It's spring, and so the battle begins anew

Spring has sprung, at least this week, and so has the urge to venture into the wilderness known as my back yard.

As you may know by now, I'm in a running battle with Mother Nature over exactly what does and what does not grow in my yard.

I think there should be grass and flowers.

Mother Nature insists that it should be weeds.

On her side, Mother Nature has the wind, rain, sunshine and my dog.

I have talked to the dog about this, and we've had very sincere - though one-sided - conversations about where he should dig and on which plants he should raise his leg.

J.D. looks at me sympathetically, then does whatever he damn well pleases. Also, he's deaf.

On my side, however, I have the best technology known to the modern gardener.

Fertilizers. Pesticides. Herbicides. Mulching lawn mower. Weed whackers (one electric, one gas-powered). Assorted shovels, rakes, spades, hoes, sprayers, hoses, clippers, and the thing that looks like a screwdriver and is supposed to pop the dandelions out of the ground, root and all.

I, of course, am losing.

All the work I put in last summer and fall to make the landscape look like House Beautiful (OK, maybe House Respectable) has been wiped out by the winter of my neglect. I think when the Census People came by, they probably marked us down as "zero inhabitants" because it looked like nobody had lived there in months.

So, the last couple of weekends I decided to wade into the fray and try to bring the ol' homefront back up to presentability.

Let me just say that there is something inherently unfair about the whole thing.

Because through the winter, Mother Nature has been slowly, stealthily invading my territory.

Roots grew under the plastic border I laid down, so there is now a nice green patch of grass exactly in the same place where I ripped one out last year. For the third year in a row, the trellis for the clematis has given up when confronted by a few weeks of 65 mph winds.

The big brown spot that I seeded with grass last year is a big brown spot again. I suspect Mother Nature's foot soldier, the dog, on that one.

In the meantime, however, all my weapons have grown rusty and dull.

Is that fair?

To my way of thinking, the electric weed-trimmer that wouldn't operate last fall should be in perfect shape by now. It's had all winter to rest up, right?

Same thing with the lawnmower. It's been doing nothing but lazing about in the shed for four months, so when I wheel it into the warm sunshine of spring for the first time, it should be rarin' to go.

Fat chance. Instead, it acts like it decided over the winter that it must have reached Lawnmower Retirement Age and deserves to be parked out front as an ornament. I tell it, "Yeah, right, buddy. That's how garage sales happen."

The small pond in my back yard looks like the Black Lagoon. There are definitely creatures in there, and I can only hope they are merely the goldfish that had been in the pond last fall.

Goldfish can't grow to be 6 feet long, can they? I'll ask my wife to stick her hand in the water first. If she gets hauled under the inky murk in one enormous "glurg" ... well, I'll put off cleaning the pond for a few more weeks.

This time of year presents another dilemma for homeowners who don't have rocks for yards: When to turn on the irrigation system?

Some of my neighbors are sprinkling away, greening up the lawns already. I know what happens when you do this, though. The grass grows. And what comes next? Mowing.

So, I'll try to get by as long as possible with a yard that looks more like brown shag carpeting. If we have a wet spring, and I water regularly, then I'll get a week or two of lush green lawn before the summer sun dries it out and it returns to shag carpeting.

I also keep in mind one of the maxims of Northern Nevada gardening: There's always one more frost. You may recall the ice sculpture that my sprinkling system made a couple of years ago. They're still talking about it down at the barber shop.

If I'm lucky, we'll have a nice, mild spring and all the budding trees will bloom, all the plants pushing up through the dirt will flower, and my dog won't dig in exactly the same places that I do.

If I'm not lucky, it will snow 14 inches in May.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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