Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Losing Control of the Lawn

Most everyone has at least a little lawn, pleasant to walk upon, setting off the shrubs, or simply a default means of dealing with that rectangle of nature a homeowner inherits with the house. Collectively, lawns are a show of cultural unity in the form of a vast expression of control and uniformity, with growth kept within strict limits, each grass blade the same height. Oftentimes, the uniformity is enforced by noisy, machine-laden coiffeurs, akin to paramilitary outfits that land and deploy, then hasten away when the mission of growth-control has been achieved.

Early in spring, where chemicals aren't used, there can be small rebellions here and there in the lawn, instigated by the "early risers", e.g. assertive wild garlic, or star-of-bethlehem, forming an effect I call "lawn blotch". When the grass starts to catch up, there's a peaceful week or two of quiet conformity, the green spotted with the pleasant yellow of dandelion blossoms. And then, lulled by spring into reverie, proud of our environmental high road of chemical free lawn care, we wake up to the white, seedy roar of the dandelion, going rogue, letting its freak-flag fly, rocking the sea of green with its passion for propagation.

The photo, taken a week ago, is of my neighbor's lawn, a rental, but mine was "hearing the roar" as well. There may be approaches to organic lawn care that minimize the dandelions, but for most of us who do nothing beyond periodic mowing, the dandelions hold reign for a couple weeks each spring. The sense of losing control, though, is temporary, and though it may add to the number of dandelion seeds parachuting in to other yards, it has no ramifications for natural areas. Maybe the deer eat them, but for whatever reason, dandelions pose no threat to our stream corridors or nature preserves that I've noticed.

This contrasts with an introduced species like lesser celandine, whose rapid spread not only triggers feelings of having lost control of one's yard, but also threatens transformation of nearby preserved lands.

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