James Lileks
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A swath of the yard I call “Carthage” refuses to grow good grass. It’s shaded by trees, and the canopy of leaves keeps most of the rain and sun off. Maybe it was cursed by a gardener in 1932 who wasn’t paid for his work. He pointed a bony finger at the sloping ground and said, “The owner is a crooked lout/ I curse ye turf, so naught shall sprout!”

Also, the hose doesn’t reach all the way down there, so it never gets watered. But I think it’s mostly the gardener’s curse.

“Are you going to seed the lawn?” my wife asked. Of course, I said, suspecting that I’d have better luck throwing sunflower seeds on the driveway.

So, it was off to the store.

Well, there’s the old sun-and-shade blend. It’s cool with whatever you have. Got sun? Great. No sun? No problem. I asked if they had any shade blend, and that by “shade” I meant “the other side of the moon.”

They sold me some stuff that used less water and was guaranteed to grow. No one ever takes them up on that for two reasons: A) you’re ashamed because you failed, and B) you suspect that to collect on the guarantee, you would have to pick all the seeds out of the dirt and bring them back.

I also bought fertilizer because, Lord knows, grass is so weak and pitiful it needs steroids. I wanted to show the lawn-department guy an etching of the prairie in the 19th century, and say: “See all this tall grass? How’d that happen? Don’t tell me it was bison poop.”

“Bison poop is in Aisle 9.”

For good measure, I also picked up a patching product. Apparently over the winter the dog developed a gland that excretes caustic lye, and the yard has brown spots. That’s where the patch is helpful. First step: Disturb the dirt. I got down on my knees and whispered, “Some say we are approaching a constitutional crisis.”

Then I added the patching material and watered it. That’s when I remembered that this stuff turns into lawn stucco. I remember chiseling it off the lawn last year. But at least this time it’s colored green, so it almost blends in.

After a few days’ work, the seed is down, and thanks to a new length of hose, the Curse of the Ancient Gardener might be lifted. You might ask: Why don’t I just do sod? I did that one year. The sod got weevils. I ended up with six brown rectangles, looking like the lawn decided to impersonate carpet from a 1974 rumpus room.

Perhaps we’ll just put down some ground cover. Those vines that spread and fill in the empty spaces. Hurrah for ground cover! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find those vines where they’re pushing out the good grass and kill them with poison.