The Task of Sisyphus: Battling Yellow Nutsedge in my Lawn


Prologue (get the tissue ready):

Oh sweet and gentle reader. Forgive my long absence please. I’ve had a rough road this last month. I won’t go too far into the details as I wouldn’t want your tender heart to shatter as mine has, but…

Poor Stumps was hit by a car a few weeks ago and killed. My sweet and precious tail-challenged squishy pancake kitty is no longer with us.

A pill made more so hard to swallow based on how she came into my life and how close she came to dying out in the wilds. If you’ll recall…

Help Save the Life of Stumps the No-tailed Kitten!

It’s too hard a tale to tell for me right now. Perhaps after some time has passed I can share more details. As of now, she is quietly nestled on the hill under her favorite willow tree. Complete with a homemade headstone which served as a cathartic healing for yours truly. Here she rests…

That hit me so hard it reminded me of when my father passed in 2010 and I found myself weeping at the drop of a hat and still do. What made matters worse was that it also made poor Sasha sad and confused. You see, they had just began to bond strongly. Here’s the two of them just two days before her terrible accident.

So hard to watch this for me, but please do watch it. A perfect example of how dogs and cats can be trained to break the old adage and form a strong bond. A perfect illustration of love and nurturing. Fuck. I’m weeping again…

Anyways. After the tragedy I was cleaning up around the house and I accidentally dropped the same set of bells that Stumps wore. The original set was crushed and coated in blood. Awful scene. awful. Regardless, once the bells dropped, Sasha came running over all excited with her tail going a million miles an hour as she looked around wildly for her little sister. I showed her the bells in my hand and her tail dropped and she looked over at the grave. She then dropped down to the ground and let out a huge sigh. Heartbreaking.

I decided at that moment that I needed to at least ease her sorrow. Although I am not ready, I decided for her sake that I needed to get another kitten immediately to bring the light back into her eyes. Even though my heart is still raw and shattered.

Remember a few minutes ago when I said I wasn’t going to get into this just yet? As you can see, I am a hot mess and apparently a liar to boot. Let’s change direction here before we all begin crying and rubbing snot all over our faces. Ever forward yes? In that vein, allow me to introduce you to Kevin. A lady kitten with a boys name. Don’t judge me, I’m weird and grieving.

That’s better right? Less morbid. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss with you anyways and the remainder of my paltry excuses are boring as shit so I’ll skip them and get to meat of this tale.

The Task of Sisyphus.

Now I’m crafty but I’m not as much of a scoundrel as king Sisyphus was. However, based on my current kitten woes, I too would be tempted to trick Thanatos (ancient Greeks version of Death) into chaining himself down in Tartarus if only to get one last smooshy snuggle with Stumps.

No one would argue that Sisyphus’ fate was well deserved. To roll a massive boulder up a hill for an eternity only to watch it come rolling back down again every time. What is it with Greek Gods and their penchant for endless repetitive tasks? Sick fuckers.

Crafty, yet douchebaggish, Sisyphus’ punishment was so well known and relatable that the term Sisyphean was created to describe any task that could never be completed. Which is what brings me to nutsedge.

Ever heard of nutsedge before? Yeah, me either. You can look up its traits online, but I’ll give you the gist of it to save you the effort. Nutsedge was created by the devil himself to test mankind and push him to his limits through tenacity and general dickishness. It plays at being grass, but believe me, it is not. It does strangle out every other plant around it (including grass) though. And it has been running rampant on my front lawn unseen by me until it had taken over a massive chunk of good lawn space.

This vile bastard runs underground fast and propagates even faster. Little landmines just waiting for a chance to pop up and choke out the roots of anything around it.

The variegated spotted dickhole plant; aka Yellow Nutsedge. The biggest candidate for a flying taint punch if ever there was one. Via http://bit.ly/2gdhLhu

To the untrained eye, you wouldn’t notice it unless you were looking for it. But sure enough, it was quickly making a fool out of me. Can you even tell the grass from the nutsedge? It isn’t easy is it?

Well for someone who is as OCD as I am, something like this, once seen, can never be unseen. So I began pulling it out. Then I realized that there wasn’t a single blade of grass left in its wake. Thus the little test patch of barren soil in the photo above. The long skinny whatsit surrounding the soil? Well, that’s one of the roots I pulled up during the process. I began pulling at it and it just kept coming as I was walking across the whole yard. Like unraveling a giant cable-knit sweater…

So I began obsessively digging and sifting through the soil on the hunt for any scrap of root or those f*#king tubers. Which were EVERYWHERE.

It’s times like these that I wish I could trap a crackhead and convince them that there’s free crack inside the soil under my lawn. That should make short work of the task. But my sense of decency forbids such manipulation. So I did what any responsible gardener with OCD would do. I smoked the crack myself and set to work. Just kidding mom, relax. I’d never smoke all your crack 😉

After hours and hours of this task, I began thinking something. No matter how much of this I remove, it’s still going to come back. If I miss a single tiny tuber, this shit will begin spreading all over again. So I spent the next few weekend days mulling it over. I’d go outside and stare at it thinking I have an idea and then realizing that it simply won’t work. Back inside to try to ignore it. Rinse and repeat.

A few weeks later, I figured I’ll just make a new bed out of the main infestation area and simply live with the rest in the grass. Life is too short. So I figured I’d get a nice fruit tree for that spot and perhaps use a weed barrier cloth or something to slow down the spread of the nutsedge. I’ve been meaning to do something about those front beds for a while now as they didn’t flow very nicely with the rest of the space. So I’ll turn this nightmare into an opportunity. In theory.

I selected a small Satsuma plum tree for the lovely spring blooms to add a bit of street appeal as well as a tasty treat later on. I also have a Satsuma tangerine in back so I like the idea of have a matching set of Japanese fruit trees on the property.

I learned later on that Satsuma plums are not self-pollinating. That’s my normal level of research and intelligence right there. So I had to find a matching pollinator and plant it on the curb strip a few days later. As for the bed, I used the garden hose as a rough layout so I could best position the tree. And, of course, I pointed the graft wound facing North so as to avoid any health issues.

Note Sasha being very “helpful” in the background

At first the plan was to simply take the weed whacker to the nutsedge and then lay weed blocker over it. So I whacked away using the garden hose as a guide.

This was a Sunday so I had a week to ponder the next steps. Within that week, the nutsedge began sending up new shoots. Super fast. I realized that if I didn’t try to remove as much of the tubers and roots as possible, the weed barrier would be compromised post haste. Which essentially meant that my next weekend would be full of the daunting task of churning and sifting every square inch of soil. And indeed it was. Hours and hours of sweaty back-breaking bullshit work. And me with no crack to smoke.

I also began adding some other plants from around the property as well as some flagstone and rocks. Sasha remained super helpful throughout this project.

I also did a temporary design layout to flow into the other side of the sidewalk. At least until I repair that side of the yard which also needs a lot of work. And, of course, Sasha displayed her solidarity throughout.

During the process of adding the weed barrier, my awesome neighbor came by and asked if I wanted a nice giant rock to add to the design. Now if you know anything about me, it’s that I am a sucker for free rocks! Or any free landscaping luxury items for that matter. Only problem was how do I get a 300 lb. boulder from one yard to another.

I hadn’t planned that this article’s title would be so literal by including an ACTUAL giant bolder to roll uphill. This is now some next level shit right here! Mind Your Dirt is far more advanced than I am it seems. Not sure how that’s possible, but here we are nonetheless. By the way, did you know that Mind Your Dirt just had it’s three year anniversary!? Huzzah! Where are my gifts?

I started off doing what closely resembled the tire flip workout. Ass over tit if you will. I could only handle about 200 feet before my already aching muscles screamed at me. Weariness is the mother of invention so I went and grabbed my “worky under the car thingy” and finished the job. What do you call those things anyways? Thus far, I’ve only used it to haul heavy shit.

I ordered some more of the Eco-Border edging (made from recycled rubber) Because it has proven to hold up to the test of time.  I also like the company because the owner reached out to me when I wrote my first article about it with kudos and a warm “family business” kinda vibe that I dig. Whilst waiting for my order to arrive, I thought it best to add some mulch around the tree and fresh transplants to help retain water.

Once again, I ran out of time. I think weekends should all be 3-day. Work is constantly interrupting my important landscaping projects. Work owes me an apology. Oh, and before I forget, here’s where I impulsively added the Santa Rosa plum as a pollinator…

Also note, for those of you paying attention, how well the “no-frills” waterless curb strip planting is coming along. Do you remember that?

Curb Appeal! When life gives you lemons, say "screw these lemons, I'm gonna make a garden!"

The following weekend I completed the section of the bed closest to the house and moved some plants around. Like the plumeria that was stuffed in the back and feeling shamed, pooped and demoralized. The edging had arrived during the week, so it was time to finally bring this project home.

It looks pretty good right? Not too shabby for an impromptu and unscheduled landscaping errand yes? But why bother titling an article The Task of Sisyphus if this is where the story ends. One would think I simply have a Greek mythology agenda here on Mind Your Dirt were it not for the emotional and deflating taint punch I received not THREE DAYS after completing this tiresome task.

That’s right, directly through the so called “weed barrier” are fresh new shoots of the nutsedge. Growing at an alarming rate too I might add. And what is making matters worse is now when I pull the fuckers out, the tuber stays trapped in the soil thanks to my weed barrier.

Ha! Rat bastard mother-scratcher! I’ll tear out it’s heart and show it the black insides. If only I knew how.  It would appear that all my efforts were in vein. The bastard nutsedge has the better of me and I’m pretty sure I can hear it laughing right now as I type these words.

Here I sit. Pooped and demoralized. I’ll attempt to keep it at bay for as long as I can but until I get my crackhead traps repaired, I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to wipe out this invasive weed. If you can’t beat ’em, go inside and drink scotch.

Epilogue:

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed my suffering. I haven’t forgotten about part II of the epic total solar eclipse post by the way. I’m still working on it as there are many photos to go through yet. Stay tuned and thank you for all your support over the past three years!!


21 Replies to “The Task of Sisyphus: Battling Yellow Nutsedge in my Lawn”

  1. James, I was so sad to read about your little Stumps. Because I’ve been there myself, I know that no words I have to say will make you feel better. I think it’s wonderful that you’re giving Kevin a home with you and Sasha… every pet deserves a loving home and yours looks like just that!
    Thanks for writing… you’ve been missed

    1. Hi Donna! Thanks so much for your kind words. Kevin and Sasha are already bonded. It’s adorable. All the sneak attacks. Sasha is insanely patient too. There’s some videos on the Mind Your Dirt FB page…

      1. I’ve narrowed my knapweed siege to the fenced vegetable garden, and a narrow band in front of the house. I’m not giving up…just channeling my efforts to a doable mission.

          1. So many things inspire maniacal laughter in me. Perhaps I’ve missed my calling and should be a super villain.

            Does knapweed run underground? That’s always tougher.

          2. Runs underground and seeds prolifically. Also poisons the soil around it to discourage competition. Likes to grow as a pioneer in disturbed soil (and of course, you disturb soil trying to eradicate knapweed.) Sensitive plants won’t grow there for three years or so, seeds remain viable for 7 years.

  2. I was once reading a nineteenth-century garden book to get ideas of old crops I could try growing when I realized the description for one tasty sounding tuber was actually nutsedge. No thanks. I don’t have an infestation like yours, but I keep on top of it constantly in the veg garden. It _appears_ to come out clean but then it’s popping up again. If you’re persistent you may knock it back or even out. I wonder if chickens like it.

    1. I’m amazed at how fast it grows. But if anyone ever made a crop of it, they best grow it in an isolated area. And salt the earth around it. I can’t believe, after all the hours of sifting through the soil, how many are coming back. Talk about anticlimactic! My daily routine now includes seek and destroy missions.

    1. Hey Emma, thank you for the kind words. Shockingly and unexpectedly, I JUST came home to a dead Kevin!! I have no idea what happened. I’m still in shock. No signs of anything. I’m beginning to think I’m cat cursed or something. Poor Sasha. I’m still processing…

    1. I know right? I’m forced to take a moment and step back just to get my bearings again. All this coupled with a huge career decision that I’m wrestling with has me feeling a bit emotionally raw. Sasha has been the recipient of oodles of cuddles as a result. Slathering her with love. It helps.

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