I’ve been working—with more effort and persistence than usual for me—on getting grass to grow between the house and the street on the west side of our little place here in Ark City. It seems like a more attainable goal than getting grass to grow in the street or underneath the house which is why I’ve focused on the strip in between said landmarks. “More attainable” but certainly not easy.
For the first two years we lived here, almost nothing would grow in that area underneath the two large Chinese elm trees. Prone as I might be to needless and unfounded exaggeration, this is not one of those cases. I’m talking about a sandy strip of something that resembles dirt in which not even dandelions, crabgrass or thistles would sprout. Now, folks, that’s saying something in these parts. Generally, those things will flourish in concrete sidewalks and in the cracks of asphalt driveways.
Last year, encouraged by the appearance of several dandelions, a sprig or two of crabgrass and a hybrid between cactus and sand burr, I started sowing grass seed. After three intense sessions of raking, fertilizing, sowing seed and more raking, followed by two months of almost daily waterings, I had a patch of creeping fescue and affiliated species that had a very grass-like appearance. Over an area about one-sixth of the total challenge plot.
This spring, I engaged in even more of such silliness and managed to extend the green to nearly a third of the plot. Three weeks ago, toward the end of our extended No Climate Change monsoon season, I sowed another strip of grass, this time casting my faith just above the waters in the form of perennial ryegrass. It sprouted in about seventy-two hours and added another strip of green to the scene.
This week, without having suffered any recent traumatic brain injury that I can recall, I decided to finish up this little idyllic quest. I tilled up a ten-by-sixty strip of mostly bare ground, uncovering a few more of those damnable elm roots in the process. I raked the freshly ground dirtwads into more manageable bits and thereby also sifted out several little clumps of weed grass and dandelions. I sowed more creeping fescue and affiliated species, being careful to not sow the mixture in the planter beds bordering the strip of Ground That Does Not Grow Stuff.
I used our car to pack the seed firmly into the dirt, driving very carefully so I could get within a couple of inches of the stone border. I spent another hour watering the seed that evening, and the next morning, at lunch and in the afternoon. Yesterday morning and at lunch, I repeated the watering. Then yesterday afternoon and evening, with an appreciated bit of cloud cover blocking out the blazing sun, I sifted a layer of peat moss over the whole area, to help cover the seed and hold moisture in. Then spent another hour watering it all and touching up the peat moss mulching, re-covering the thin areas revealed by the watering.
By the time I’d finished that, I’d put in about ten hours of work and spent around forty dollars on seed and peat. On that single strip. As I pushed the wheelbarrow around back with the leftover peat moss, I noticed the welcomed cloud cover had morphed into what looked like a potential thunderstorm off to the northwest. A quick check of the country’s official weather service forecast indicated less than a twenty percent chance of rain. Good to know that a government agency is assuring me that nothing bad is about to happen.
By the time I finished using the leftover mulch around the strawberries and pepper plants, it was thundering. Less than twenty minutes later, a deluge descended upon us, complete with fairly close lightning and very loud thunder.
It rained as if the wrath of God and the fury of Satan had intermingled, as if judgment itself had been pronounced upon my tiny swath of hope and effort. Rain sheathed over the edge of the gutters, pounded upon earth and pavement, and ran in visible current across the driveway. Water pooled three inches deep in the flag-stoned walkway leading to the porch. And so deep in my planting strip that it actually overflowed the stone border around the planter. The recently sifted peat moss had formed a dam of sorts across the lower end of the planting strip.
A good bit of the already thatched part of my yard now has a flush supplement of organic mulch and a generous over-seeding of creeping red fescue and related species. Most of the barren strip that I worked so hard to seed and nourish will remain barren a while longer.
It’s not the first time and likely not the last time that some great effort of mine will fail to yield the desired result. Such is the nature of life in this fallen world.
And yet, I can say with genuine sincerity and gratitude, I am glad it was only several hundred square feet of bare yard and not several thousand acres of just planted soybeans. Now that would be a genuine disappointment.