A Weed Dilemma

By fallspark, May 22nd, 2011 | No Comments »

With all the recent rain it’s been a real challenge to keep my lawn under control.  You know the drill; you spend an hour mowing then look outside later that same day and wonder why you wasted the time–and the weeds!
My own lawn has been herbicide free for years, so predictably, every spring I fight the battle of the broadleaf, and dandelion is the undisputed king.  I live in an area on the southwest side of Sioux Falls where the neighbors on my side of the street and I have a culverted creek bed behind our backyards that was covered with sod years ago.  Along with my own yard, it is a matching mass of green and a sea of dotted yellow right now.
Not all my neighbors have my broadleaf problem, and I’m not criticizing them for their own sparing use of some herbicide in the lawn.  In fact, I admit I have been tempted to go that route myself, especially this year when I have so many other tasks at hand (old house equals lots of maintenance) telling myself that if I carefully spot treat here and there it will be fine.  But I have this deeply sloping yard, and I often plant produce at the bottom behind my chain link fence, tuck a tomato or two in with the rhubarb and daylilies.  I worry about chemicals draining out with the moisture and contaminating those edibles.  Additionally, I have a young grandson with mild autism, another with asthma, and a granddaughter who struggles with eczema.  Who knows how these chemicals might harm them?  So in the end, I always choose to take a position of caution.  Still, it’s a bit overwhelming. We all like nice-looking lawns. 
A knowledgeable friend mentioned that white clover might be a good, herbicide-free solution, and I’ve been looking into this.  White clover has the tendency to choke out more noxious weeds, and a side benefit is that when in bloom, the honey bees are drawn to it (it is very fragrant) and we all want to do what we can to encourage them to recover from the troubling hive collapse situation. I’ve also read that clover doubles as a kind of rabbit candy—they will eat that before going after your plants. I’ve no proof of that, but if it works even in part it’s worth a try–certainly less disturbing to the neighbors than aiming my high-powered water gun at them (the rabbits, of course) from a spot atop my deck. 
While digging dandelions and biennial thistles is a time consuming task (not to mention back breaking) , the past few years I have been making good use of a handy gadget I bought in Minneapolis some years ago to physically remove them.  I believe it is called a weed or a yard gopher, and it enables you to do this while standing.  Just insert the tines at the bottom around the weed, pull up on the handle and the weed is extracted.  Most dandelions come out with a good part of the root, something that is important to prevent  re-growth, and is so much easier than trying to get a grip on those flat, biennial thistles.  I still remove Canada thistle by hand, as it is easier to pull the entire root out with more of a slow pulling motion.  I’ve been spending a half hour or so each evening doing this, and although I don’t claim my yard will be weed free any time soon, it is working; there is some improvement.  I am hoping if I top dress some good lawn soil and seed in the clover, this will look much better next year.
I am, in fact, reluctant to go back to chemical control for a social reason, as well.  One cannot help but realize that the steady move toward organic farming has spilled over into this area.  Although my lawn is by far one of the worst in my neighborhood, I think my neighbors know I’m trying to keep after the weeds.  I have to wonder if it might not be one day soon that passersby might not cast a sidelong disapproving glance at lush turf and a pristine, weed-free lawn.   This hasn’t happened yet, but I think it’s aroung the corner as we continue our move toward buying local, sustaingability and an environment free of chemical pollution.  ~Georgia Totten, Sioux Falls

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