Man vs. Yard: Summer Showdown

Man vs. Yard: Summer Showdown

Yard work is a never-ending war. Fighting weeds, stealthy pests to be rooted out, piles of leaves pushing for ground, and branches doing their best to take you out of the fight. It’s never easy to gain the upper hand, but there are ways to fight your garden and win.

First, you need to know what sort of plants will leave messes everywhere. My backyard has a pomegranate tree for example. Pomegranate trees aren’t too bad as long as you trim them, but falling fruit will make any sort of patio or pavement looking like a crime scene. For any sort of fruit tree, you need to keep them a manageable size or most of your spring will be cleaning rotten fruit or swearing at the fifty million fruit flies investigating everything you own.

Next, know your wildlife. You may not see them, but plenty of animals wander through your yard. If you have gophers, lavender can deter them. If you saw a mouse, bring in catnip and lure in birds so cats can handle it. If you have cat fights in your yard, invest in a good flashlight so you can check the goings-on from inside. If you have a skunk, just know when it comes by. Skunks are creatures of habit and are more on-time than most planes. You won’t get it to stop visiting ever, but at least you can avoid it. Another animal you shouldn’t bother with is the possum. They don’t cause much damage and they can tank a grenade to the face. They’re not worth the effort.

I can’t give you any new advice for weeds. If there was a foolproof way to fight them, weed-killer companies would be out of business by now. I swear some of them grow faster when you try to kill them. Just buy good gardening gloves for the ones with spikes or milkweeds. Seriously, the itchiness from touching that white sap is intense.

Finally, know what can stab you. Roses have thorns, of course, but some trees’ leaves have spikes. Seed pods are basically nature’s Lego’s. You should also check plants that don’t grow very densely before touching them, spiders love them. I use dry sticks to clear the bed of irises before weeding.

One plant that has all of these problems is the bougainvillea. These beauties make for wonderful picture backgrounds, but they fight back. My bougainvillea is at least seven feet tall and has the spikes to match. I would say thorns, but these are too varied and enormous for ‘thorns’ to do it justice. There are spikes that resemble over-sized rose thorns, but ramrod straight spikes as long as my pinkie are much more common.

If that wasn’t irritating enough, the larger branches grow in such a way that the weight of the leaves force them to grow lower and force lower branches down, so when you trim them you should work from bottom to top to avoid the occasional uppercut. The branches with spikes aren’t springy enough to do this though, so that’s something.

Bougainvilleas are the perfect example of why you shouldn’t neglect your yard. When tended, they’re beautiful decorations. Untended, they grow to love their wildness and prefer death over being tamed, preferably your death.