As a man who is always looking for an excuse to get out of work, I was lucky enough to pick up the paper this week and read a column by Washington County extension agent Jeff Semler, urging caution in the use of yard chemicals.
He points out that Maryland now has as many acres in lawns as in farm fields, but unlike farmers, homeowners have no guidelines for "nutrient management."
I'm not certain about this, but I think nutrient is code for fertilizer. I've always felt that euphemisms are a bunch of bullnutrient, but I'll let that slide for another day.
The point is, while farmers work by strict and carefully set quantities, the average yard guy operates under a formula that generally equates to one 40-pound bag of weed killer per dandelion.
A lot of guys freak out if anything but blades of grass appear in their yards, and they will use any poisonous chemical to rid the lawn of noxious undesirables, like dandelions, crab grass or Ann Coulter. But I've never been one of those. If it's green, I consider it a win.
A door-to-door yard-service salesman once visited my house, and after his initial rejection he decided to take one last stab at it: "But I see your yard has a lot of clover in it."
I replied, "Thanks. I love clover."
Well, I might as well have told him I saw an up side to the Third Reich. Clover, to his mind, were the killer bees of suburbia. He could cite no cases of clover having actually taken hostages, but you could tell he figured it was only a matter of time.
He didn't make a sale, but he did guilt me into patronizing the Scott's company for about a year and a half. I'll say this about destroying the Chesapeake Bay - it's not cheap. Those sacks of oystercide ran me about $40 a pop. Who knew it could be so expensive to wipe out an ecosystem? It would be far more frugal, in my opinion, to just dump a few quarts of used motor oil down a storm drain, and rest your case on that.
Besides, there are other things you can do for your lawn, according to Jeff's column. The first thing to do, he says, is get a soil test.
So I did. I got down on my hands and knees and squinted at the ground. "Yup, that's soil all right," I reported happily. "What's the next step?"
The first recommendation is to use a "mulching lawn mower" which, through an innovative miracle of technology, will actually circulate the grass clippings repeatedly around the blade, cutting them over and over again until they are minced finely enough to congeal into a humongous green mass of goo under your mowing deck and choke out the engine.
The next step toward an environmentally friendly yard is to start a compost heap, where you throw these humongous green masses of grass goo, along with kitchen scraps and the kids' dead goldfish until the entire stew begins to steam and fester with organic goodness.
I tried to start a compost pile, but it didn't work out because Jake the dog kept eating it. Dogs don't see any material difference between a compost heap and a breakfast bar at Denny's. So this year I may not have a happy Earth Day, but at least I'll have a happy Earth Dog. What can I say? I tried.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.