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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • A Little Salt: The knack of growing grass

  • Do you have the knack to grow a beautiful lawn? It's a knack Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley wishes he had.
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  • One of my most ingrained memories of my father occurred one morning when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. Every morning my dad would give me a ride to school at the nearby junior high on his way to work. But on this particular morning it was not a straight trip to school.
    My father was “breathing fire” that day after discovering that a trash hauler had walked through his new stand of Kentucky blue grass in our front yard. Because the soil was still wet from being watered the night before, each of the individual’s footprints were roughly 2 inches deep.
    When we caught up with the trash truck my father unleashed a volley of profanities that would have earned an “R” rating had it been a movie.
    I also remember thinking at the time how silly it was for my dad to till under a perfectly good stand of grass to plant blue grass. But what parent hasn’t done something that their teen-age offspring thought made absolutely no sense? (Somewhere my 17-year-old daughter, Anna, is smiling and nodding furiously.)
    While I may not have understood why he did, there’s no denying my father took a great deal of pride in his yard. And to his credit, he could grow a beautiful stand of grass, which is an ability I’ve found myself envious of more than once since becoming a homeowner.
    A few years ago, after our old catalpa tree was removed from in front of the Henley homestead, my wife Nancy and I attempted to fill the spot in with grass. Maybe it was because we used spring seed in the fall, or fall seed in the spring, the grass never grew. Not so much as a blade of new grass appeared.
    While part of the site is now occupied by a gravel-filled area where Nancy has a lavender plant growing, outside of that area brown dirt is the dominant feature. When I mow, and it’s been dry, I stir up a cloud of dust so formidable that it’s likely seen from space.
    This spring, after removing two bushes from the front of the house, the decision was made to plant flowers next to the house and grass a bit further away.
    This time Nancy picked up a straw-like cover to place on the seeded area. My bride was also quite diligent about watering the area on a regular basis.
    After a time, grass started coming up in patches through the cover on both sides of our front steps. Success at last, or so we thought.
    I mowed around the new grass until it became so woolly that I was fearful of receiving a “mow your grass or else” letter from the city. And even after its first mowing the grass seemed to be holding its own.
    Page 2 of 2 - It was at about this time we left for a week of vacation. When we returned the patches of grass that had been growing were all but gone.
    We were at a loss to explain what had happened. Did the grass simply die because while we were gone it didn’t receive the tender loving care it had grown accustomed to? Or did a shepherd bring in his flock of sheep to graze on our new grass while we were gone?
    Today, while Nancy’s purple flowers continue to flourish, two patches of dirt now lie in front of them.
    My son, Jacob, recently purchased a home in Wisconsin. In a recent e-mail he mentioned that the yard was a concern. He and his wife, Whitney, were planning on having someone knowledgeable over to tell them what plants to keep and which ones to remove.
    He has yet to mention anything to me about grass. Maybe the house came with a nice green yard. Or maybe he knows that growing grass is a knack I simply don’t have.

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