I Killed My Lawn, Part II: Now what?

That's about as dead as it gets.

That’s about as dead as it gets.

Two summers ago, having got the first warnings of a series of rate increases from Cal Water, I just stopped watering this big sunny patch of our yard. At first I was shocked how fast it turned brown, but when the rainy season rolled around I was absolutely mortified how fast it turned green again – with stickers! 

Ye dam-ned stickers! These

Ye dam-ned stickers! These “barrel clover” are some of the worst – they have really sharp little spines, they hurt like the dickens when they get in your shoe! They grew like crazy over Spring, and now the stickers I couldn’t yank out are all over my yard.

I hate them for myself, because they get in shoes, socks, clothing. We can’t wear sandals in our yard without having to stop every few steps to eject a sticker. The ground is crunchy with these damn things. But I really had to do something when I started finding my dogs limping around and licking their feet all the time – I’d find these nasty little burrs between their toes, or caught in a wad of their fur rubbing a nasty ulcerous sore in their skin. I can imagine it just plain hurts to walk on them. The usable yard had shrunk to pathways and the patio. 

I know, Cal Water is giving $1/sq foot to remove your lawn, but there’s all these catches. In short, you have to spend money to get money. Cal Water spokesperson admitted, it’s not intended to pay for the whole job, I’d guess, it pays for a third or less of all the labor, drip supplies, bark/rock and plants needed.  This project is going to take me a while, because I have to stay within my means and do something that I can maintain when I’m old. 

Lawn is really getting a bad rap. I wouldn’t remove mine except this patch was in such a bright spot, it was hard to keep it alive. We had our big Intex pool there for years, so there was already a big dead spot in the middle. But, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I had other business to attend to, so there it was two years later, a big sticker patch. 

I’m still watering the shady edges, I have to be careful not to kill too close to the trees. When we came too close to our young redwood, the top died.

We came pretty close to killing this young redwood, just when it was looking very healthy.   Now we water it around it's shadeline, to keep the lateral roots healthy.

We came pretty close to killing this 18 foot tall redwood, just when it was looking very healthy . Now we water it around it’s shadeline, to keep the lateral roots healthy.

Some areas I just stopped watering.

Wherever the sun shined all day I quit watering.

Wherever the sun shined all day I quit watering. 

When I noticed it was turning into stickers, I covered some areas with sections of a black tarp we’d bought for a roof repair we had to do during the wet season. We’d paid so much for all that plastic, I’d saved it in a big heap in the shop. I knew the black plastic would get hot in that spot, even in winter, and boy did it! Where watering turned things brown, that tarp turned them to dirt.

I just had to sweep the ground like my kitchen. It was a dusty job, but I think it will be worth it.

You’ve heard that expression, deader than  dirt. What could get deader than this?

Now left to get rid of all those stickers. I fantasized using one of those floor Zamboni’s they have in big stores, just suck up the whole mess. But yeah, it came down to me and my leaf rake, sweep sweep sweep. All those little piles in the picture are made of dead grass, a few rocks, and hands full of those dam-ned stickers!  Sheesh it was a dusty job.

Now to sweep up the piles and take them to the compost heap.

Now to sweep up the piles and take them to the compost heap.

I try to start these endeavors early, like 6 am early, cause by 9 am, the sun is getting a little pointy, like the little stickers I’m trying to rake up. That’s when it’s time to get in the old Think Tank.

I call this my Think Tank because when the sun has fried my brains to the point I can't think, I shove that lid over and get in.  Instant Genius!

I call this my Think Tank because when the sun has fried my brains to the point I can’t think, I shove that lid over and get in. Instant Genius! There’s a nopalito to the left, photo bombing my shot.

Hey, how do you love that umbrella?  Keeps that vicious late afternoon sun off the Think Tank.  We found, that bright sun was making our little haven uncomfortable later in the day, right when we really wanted to use it.  The water was getting up in the 90’s, and that makes it stink, so we thought we better do something about shade. We were driving to S&S Market one morning when we saw this gorgeous and fully functional umbrella, with a glass-top table, sitting in a neighbor’s driveway with a FREE sign on it. Neighbor thanked us for taking it off his hands. The table is sitting under a shady tree, with some old chairs we found elsewhere. We propped the umbrella up on a piece of rebar hammered into the ground, and Voila! That’s French for “the water’s great!” 

I can look out over my hard morning’s work and think, what next? More succulents and rocks?

This is okay for an ornamental garden, but not pet friendly.

This is okay for an ornamental garden, but not pet friendly.  And rocks do generate heat.

I think my husband is right – we need to get that patch of dirt rehabilitated and put in a tree or two. That would change the dynamic of the yard right outside our front door, making our apartment cooler over those nasty little three digit ramblers Mother Nature rolls out every year at this time. 

We’ll check into getting more chip from our friends in the hills, and look for some cheap source of bark. I’ll keep you posted!

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