soil when the plant dies."

But "The best defense against dandelions is a healthy lawn, since 'a properly maintained lawn' is less susceptible to weeds, insects, and diseases..."

An ecological conundrum? Not necessarily.

We simply need to look at the facts if not logically then at least syllogistically - remembering that a syllogism is just of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn (whether validly or not) from two propositions. Syllogisms are, of course, well known for their ability to resolve conundrums

So here we go:
A) Healthy lawns are good for the environment:
B) Dandelions cannot survive in a healthy lawn.
C) It is a good thing to kill dandelions. - KILL! KILL! KILL! (Sorry about that.)

But, to be truly environmental our motives and actions must be pure. Other than a dandelion slaying device called "Killer Kane" (a large, hypodermic-type dispenser that allowed you to apply toxin directly to each weed) we have never actually used chemicals on the lawn during our thirty-one years of gardening. Instead I have used the manual power of my hand-weeding tool to extricate the flaxen interlopers from the premises. But corn gluten is a far, far better thing than the seductively easy, Morgan le Fay-like super-syringe, or the Sir Gawain-ish brute force method of dandelion decimation. It is in fact the Sir Galahad of the all-natural landscaping world's herbicides - immaculately pure and ruthlessly deadly.

"Corn gluten meal is a by-product of processing corn to make corn starch and corn syrup...[it] prevents sprouting seeds from developing normal roots. This does not directly kill the seedlings, but makes them susceptible to dehydration if the soil gets dry. Established plants are not affected. The developing roots of a number of common weeds are affected by corn gluten meal: crabgrass, creeping bentgrass, smart weed, dandelions, redroot bigweed, purslane, lambsquarter, foxtail, barnyard grass, and Bermuda grass."

But apparently, like many knights in shining armor turn out to be, it is less than one hundred percent effective.

I can see the golden gluten flakes lying in between the blades of grass on my lawn. And on top of several thriving, jagged dandelion leaves! But I have to look really closely - just like moments ago when I was crouched down with my weeding tool trying to discern the underground origins of these lingering, uninvited lawn dis-ornaments.

So I (A) pay money to have manmade natural ingredients put on my lawn, in order to (B) prevent the growth of vegetation that naturally belongs there but which, if left to its own devices, would (C) prevent my lawn from being naturally healthy - and, as a result, (D) being all that it could be, environmentally. And (E) I still have to have to draw my sword in battle.

Camelot - or not?

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