Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Ready to seed September 16, 2021

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The excavator used to dig a trench for the new water line. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2021.

FOR THE PAST THREE MONTHS, our front side yard has looked like a disaster. Not from the drought, although that factored into the issue. Rather, excavation to replace an aged, failing water line into our house resulted in a dug up mess of a yard. I’m not blaming the excavators. Running a line into our house required a round-about and lengthy access route.

So here we are, months later, finally ready to fix our unsightly yard during the cooler days of pre-autumn. I started the process by hand pulling crabgrass, which had overtaken most of the lawn. That annual thrives in dry conditions, quickly spreading and rooting into the soil. I spent hours, days, yanking the invasive grass…until I realized I simply couldn’t do it any more.

Randy used a chemical—what I was trying to avoid by all that hands-on work—to kill the rest.

Since then, he’s tilled the soil, carefully digging for utility lines marked by flags and paint. I appreciate these markings, but wish we were informed as to the depth of these pipes and lines. The last thing we want is to slice through a line and have that added expense on top of our original water line replacement bill of $5,000. Yes, you read that right.

We need to seed this entire side yard, part of the front yard and the entire boulevard. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo June 2021.

But back to the lawn. The plan is to seed grass. If we were younger and stronger, owned a truck, had endless cash flow, and weren’t in a drought, I’d prefer sod. But grass seed it shall be. Now what to seed…

I just read an article online about research by the University of Minnesota’s Turfgrass Research, Outreach and Education Center (who knew there was such a center?) which suggests Minnesotans rethink seeding Kentucky bluegrass, the seed grass of choice in our state. Rather, the center suggests considering fine fescues. That slower growing grass requires less water and fertilizer and is more tolerant of shade and drought conditions, according to the researchers. Hmmm. That sounds worthy of consideration to conserve water and to deal with dry conditions.

Or, I had the thought of just letting the tilled yard be…and seeding field corn in the spring…because Randy and I both grew up on crop farms and…

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TELL ME: I welcome your input and advice on seeding of our now dirt yard.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Now what to do about our dirt yard June 15, 2021

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Last week Tuesday, trenching for a new water line. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

LIVING IN A FISH BOWL, translation along an arterial street through Faribault, means our property is exposed to anyone who passes by. We try to keep our yard looking nice with the lawn mowed, weed growth curbed and flowerbeds tended. I’ve received many compliments on our flowers, especially.

Two sections of sidewalk were removed to access the water connection, leaving part of our front yard and boulevard dug up. The sidewalk has since been replaced. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

But things look a lot different a week out from a major excavation of our property to replace the broken/leaking/corroded water pipe into our house. Our north side yard, a portion of our front yard and sections of the boulevard now showcase dead grass and dirt. It’s a mess. I don’t have any other words.

Our dirt yard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I look across the spacious hard-packed dirt parking lot of a lawn and see this: work and money filtering into the earth, adding to the estimated $5,000 expense of replacing that water line.

The heavy excavator packed the soil rock hard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

This past weekend Randy and I stood on our lawn destroyed by digging, by the treads of the excavator and by piles of dirt and considered our options—seed or sod. We measured and debated and discussed…and then decided to wait. Whichever option we choose, this is not a good time to restart a lawn due to the heat of summer and the current drought. A KNOW YOUR WATERING SCHEDULE notice included with our water bill on Monday reaffirmed that delay. Under current rules, we can water only three days a week, although exceptions can be made for new sod or seed. Yeah, we’ll just wait.

I don’t feel good about waiting as I like to be a good neighbor. Yet, there are other issues in our neighborhood that have been ongoing and reflect poorly on our neighborhood and remain unresolved. It’s frustrating.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), ours is also a neighborhood where people cannot afford lawn care services. Springtime brings a bountiful crop of dandelions. Creeping Charlie creeps. Pristine yards are not a priority. But my neighbors keep their lawns mowed, so we’re good.

Once we’re ready to begin this project, we’ll need to till, rake and level the dirt. As Randy pounded the tines of a garden rake into the soil on Saturday, he suggested miners and pick axes. Yes, the ground is that hard—rock hard. But, hey, at least there’s a new indestructible non-metal water line buried deep below that ground. And we have water. And the hydrangea were spared. And the old pipe didn’t burst to the point of water gushing into, and flooding, our entire basement. And we were home when this happened…

TELL ME: If you have any suggestions for our yard, I’m listening.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling