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The Dirt on Lawn Care

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Spring has sprung, and a young man's thoughts turn to love. Unfortunately, a middle-age man's thoughts turn to yard work, which he doesn't love. That's especially true in my case. The situation is so bad that I would put a "Keep Off the Grass" sign on my front lawn, but there isn't much grass to keep off.

So I went to a nearby Home Depot store to take a lawn-maintenance class.

The teachers were Frank, a lawn-care specialist, and Anita, a gardening specialist. The students were Susan, a new homeowner, and yours truly, an old homeowner who isn't a specialist in anything, especially lawn care or gardening.

The two most important things I learned in the class were: (a) have your kids do your yard work or (b) hire a professional to do it.

Since (a) my kids are out of the house and wouldn't do yard work anyway and (b) I can't afford to hire a professional (some, including my kids, might say I'm too cheap), I have to do it myself.

"My lawn looks like it was manicured with a flamethrower," I told Frank.

"Did you spread fertilizer?" he asked.

"I've been spreading fertilizer for years," I replied. "And not just on my lawn."

Fertilizer is very important for grass. So -- surprise! -- is grass seed.

"Water also is very important," Frank said.

"I prefer beer," I told him.

"I can see why you're here," he commented.

I'm glad I was because I found out that what I had already done -- drop seed and then, a few days later, spread fertilizer -- was, according to Frank, "totally wrong." He said, "You should do one or the other."

Anita agreed, adding: "Use a thatcher."

"You mean Margaret Thatcher?" I asked. "I don't think she'd come all the way over from England to help me take care of my lawn."

After hearing this, Susan, my classmate, must have felt like a genius, though she admitted, "I just bought my house and I have no idea what I'm doing."

"Don't worry," I told her. "I bought my house 14 years ago and I still have no idea what I'm doing."

But Susan and I got a good education from Frank and Anita, who talked about various kinds of grass seed, fertilizer and soil. They also went over subjects such as weed and fungus control and showed us how to use tools such as spreaders and rakes.

"An iron rake is very effective," Anita said.

"I should use one to comb my hair," I remarked.

"You need a special kind with teeth," she noted.

"Will I have to bring it to the dentist?" I asked.

"No," Anita replied. "But you will have to bring it outside and use it to go over bare patches and mossy areas of your lawn." That, she added, will help grass seed take root instead of just sitting on top of the hard ground. Same goes for fertilizer, which should be spread in the spring, summer and fall. The period in autumn just before the leaves drop is best for seeding, she said.

"Who does your lawn?" I asked.

"A lawn guy," Anita admitted. "But I seeded it first. My husband helps. My kids used to help -- I have a boy and a girl -- but they're in college now."

Frank said, "I have two teenage boys, but I do the lawn myself. It looks good."

I was so inspired by these two specialists, who said I graduated second in my class, that I am taking their advice: I will seed and fertilize at the proper times, water regularly and set my lawnmower higher so the grass -- or what there is of it so far -- won't be too short.

In the meantime, I am going to put another sign on my lawn: "Keep Off the Dirt."

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of "Leave It to Boomer." Visit his blog at www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net.

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima