MULCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

In 1993, I wrote this piece about the perils of poor gardening. It was published in several newspapers and regional magazines, including the Orlando Sentinel, Buffalo News, Pitch Weekly (Kansas City), and the Vermont Times.
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© Mark W. Mayfield

Spring has finally arrived, and winter-weary homeowners are understandably eager to reactivate their dormant lawn-care muscles. But before you begin your annual quest for the perfect yard, heed the words of a wise old gardener, who once said, “A beautiful yard is like a virtuous child. Both require love, patience, attention, mulch, manure, compost, and frequent mowing.”

Okay, so the simile goes a little haywire at the end. It’s not easy to coin a timeless adage about a dirt-related activity. Nevertheless, the wise old gardener’s meaning is clear: Without proper care, your yard will become unruly and rebellious, and could end up in a federal correctional facility. Moreover, an ugly yard subjects you to possible retaliation from the notorious Yard Posse, a ruthless organization that uses intimidation and violence to control the appearance of your neighborhood. Here are some frightening excerpts from its last secret meeting:

Thug #1: Gentlemen, we have a little problem on Elm Street. Naughty Mr. Fillmore hasn’t mowed, fertilized or cleaned his yard in two months. If we allow his slovenly behavior to continue, the property value of our territory will plummet.

Thug #2: Maybe Fillmore’s attitude will change after a visit from Clem the Psychopathic Landscaper and his special “gardening tools.” Clem’s pruning procedure is very persuasive.

Thug #1: The time for persuasion is over. There’s only one thing left to do. Poor Mr. Fillmore will meet his tragic demise at the next neighborhood barbecue.

Thug #2: You don’t mean . . .

Thug #1: Yes, it’s time for the exploding-hamburger plan. If Fillmore won’t take care of his yard, we’ll take care of HIM.

Lazy Mr. Fillmore would be alive today if he had known about some handy laborsaving inventions that make yard work easy and fun. One such tool is the yard blower, a device that creates a powerful stream of air to push your unwanted yard debris to your neighbor’s property, where it magically becomes his unwanted yard debris. Your neighbor can then use his own blower to move the unwanted debris to another yard. This process continues until the last home on the street is buried under tons of unwanted yard debris.

Another helpful tool is the gas-powered string trimmer, which uses a rapidly rotating piece of fishing line to cut grass in areas your mower can’t reach. It’s like a nose-hair clipper for your lawn. (When operating this device, wear protective clothing. A naked gardener, especially one using a gas-powered string trimmer, is just asking for trouble.)

Of course, trimmers and blowers are unnecessary unless you encourage vigorous new growth with mulch and manure, commonly called soil suppositories. Mulch, named after the famous German gardener Erich Von Mulch, is the most versatile substance in the universe. It conserves water, protects soil from extreme temperatures, promotes healthy plant growth, and may hold the key to peace in the Middle East. And fiber-rich mulch is a delicious, nutritious addition to soups, salads and sandwiches. Remember the wise old gardener’s motto: “When in doubt, mulch it.”

When used properly, manure does something that nothing else can do. It makes your yard really stink, and a stinky yard is a healthy yard. Manure is an organic material that comes from enormous manure mines in Washington, D.C. Geologists believe that these vast deposits were produced by huge prehistoric politicians who once roamed the continent. Recently discovered cave drawings suggest that these loathsome predators would say anything to get elected, and what they usually said was–you guessed it–pure manure. Many present-day politicians still gather in the land of their ancestors, mysteriously attracted by a primal urge to contribute to our nation’s manure supply.

Unfortunately, all the manure in Washington can’t help your yard if it’s choked by weeds. The most effective and entertaining way to eliminate weeds is to squirt them with deadly chemicals. Find the biggest weed in your yard and saturate with your favorite brand of weed killer. After watching the slow, painful death of their burly comrade, nearby weeds will be so depressed that they’ll commit suicide by pulling themselves, thereby saving you time.

Finally, remember that a beautiful yard doesn’t happen overnight. But if you’re patient and diligent, if you regularly apply ample amounts of manure, mulch and weed killer, and if you’re lucky enough to avoid a serious string-trimmer related injury, you’ll soon discover that you should have hired a professional gardener.

Mark Mayfield was recently hospitalized after trying to trim his mustache with a gas-powered Weed Whompper. Using a revolutionary surgical procedure, doctors successfully reattached his lips.

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