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Report From PIA – May 8

When I was in the third grade my father told my brother and me that he would pay us a penny for every dandelion we dug out of the lawn. We went to work with enthusiasm, feeling rich from the get-go, because at that time in the 1950’s a candy bar only cost a nickel. Soon we’d filled an entire bushel basket with dandelion plants.

These weeds germinate in the fall, grow a bit over the winter and explode in the spring. I’ve always liked how the flowers looked on the roadside as I speed past at 50 miles an hour, and my strategy has always been to ignore them in my lawn. But a part of me whispers that I really should be doing something about them.

In our first years on Cape Cod my neighbor Mary would come out her front door and comment on the dandelions in my front yard. She was clearly not pleased that I was polluting the neighborhood with the seeds from these cheerful yellow flowers, but I just played dumb. If I could have waved a magic wand and had them gone I would have, but without such a tool at hand I was unable to take action.

I was thinking of the relationship I’ve had with these plants today as I looked out on my lawn and saw a forest of dandelion stems. In other parts of Poison Ivy Acres I’ve occasionally pulled them out but generally I try and ignore them, with various degrees of success.

It was amusing then, to see that the botanic name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, which comes from the Greek taraxo, which means, “to stir up, exciten or disorder”. Since the species name officinale designates a plant that is useful in some way, it’s likely that the stirring up and disorder refer to nutrition or healing.

I’m interested in how the presence of dandelions stirs up gardeners and homeowners. Why, I asked myself this afternoon, was I feeling even the least bit agitated about the presence of these weeds in my landscape? Isn’t it possible to view the dandelion as simply a natural part of the spring landscape?

I’m not going to use broadleaf weed killers on my lawn, nor am I going to spend hours pulling these tenacious plants out. My father is no longer around to hire me for tugging them out, and candy bars no longer cost a nickel.

The Serenity Prayer goes:  “God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’d rather spend my time, energy and resources on other aspects of my landscape, so am working on that serenity thing when it comes to dandelions. May they stir us up, certainly, but into acceptance and appreciation and not toward weed warfare.

I keep telling my organic lawn care professionals that I don't really care about the weeds. I'd rather spend fewer resources on my lawn than more. But I absolutely find this forest of seedlings annoying.

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