Sunday, June 27, 2010

Easy Equals Dead Sod in the Front Yard

Our neighborhood has had an across-the-board problem this year… dead grass. Some yards lost nearly all their grass while some yards just had spots not make it. It seemed to be all types of grass too, not just one particular kind. The neighborhood we live in takes this pretty seriously, since everyone, at least that I can tell, finds it a high priority to keep the entire neighborhood looking very tidy. There is a lot of pride in our neighborhood (in a good way) and it shows in the appearance as you ride down the street.

I must let you know that taking pride in the yard upkeep doesn’t necessarily mean the people in our neighborhood take pride in doing it themselves… no. It is quite the opposite. I would say that 95% of the residents in our neighborhood hire this job out to landscaping companies. On any given day, you can see one of those trucks with the long trailer with 3 mowers and a bunch of other lawn equipment on the back of it parked in front of a house with 3 to 5 guys hard at work to ‘get er done’ (coincidence that there are empty beer cans in the street after they pull away??? That’s a whole other article). My point here is that taking pride in something doesn’t necessarily mean that you are willing to do the hard part yourself. Sometimes it is just easier to let someone else do it. And that isn’t always a bad thing… it’s simply a reality… a choice… and sometimes a necessary choice. Ryan and I are part of the 5% of residents that take care of our own yard, on our own time, along with our next door neighbors, Tom and Jane.

This summer, when all the grass problems came to light I heard a myriad of reasons passing through the neighborhood. Some people thought it was the root systems of large trees that caused the damage. Some people blamed it on bugs. Some people blamed it on the cold weather…. or maybe even the hot weather… poor watering??? But the explanation I heard most often was… fungus. Okay, so collectively, the neighborhood has blamed the grass problem on fungus. But the blame didn’t stop there. Residents have gone a little further and said that the landscaping companies must have brought the fungus in on their equipment and infected the neighborhood because they were not taking proper care of their mowers and such. Hmmmm. Sounds like a good excuse to me… could even be true but if that were the case… why did our grass suffer the same fate? We have St. Augustine grass and we lost almost all of half of our yard and then a few patches on the other side.

Some people have fired their landscaping companies and hired new ones. Some people are trying to get reduced prices for services… and as always, some people aren’t doing anything but complaining and defaming others in the process.

Regardless of how the yard owners are handling it logically (or illogically), the problem still remains… dead grass and some pretty rough looking yards. The blame part really doesn’t matter does it? The problem doesn’t get fixed by figuring out whose fault it was? No, the problem gets fixed when you put a plan of action together and then work it.

Some plans are easier than others. The easiest of which is… to have someone else handle it. In some cases this is the best idea. For example, brain surgery… you wouldn’t ask your best friend to take care of that one for you (unless of course he was a brain surgeon), but you get my point.

About 15% of the neighborhood called in the experts to help them resolve their grass problems. I’ve seen many “TruGreen” trucks and technicians hard at work in the past months. I know their services are not cheap but they provide definite results so in my mind, their services are totally worth it, if you have the cash and willingness to put out the cash. The people who chose that route, well, all is lookin’ good for them!

As for me, we are kind of a do-it-yourself household. We have learned that almost everything that needs to be done around the house can be done most economically by putting in the time to learn about it and then committing to the hard work of doing it yourself. We have replaced broken concrete roof tiles, fixed leaks, replaced rotten siding, fixed sprinkler heads, rewired our phone system, we have run our own Ethernet wires and most certainly do all of our own yard work. It’s not that we don’t have money… it’s that we would rather spend our money on other things… like gifting and vacations (plus we are blessed to have the physical ability and the time to do it). Because of this philosophy (which I have to say my husband and daddy have instilled in me because it’s not a natural one to me) I decided to start researching how I could fix our grass problem myself… internet… here I come!

First, I read about possible causes of the grass problem to determine the REAL issue. For us, I believe it to be the excessively cold winter we had. St. Augustine grass is a warm weather grass and doesn’t do well with frost or snow or a hard freeze. We had a lot of all of that this passed winter. Next, I read all about sod and how to sod a yard properly. It turns out it’s a pretty intense process. Testing soil, getting acidity correct, preparing the soil to sod, then finding the right place to buy fresh sod (this was really important). After all of that… the maintenance and care for the sod was almost hourly… it was a labor of love if you wanted it to be successful.

I was tired just reading all of that… and wondered if we should just hire TruGreen to do it for us. It sounded hard. I put it on the table for a week to think it over. I decided to read about seeding… found out quickly it was too late in the season to seed St. Augustine… so that was out.

Meanwhile, the majority of the neighborhood decided to just have their run of the mill landscaping company try to resolve the problem, (and remember – they have already blamed their landscaping company for the problem in the first place). One day I sat watching a few guys sod a neighbor’s yard to see what they did. They didn’t prep the soil at all… they rolled up in their truck… threw some pretty dry looking sod down patted it for a moment then left… without even watering it. I thought… hmmmm… if that lives (but I had my doubts), I might try that. Looked easy to me. Apparently, the landscaping company hadn’t given any special instructions to the owner of the house either because they didn’t water it any extra… just the normal water schedule… once every few days like the rest of the lawn. It’s no surprise, it all died and now their yard looks even worse. I don’t know how much they spent for that service but in that case… easy equaled dead sod in the front yard. I knew what I had read about soding was true. It was gonna be hard work if I chose to do it.

A few days later, I was looking at our yard and just thought… that’s it… enough is enough! The first thing I knew I had to do regardless of how I went forward… phase one was get all the weeds, dead grass and junk out of the way. I pick an area about 12 feet by 6 feet and started yanking and scooping until it was clear. I stood back, dripping with sweat from the 95 degree Texas heat at 7:00 pm and said “Wow… that looks even worse! A big patch of dirt!”

The next day I went to Lowes to get some mulch for my flowerbeds and I asked a guy there what he would do. He gave me some excellent advice so I decided to give it a try. I bought some top soil and manure/soil mix and went home ready to act.

Phase two began…I got my hoe and pitchfork out and started tilling and digging. Texas dirt is hard… so it wasn’t easy work. It was also 98 degrees outside and mid afternoon. I sprayed the dirt with water getting it nice and muddy, mixed it some more then poured in the top soil. Mixed, added water till it was mud. Poured in the manure mix… got on my hands and knees and worked it in with the mud. It was stinky, let me tell you! It took hours… mixing and adding water… I got filthier and stinker with every moment that passed. Speaking of “passed” I seriously almost passed out seven times while I was doing this… it was HOT.

So I was done with the soil prep after hours of hard, dirty work. It was time for phase three… and phase three had to come right away or phase two would have all been for nothing. It was time to plant the new grass, but I didn’t have any sod… and it was too late to seed… so what was I going to do??? Well, the guy at Lowes told me something really cool about St. Augustine grass… it has runners, and the runners have roots so if you go through the healthy grass you have and find some long runners… you can just plant those in an empty area. And that is exactly what I did. I spent the next two hours combing through our healthy grass to find runners. I dug them up carefully and then planted them in the very wet muddy, manure mixture.

An afternoon of dirty, sweaty, stinky work was finally complete and I took a step back and looked at it. I’m not sure it looked any better yet… but at least it looked like we were trying. I got my camera and took a few pictures so I could view the progress through the lens in the weeks to come.

Since that day, the work has continued… the maintenance is so very important. I have seriously watered that area with a hose almost every 2 hours. And I know that if I chose to get lazy and not go out there to do the maintenance work… all that hard work will be for nothing. Think about it… digging into the hard stuff, mixing in some healthy stuff, getting down on my knees, getting dirty and stinky in the muck, sweating, almost passing out from the heat, transplanting the growth of another source into the bare spot to replace what was once dead, empty and ugly. I know it will take time to look nice again but I also know that all of that hard nasty work would be for nothing if I don’t do the maintenance it requires and water it when needed.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Perhaps maybe a little bit like trying to heal from the pains of life… trying to break free from the compulsions you have let kill the life within you? To repair… to heal… to break free… think about it…it takes digging into the hard stuff (the truth about yourself), mixing in some healthy stuff (advice from those who have gone before you), getting down on your knees (begging and pleading for God’s help), getting dirty and stinky in the muck (your sin, responsibility, acceptance), sweating, almost passing out from the heat (and exhaustion and pain), transplanting the growth of another source (Jesus) into the bare spot (that hole in the middle of your chest that makes you feel empty) all to replace what was once dead, empty and ugly (how you feel about yourself)… all of that hard nasty work would be for nothing if you don’t do the maintenance (trust the Lord, meet with others, read the Bible, pray) and water it (letting the Spirit guide you) when needed (always).

Personal baggage… hurts, habits and hang-ups usually come with a lot of excuses and blame (and the longer you keep the excuses and blame, the longer they will cripple you). But remember what I said in the beginning about the dead grass… the blame part really doesn’t matter, does it? The problem doesn’t get fixed by figuring out whose fault it was? No, the problem gets fixed when you put a plan of action together and then work it. I also said that taking pride in something (or having the desire to fix something) doesn’t necessarily mean you are willing to do the hard part yourself. Sometimes it is just easier to let someone else do it. Unfortunately with personal baggage, there is no TruGreen service that will just drive in, sprinkle some magic chemical on you, give you the bill and all is better. Some people think therapy is “TruGreen”… but it’s not. Therapy sure can help but if you aren’t willing to do the work required…it won’t work either. In the end, the only solution for healing the soul is to let Jesus into that empty spot in your chest… and for it to take, you are going to have to work hard at it… and you are going to have to water it with the Spirit almost hourly. It’s hard work, but it’s also really the easiest way to go! Living a life of pain is not easy. I am reminded of Jesus’ own words: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 25: 28-30

Only time will tell if my new grass will live, but if it doesn't make it I know it won't be from a lack of me trying. In that sense, all the hard work will be worth it no matter what. How much more important is your spiritual and emotional health than a blade of grass?

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