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Lawn Chaney’s Turf Talk


Editor’s Note: Though he acknowledged that it is bad form for a writer to miss a deadline, especially when it is only the third deadline of his new column, Mike Nowak assured us that his old community college horticultural fraternity roommate would be a more than adequate substitute. Frankly, time constraints and a thin Rolodex left us with limited options in this matter. While docking Mr. Nowak’s pay for this issue and sending him a stern warning about future efforts, we present, with trepidation:

Lawn Chaney’s Turf Talk

Dear Lawn Chaney,
What do I do about Creeping Charlie?
–Sulky Susie

Dear Susie,
1. If it’s your strange, scary uncle, change your locks.
2. If it’s a weed, move.

Dear Lawn Chaney,
I’ve tried everything to get grass to grow under my Norway Maple. What do you suggest?
—Maples (Oh Rats) of Norway

Dear MORON,
First, I suggest that you actually read your own acronyms. Now, getting turf to grow under trees—especially big, honkin’, boring, dumb junk trees like Norway Maples—can be difficult. That’s why I invented The Turf Toupee (TM, patent pending). After years of research with messy seeds, soil and water, I chucked all of that living, breathing garbage in favor of artificial fibers. Simply slide The Turf Toupee (TM, patent pending) out of its plastic wrap in a well-ventilated room, cut to size, and place over the bare area of your lawn. For more information, including the results of the football turf test at the University of North Midwestern at Southern, log onto www.turftoupee.arrrg.

Dear Lawn Chaney,
While re-painting the garage, I accidentally spilled bright red paint on my lawn. What do you recommend?
–Watching the Paint Dry in Mokena

Dear Watching,
You’ve made a good start, though you will need other bold colors to complete the task. Uncover your artistic soul by covering your turf. If necessary, bring the family dog out to romp through strategically placed puddles of paint. Get the kids to make paint angels. Take the Jackson Pollock approach to making your lawn a source of community conversation. You’ll never look back.

Dear Lawn Chaney,
I can never remember what the letters on fertilizer bags stand for. Can you help?
—KNP

Dear KNP,
You’ve obviously forgotten the old mnemonic device we all learned in high school science class: Nebuchadnezzar Placates Kangaroos—NPK. Those letters stand for Neurons, Photons and Kryptons. Neurons and Photons can be found naturally in nature, while Kryptons must be processed from the glowing green ore Kryptonite, which accounts for the green color of grass. Though it’s been awhile since I slept through a chemistry class, I think I saw a show on The Learning Channel that discussed how Neurons and Photons are “rogue” elements, that is to say, they have radical tendencies—like radio talk show hosts—and need to be kept in line. At least that’s what I remember. Anyway, you’ll also see a number on the bag, like 10-2-4, which means that the fertilizer has the same pH as a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, those numbers also indicate the correct hand positions on a steering wheel.

Dear Lawn Chaney,
My lawn is infested with grubs. Do you have a solution?
—Larval Roberts

Dear Larval,
Yes. My solution consists of olive oil, some lemon and a touch of garlic. Saute lightly in solution. Serve on a reality TV show.

Dear Lawn Chaney,
I have a circle of dark green grass on my lawn. My neighbor said it was a “fairy ring” so I slugged him. What’s your opinion?
—Butch

Dear Butch,
Have you considered a course in IPM (Integrated Pixie Management)?

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questions

We all seem to plant the basic herbs like basil, rosemary and parsley. What suggestions can you offer for more exotic herbs that I could add to my garden to spice things up both for cooking and adding interest/beauty to my landscape?

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

From what I have read, hellebores are supposed to spread. I have a few I planted four years ago, and they seem to be the same as when I planted them. They are planted in a bed of vinca. Should I remove more vinca that surrounds them? I do fertilize them and protect them with a winter mulch. What else should I be doing to have more plants?

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