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June 4, 2002

Dandelions Forever, Or So It Seems

I'm either mad at, disillusioned with, or saddened by my city's maintenance department. Yes, the roads are a complete mess, but I'm pretty sure that's due to simple underfunding and a federal-provincial-municipal power struggle involving money and gasoline tax revenue. Regardless, that's not why I'm miffed.

I'm miffed because I own a lawn for the first time, and it's going to get more and more dandelions growing in it. As you'll remember, I recently thatched the whole damned thing. I now have my mower back from sharpening, and once the weather stays nice enough for me to get out there I'll mow it and overseed it. Meanwhile, it sits there, getting long, still somewhat thinned out. In other words, it's the perfect time for insidious seeds to invade my yard and take hold. You're still wondering why I'm dissing the city, right? I'll get there... eventually.

If you take a drive along just about any road in the city, there is one thing you'll notice right off along the side of just about every road that doesn't have residential property facing onto the street: tons and tons of dandelion heads, brimming with seed, more and more of which are being blown off and into nearby homeowners' lawns. When I say "tons and tons", I'm not being figurative. I would guess that in dandelion stalks alone one could easily gather a few hundred pounds in a day with a regular lawn mower with a bag attachment. They are so thick in some parts that I seriously doubt any actual grass still exists. A few weeks ago some roadside tracts looked like a Cottonelle truck exploded. And not too long ago one evening, I looked outside to see what looked like snow, which turned out to be dandelion seeds gently blowing by on a moderate wind, traveling untold kilometers in search of fertile ground. Argh.

I'm no weed expert (in any sense you'd care to assume), but I have one idea that should significantly reduce the number of accursed yellow flowers and white cotton puffs that people have to put up with on a yearly basis. Quite simply, vacuum.

Dandelion seeds float away from their stalk, and eventually land in your lawn. After that, I'm assuming the seed drops from the fluff, right between your grass and onto your topsoil. What I propose is a regimen of lawn vacuuming during the dandelion's seeding season to not only prevent the seeds from taking hold where they're not wanted, but stop them from floating away in the first place.

Are you picturing me out in the yard with a shop vac? Well, don't. It's much easier than that. Simply use lawn mowers that collect the clippings instead of mulching them. Most landscaping services and some municipalities already use industrial-strength kinds these machines, so they aren't hard to come by. A bagging lawn mower may do the job equally as well. Vacuuming with some high-powered suction may get more seeds out of your lawn (along with some ants, beetles, loose thatch, dry topsoil, and maybe even a worm or two) but unless you're going to find somebody willing to completely redesign your lawnmower or riding mower to include high-power suction, a shop vac or reversible leaf blower will have to do.

[PLUG: I'm willing to redesign lawnmowers or riding mower or other lawn-mowing devices to include high-power suction! With my creativity, knowledge, and practical design experience I can uniquely add to your product line and feature set that will further distinguish your products! Are you listening, MTD? Why haven't you called me yet? Make me an offer, John Deere...]

The only issue that my plan creates is what to do with all those dandelion clippings. It would produce a lot of clippings that probably should not be used for composting purposes, unless it can be determined whether the heat of the composting process is sufficient to render the seeds either dead or sterile. Failing that, the whole lot of clippings could be tossed into a landfill. Adding to landfill loads isn't always the best idea, but compared to the tons of herbicides that may otherwise be used in controlling dandelions, it may be worthwhile.

Yes, I still haven't said why the city maintenance department has me shaking my head. It's simple: they haven't mowed all these dandelion heads. At all. City-wide mowing seems to be going at a crawl at best, and it's been weeks since these seed heads have popped up and blown their load (heh heh... blown their load) into the surrounding lawns. So it looks like next year we'll have an even bigger crop of dandelions to deal with, and little hope that the city will have the foresight enough to mow at the right time.

What am I going to do about it? Well, first I'm going to send in another resume to MTD Canada. They're local, and they design and build lawn machines. If I explain the problem and my solution, maybe I can weasel my way into a job there. Maybe I'll do the same for John Deere. Second, I could write a letter to the city and explain what exactly they're allowing to do. There has been talk of pesticide bans around here, so if I can present them with a plan that can reduce herbicide use as well, they may well go for it. There might not be a job in there for me, but I can always butter someone up enough that I get some good contacts. Third, I'm going to let my wife deal with it. She seems eager to weed the lawn, going so far as buying weeding tools this past weekend. Am I going to say no? Yeah, right. Weed away, honey. You go enjoy yourself.

One the lawn is weeded, I'll be more pleased with it. Now if I can just get my neighbour's dog to pee evenly over the lawn. The lush, green patches look good, but make the rest of the lawn look funny...


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