Get your yard ready for summer – a little bit of work will be appreciated in the months ahead

I’ve seen a lot of searches lately regarding landscaping. People have been reading the old post I wrote about killing my lawn, so I thought I’d make an update on that. Last year, having received Cal Water’s preliminary warnings about the pending rate increase, I had just stopped watering about half my front lawn.  It didn’t take long for it to get the message.

And here's those "barrel clover" burrs - I hate these. I spend way too much time picking them out of socks and carpeting!

And here’s those “barrel clover” burrs – I hate these. I spend way too much time picking them out of socks and carpeting!

Remember this picture above? This is a close up of my dead lawn. Those clover burrs are full of seeds. Those seeds sprouted with the winter rains, and I had an entire patch of that stuff. 

I know I’m not alone here. I had one search something like, “I have stickers, I want grass.” I can relate. These stickers get into my shoes and socks and really hurt. I find myself interrupted in my chores constantly, digging these little beasties out. Then there’s fox tails and the other missiles – those go in through the shoestring holes, and just keep going. I’ve had them go right through my shoes. How about those “scissor” stickers – they start out pretty little purple flowers, turn into these green spears, and when they dry out, they turn into four corkscrews, each with a nasty arrow-like head. Those are really good at burrowing into a pet’s fur. 

In spring we spend so much time picking stickers out of the dogs, it’s just stupid. And, when my old boxer got a fox tail in her throat and started to choke, it cost me an immediate $135 to get it out. It was really frightening how fast her throat swelled up, and she started to cough and stagger, going completely limp in the car on the way to the vet. When he showed me the little piece of junk that had almost killed her, I wanted to go home and cement the entire property.

You can’t mow stickers, they just grow back, lower. And mowing spreads the seeds better than anything I know.

I don’t like herbicides – I have dogs, and I just can’t believe it’s completely safe. So, I get out there with gloves, shovel, rake, hoe, and I just clean the patches up. It seems impossible, but an hour’s work in one concentrated area will really go a long way.  I loosen the roots with the shovel, I pull them out, and I rake the ground clean. 

The sprawling spot I killed last year was right in the bright, pitiless sun, so after I raked it, my husband put our big plastic swimming pool on top of it. It was hard to grow anything but stickers there, even with tons of water. I hate to think, the water I wasted trying to grow grass and little trees there.  So, I figure, we’re  using less water in our Intex easy set pool than I would have poured out on grass. We covered the immediate surrounding area with a tarp, and sections of a redwood wheelchair ramp we salvaged from an old house. 

That took care of the area I killed on purpose, but there are always patches of stickers in the little lawns we have under our shady trees that will take over all our nice grass if we let them. So, I go after those with my shovel and gloves, and I plant grass seed in the bald spots. I water those intensely, twice a day for about 10 minutes, until the grass comes in nice and thick, a couple of months. It’s best to plant grass in the fall, but if you start out with mild weather in the spring, and water it good if it doesn’t rain, you can get it established before the real heat sets in later in June. I don’t water it every day after that – I just watch it, and when it looks dry, I water it for a half hour or so in the early morning or evening. 

Here is lawn rehabilitation in progress. I notice there are still barrel stickers left - one bright green fat one right along the bottom of the picture. But see the grass seed, I lay it down thick, and then I keep the ground wet for a   couple of months. I'll get another picture of this area in a few weeks.

Here is lawn rehabilitation in progress. I notice there are still barrel stickers left – one bright green fat one right along the bottom of the picture. But see the grass seed, I lay it down thick, and then I keep the ground wet for a couple of months. I’ll get another picture of this area in a few weeks.

It always seems like hard work in the beginning, and I was tempted to get some “turf builder” or “weed and feed,” but I’m glad I didn’t. As soon as I started cleaning, mowing and got on a regular watering schedule, my yard started to become friendly again. 

Here is a close up of an area I rescued last year, a patch of ground that was hard and covered with stickers, now a cool spot to hang around in the hot afternoon.

Here is a close up of an area I rescued last year, this is nice healthy “fescue”. 

This little patch of oak trees made a shady spot to hang around, but the ground was hard and dry and good for nothing for fire hazard. Now it works to cool the rest of the yard and the house.

This little patch of oak trees made a shady spot to hang around, but the ground was hard and dry and good for nothing but fire hazard. Now it works to cool the rest of the yard and the house.

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