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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Arrival Of Summer Means - More Yardwork!

Winter is a relatively quiet time as far as outdoor work for me is concerned. Two or three times in a typical winter, we get heavy enough snow that I have to shovel it off my driveway. Other times, we just drive over it and don't bother clearing it off the driveway. I don't own a snowblower, so I shovel by hand. It is good exercise, but takes a lot longer than dealing with the snow with a blower, so I just clear my driveway rather than sidewalks and other places.

But, during the winter, I don't have to deal with mowing the lawn, or making sure there are no weeds in the yard, and so on. Once summer weather breaks through, yardwork becomes quite a regular chore. I have mowed my lawn 3 or 4 times already this year. The temperatures never consistently stayed up until a couple of weeks back (we had occasional frost until 2 weeks back), so applying weedkiller was not an option until now.

But, this weekend was quite dry and hot, making it ideal for taking care of what has become an annual ritual now. Yesterday, I mowed the lawn in preparation for exterminating the weeds in it. Quite surprisingly, my front yard did not contain any weeds at all, but other parts of the yard had some weeds that needed to be taken care of. The grass had grown quite long because the last couple of weeks had seen periods of alternating rain and sun with consistently high temperatures. I was afraid small pets and kids might get lost in the grass if I let it grow any taller!

I then did the weedkiller application today using the hose-end sprayer like last year. Based on my experiences from last year, I was able to figure out the best way around my yard with the long hose without getting it entangled in trees and other obstacles, so the entire applications took a little less time than it did last year. But it was hotter this year, so it seemed like a bigger chore than it was last year! Once again, I used about 24,000 square feet worth of weedkiller on just 8,000 square feet of lawn. The hose-end sprayer always seems to end up overconsuming weedkiller however quickly I try to move over the yard while spraying.

Now, I have to wait and see if this work actually bears fruit and results in a visible reduction of the weed activity on my yard. I also hope I did not accidentally spray any vegetables and flowers my wife has planted in various parts of the yard and kill them!

The other irritant on my yard is a patch of ground next to my front door which contains a medium-sized maple tree. That patch of ground is not supposed to contain any grass or other plants (it is hemmed in on 3 sides by walls, so the patch can not be mowed). But every year, a bunch of nasty weeds sprout up on this patch of ground much to the annoyance of my wife.

I usually kill them by putting some weedkiller on them, but I am thinking of paving over this piece of ground this year with paving stones. The ground there is already covered with some kind of fabric that is supposed to prevent plant growth, but it seems to have been punctured in so many places that it is not very effective. So, I am looking at large paving stones at various home improvement stores. The ground is only about 100 square feet, so a few dozen large and heavy paving stones should do the trick and make the place completely free of vegetation. And hopefully, paving stones will last a lot longer than this fabric that is doing quite a poor job right now.

As part of my weedkilling expedition, I also sprayed concentrated weedkiller on these weeds and they are already showing signs of dying. But they always seem to grow back every summer. So, I will have to pave the area over this year before they return for the next year.

A few years back, we hired a landscaper to trim back the bushes and shrubs on the yard. They also cut off the low-hanging branches of trees on the yard so that I would not have trouble walking around them and mowing the grass that grows under them. But now, the bushes and shrubs are growing larger again and the trees have once again put out lots of low branches that make pushing a mower in and among them quite a pain. I might have to call the landscaper again to take care of these annoyances.

I actually own a hedge-trimmer which is supposed to be powerful enough to take care of hedge-branches that are up to a quarter of an inch thick. But I have developed an aversion to using it ever since I handled it a little carelessly the year I bought it. Hedge-trimmers are awkward to use but I was getting reasonably good at using it. But my arms got tired, and by instinct, I tried to grab the outer end of the hedge-trimmer with my left hand when it started sagging.

The good news is that my fingers are not as simple as hedge branches to cut through, but the bad news is that I did get some deep surface cuts at my finger tips from the blades. I had to make a trip to the emergency room to get some stitches, and also lost a finger nail (that took 2 or 3 months to grow back). All this happened a couple of days before I was going to Hawaii on vacation, so it was quite inconvenient to say the least. Now, when I look at the hedge-trimmer, all I can think of is that experience. Time to push it back, perhaps, replace it with the good time I had on that Hawaii vacation, and start using it. Maybe while wearing heavy work gloves as extra protection.

At the end of the day, I am convinced that the best way to go is to have a few strong trees on the yard, and cover the rest over with astroturf. No weeds, no mowing, no watering, no fertilizing, no nothing. I can spend the summer admiring the greenness of my yard without having to waste gas or depositing tons of noxious chemicals in the storm drains around my yard. I wonder if any landscaper offers such a service, and how expensive it will be . . .

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