An ongoing battle for the best lawn

Story and Photo by Stephanie Fenton

Many wars have been waged here at Cedar Pond Farm, some battles won while others were lost. Ivy has been ravaged, copperheads slaughtered, and air potatoes almost exterminated. But one war still continues. It arises in small skirmishes and is fought by an army of one, my husband – the stalwart warrior who fights for the perfect weed-free turfgrass lawn.

When we bought our property 38 years ago, the open pastures sprouted all manner of flora. What was grass and what was a weed was labeled by the untrained eye of the beholder. The beholder in this case (my husband) determined that anything green and low-growing that covered a lot of continuous ground was a grass. With no lawn of any kind around our moved-in house and limited funds available, the self-appointed landscaper took it upon himself to propagate one using the grasses available. With magnifying glass in his pocket, he set out to identify a suitable patch of “grass” to transplant in the sandy barren area in front of our house. “Bermudagrass,” he exclaimed. “Just like the lawns in our friend’s subdivision.” To him the pasture grass was no different than the lush, green weedless grass that thrived in his brother’s yard. My stalwart warrior braved the sweltering heat of the summer to dig 2-by-2 squares of the wild common bermudagrass. With no soil preparation at all he laid his relocated sod on the ground in front of the house. “Regular watering and a heavy dose of fertilizer is all it needs to spread the stolons horizontally and the rhizomes vertically,” he said authoritatively.

There is only one cure for turf envy – sell the house and move into a high-rise condominium.

While weeds were thriving between my husband’s patches of Bermudagrass, he located an area of grass he identified as centipedegrass and announced that it would be perfect for the somewhat shady side of the house. So again he took shovel in hand and relocated patches of it to the unprepared soil on the side of the house. He watered it regularly and applied the same fertilizer he used on the bermudagrass. The so-called centipedegrass (later correctly identified as carpetgrass) quickly began to die.

Perplexed by his landscaping failure, he would often detour through the neighboring subdivisions stopping to stare at endless rows of perfect lawns. “I just don’t get it,” he moaned. For me, the problem was fear that my husband was afflicted by the dreaded condition known as turf envy, a condition that runs rampant through manicured subdivisions. Many of my friends confessed that their husbands would sit on their porches for hours, holding a bottle of weed killer just, waiting for some brave dandelion to sprout. The diagnosis, I tell them, “incurable turf envy.”

It took several years before my lawn warrior admitted defeat. At the recommendation of our county extension agent he had the soil tested and then amended according to the results. He studied the vast number of bermudagrass hybrids developed by the University of Georgia and selected ‘Tifgrand’ for its shade tolerance and dark green color.

It has been an uneventful winter. The lawn went into dormancy, and my husband’s turf envy went into remission, but I am not fooled. When spring arrives again, he will arm himself with fertilizer, pre-emergence herbicides, and a newly sharpened lawnmower blade ready for battle.

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