James Lileks
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If you started the yard work last weekend, perhaps you had the same thought: There's not enough time! The special lawn-reviving season is upon us, and it lasts, what, a week? You have to plant the grass at the right time, or the seeds will just sit there, sullen, arms crossed. "Sorry, pal. The optimal window was yesterday, between 3 and 4 a.m. Now I'm just going to sit here until birds get me. No, don't try to make it up with water."

But I had to try. I found some seed in the shed. It was still good, probably, and good for this climate; the bag said "fit for all 48 states." It was a blend of Kentucky Bluegrass and Tennessee Fescue, which sounds like the name of a singer my dad used to like. And now, "16 Tons of Sod" by Tennessee Fescue!

Anyway, this particular type of seed had a mystifying boast: "Good for new grass!"

I'm trying to think of a situation where I'm strewing seed on the lawn and the desired outcome is not new grass. No one hires a lawn service, and says, "By the way, when you seed, I get new grass?" And the landscaper says, "Well, that's extra."

Perhaps this meant "grass where previously grass had not existed." But the other bag in the shed said that the seeds contained therein were specialized for filling in holes in the yard. You know what I mean — dead spots where the dog shot out some of nature's Roundup. You can always tell how cold the winter was by the proximity of the dead spots to the back door. Warm winter, the spots are far out; cold winter, they're clustered close to home.

I dug up all the browned grass, tossed on new topsoil and added the special spot-filling grass.

But wait. Why would the seed care if it was dumped in a 12-inch divot or a grand expanse of empty loam? Perhaps the seeds have been carefully selected for social insecurity and want to impress the hardy green grass in their immediate surroundings. Or they're tribal and insular and want to form their own community as quickly as possible to protect themselves.

Of course, I didn't have enough dirt for the day's work. It's the odd thing about lawns: You are standing on an expanse of dirt, but you don't have enough. The amount of dirt I've put on the yard over the years suggests I should be able to walk out of the second-floor window, but no.

You might say, "Well, your dirt is exhausted. You have iron-poor dirt, and it's hard for things to grow." Uh-huh. There are days when I see Creeping Charlie at the far end by the fence, and by nightfall it's wrapping tendrils around the back door. We never hear the starved gasps of dandelions, struggling to live; they'd grow tall as redwoods if I didn't give them a shot of that Ortho poison.

Ah, but that's for later. Walking around the yard with a pistol attached to the jug of stuff that kills 134,236 invasive weeds except for the one you have, looking at a dandelion: "Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?" That will be the high-summer part of lawn care, when you've given up on the new grass and consider laying down sod. You hum that old Tennessee Fescue song: "You lay 16 rolls, and what do you get?"

A slight sense of relief at the onset of fall, that's what.