Every Friday my newspaper column "Reality Check" is published. This week's is a lighthearted look at gardening. Maybe you share my laissez faire attitude:
If you were to stroll in a May field and gaze at the green covered with bright splashes of yellow, you would likely think that nature had been painting a lovely picture just for you. This time of year, the yellow is especially bright and beautiful.
And if we could all get hooked up to lie detectors, I would bet that most of us would admit that dandelions are kind of pretty, especially from a distance. And the leaves are healthy, too! I remember the first time my girls saw the leaves on sale at the grocery store. They gazed wide-eyed at each other. “We could make a fortune!” they cried. And they could. The yellow plants are everywhere.
Unfortunately, a few centuries ago some masochist decided that the only plant worth growing in quantity was grass. Perhaps he failed to notice that other weeds are much hardier and happier, like said dandelion. Or perhaps he wanted to guarantee himself a job by creating an impossible task: keeping weeds out of the grass, while the grass grew heartily.
As garden humorist David Hobson said, “a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except learning how to grow in rows.” And I think he’s right. Many weeds have been poorly maligned. My children, after all, used to present me with bouquets of dandelions, because they thought they were pretty.
My mother’s backyard is peppered with sweet violets. She spent the first few years in her new house unsuccessfully attempting to confine the violets to their beds. Violets, though, are cheeky little plants. Then she remembered that purple was, after all, her favourite colour, so now she lets them run wild all through her backyard. Of course, she would never let her front lawn get to that state. We do have images to uphold, you know.
Living in a subdivision brings its own version of peer pressure, even worse, I think, than junior high. A friend of mine was illustriously presented with a weed puller one Mother’s Day by a fastidious neighbour. It seems that her blanket of dandelions was not being looked upon with favour by the rest on her cul de sac. But my friend really didn’t like spraying with weed killer when her little ones were constantly running on the grass.
This year my husband has discovered his green thumb. Keith actually dug up all of our dandelions and cleaned up our beds. I suppose if one is going to have a mid-life crisis, it’s far better to spend it gardening than buying a motorcycle, and so I am grateful.
While he is embracing gardening, though, I seem to be retreating. In my old house we had not one, not two, but five composters. All the leaves, grass clippings, twigs, and kitchen waste were dumped dutifully. It made lovely compost, and I loved digging it, and spreading it, and even, if I can be honest, smelling the rich earth scent.
What I didn’t love was how tomato plants would start growing in my grass, or watermelons in my roses. Compost may be great nourishment, but it brought with it seeds of every kind, which I was then sprinkling over my sacred lawn.
I know there are ways to kill seeds in the compost. I know there are ways to mulch so that weeds don’t grow. But that all takes work, and I still think sweet violets are pretty. So maybe I should just admit that my lawn will never be perfect. Besides, I like yellow, with a splash of purple. Perhaps I’ll let my backyard go that direction. The front yard, that everyone sees, I’ll leave to Keith.
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Labels: columns, gardening