I fought the lawn, and the lawn won - Macleans.ca

I fought the lawn, and the lawn won

FESCHUK: Every year I dream of a verdant backyard, and I wind up a raving weed whacker

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I fought the lawn, and the lawn won

Getty Images; iStock; Photo illustration by Taylor Shute

This column has long dedicated itself to breaking important news, and I’m proud to continue that tradition with my latest shocking exclusive: there are, like, way more dandelions this year.

But it’s not merely their numbers that should alarm us—it’s their size. The ones in our yard are bigger than usual this spring. How much bigger? I’m pretty sure I saw a bunch of elves making cookies in one.

Let me be clear: I’m not trying to set off a nationwide panic—but over the weekend I stooped to yank out a particularly robust dandelion and it tried to reason with me. I ended up leaving it in place, where it has since acquired advanced motor skills and a hunger for human flesh.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: in my backyard, every springtime is an express trip from optimism to despair. Each April I declare this will be the season that pretty things grow in the garden and there is basking in glorious splendour and so on. And each May nature replies, “Fat chance, four eyes.” Come June, our gardening efforts inevitably cease to be a rescue mission and become a recovery operation.

I’ve never understood the people who stick those little plastic identification cards into the soil next to their annuals. Is there going to be a quiz about your flower bed, Mrs. Jenkins from down the street? But I’m thinking that maybe next year I’ll plant only the cards. They won’t grow, but plastic is much harder to kill.

That would solve one problem. Sadly, there are more. Behold the other Elements of Misery that define our backyard experience:

The lawn. Our yard has more dead, barren patches than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s filmography. Every spring I put down earth and grass seed to no avail. Not some avail. Not even a smidgen of avail. Zero avail.

Last year, in a sad, sad act of a defeated man, I actually bought grass seed over the Internet. The company claimed its grass mix would grow on a cinder block—how could it fail in my backyard? Thoroughly, it turns out. I was promised a dense, full lawn. When the grass finally came in, it resembled the head of hair on Homer Simpson: two sad wisps upon a bare patch.

You know those commercials for Scotts Turf Builder, where men cross their arms with satisfaction and marvel at the thick green carpet they’ve nurtured to lush perfection? I’d like to smash those guys in the face with a shovel.

The mosquitoes. For reasons unknown, our yard attracts mosquitoes in numbers better suited to a horror movie or an Off! commercial. Not long ago, a bunch of friends came over for dinner. We had drinks on the patio, because it was nice out and because our kitchen gets hot and I don’t like people to see how much of my sweat drips into their soup.

Within seconds, the pests descended. I asked, “Should we maybe move inside?” No, no, everyone said politely as they slapped their arms and legs and necks and eyeballs. We lasted roughly 90 seconds more, long enough for the mosquitoes to drain my head of blood and carry off two of our thinner guests.

The dog. Last fall, our chocolate Lab basically ate one of our cedar trees—stripped the bark with its teeth, then chewed up most of the branches. The dog now spends its afternoons lying at the bottom of a metre-deep hole it excavated near the dying tree.

To sum up then: were you to stand on our back step and look out at the thin grass, the thick weeds, the decaying cedar, the giant dog hole and the dense clouds of mosquitoes, you may find yourself thinking, “You know what would class this place up a bit? A tire fire.”

By this past weekend, I’d had enough. I grabbed the weed whacker from the shed. Moving through the flower beds and along the grass, I cut down every weed. I even butchered the mega-dandelion to which I’d granted a reprieve. This being a family magazine, I can’t print the words I muttered as I worked. I can, however, use the names of the Kardashian sisters in place of the dirty words: Take that, you kourtney, motherkimberlying sons of a khloe!

I went outside yesterday and the dandelion had started to grow back. Also, it knew my name.