CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

June 2, 2009

Violet infestation? Why complain?


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

VIOLET INFESTATION? WHY COMPLAIN?

      As I sat on my comfortable couch this winter, watching the snow drift with the winds and the birds fly to and from the window bird feeder, I was invited to contemplate on the number of blades of grass that would be on my lawn come summer. This invitation, in a Vital Stats column, Growth Industry, (the May 2003 Pittsburgh Magazine), states that the “Number of blades of grass on the Cathedral of Learning lawn” is 278,784,000.

     Naturally, my mind wonders about my lawn—and I wonder how I could ever count the blades of grass on it. I recollect how I once did red blood cell counts (I once worked as a hematology technician doing differential counts under a microscope). A section of blood, smeared on a slide and stained, is counted, and the total is projected from that count. Ah, so I could take a patch of lawn, say three inches square, and count the blades of grass in it. There are sixteen of these squares in a square foot (OK, I’ll admit, I had to draw a diagram to confirm my mathematical headwork), so I would take the number of blades of grass in my three inch square and multiply it by sixteen to determine the number of blades of grass in a square foot. By calculating the number of square on my lawn, and multiply it by the number of blades of grass in one square foot, I can determine the total number of blades of grass on my lawn. Oh, for goodness sakes, do I really want to follow through on this activity?

     May has just turned into June, and for some reason, I have no desire to count the blades of grass in a three-inch square and do the follow-up math.

     The article continued: the “Approximate size of the trillium flower,” two to four inches. The “Number of plant species in Western Pennsylvania identified by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as being of special concern” is listed as two hundred and one.

     Since Laurel Mountain Borough is surrounded by Western Conservancy lands and Forestry land, this grabs my attention. I feel certain, without researching it, that one of these plants is the violet, and at this time of year, my attention is again  drawn to the violet.

     The white violets I transplanted to line a small garden area have already bloomed. I’ve also discovered yellow violets in a shaded area. Purple and lavender violets abound, not only here, but in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. This in spite of children and dogs running about. They are beautiful wherever they are blooming.

     I truly appreciate the violet. And that is why I was so stunned when I came across a article in a box of newspaper clippings I’ve cut from newspapers over the years. It was a letter to a gardening columnist, Scot Aker, that originated with The Washington Post, and was published in the Tribune-Review on May 14, 2004.

     It was a complaint about a lawn “badly infested with violets.” 

     To view photos, click on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3271288076/ &

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3270467505/in/photostream/

     The letter’s author lived in a neighborhood where the “lawns are badly afflicted with violets.” His lawn of zoysia grass had no violets in the sunny areas, but the shaded section showed the beginnings of a violet infestation. Attempts to kill them with a herbicide containing dicamba had only a minimal effect. 

     “So I have been reduced to digging them out,” he whined.

     I say “whined” because I cannot imagine someone considering the violet a weed and wanting to kill it.

     Friends tried different methods to destroy the violets. One contracted with a lawn care company that used dicamba, a second unknown chemical, and Confront (an herbicide only available to professionals). After two years, most but not all the violets were eliminated from his shady lawn. Another neighbor, using a professional lawn treatment business, still has a lush violet crop after four months.

     The letter’s author wanted to know if Scot Aker knew anyone who had eliminated violets from the lawn, since “A lot of people around here are in need of a solution.”

     Before I get to Aker’s response, I would like to comment.

     The lush green of the violet, it seems, would make a great lawn covering, with a bonus, the spread of nature’s pallet in the spring. Why one would classify the violet as a weed is beyond my thinking. Furthermore, the herbicides in no way enhance the water table. We, as responsible human beings, need to consider ways to eliminate true weeds without threatening the water supply. Hand removal is a great start—and a method that provides exercise on the side.

     Besides, making candied violets can show someone how much you love them. (click on CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday )

     Aker stated that the violet’s grew on the lawn because the lawn’s conditions favored them over the grass.

      “Violets are very tolerant of low pH, heavy soil and shade,” he commented.

     Aker’s first step was to improve conditions for the grass, while lowering the conditions that favor the violets: eliminate shade (as much as possible) and raise the soil’s pH (removing the acidity with lime).        

     Do not cut the grass too close, mowing frequently enough to ensure that you are not removing more than one-third of its height. If you can raise the mower to three inches, the grass may effectively shade out many of the violets. Follow up with turf-feeding in the fall, if the grass is primarily fescue or other cool-season grass. For zoysia, add a pound of nitrogen per one thousand square feet in the spring.

     Once you have improved the growing condition for the grass, it’s time to focus on weed control.

      To control the growth of violets (although, again, I don’t know why you would want to), timing and persistence are everything. The active herbicide ingredients that are somewhat effective in controlling violets are triclopyr and dicamba. These come in a professional  product that is not available for  homeowners use. However, a number of herbicides contain one or the other of these herbicides. Check labels until you find what you need.

      Dicamba will kill the roots of all broadleaf species, so it should be used only where roots from nearby trees and shrubs are not present in the soil.

     Ultimately, you can also just choose to accept the violets, which bloom only briefly in the spring. They are not that noticeable at other times, particularly if you are mow your turf high.

     And that is the basic reason that I contend that adding herbicides to the environment instead of learning to coexist with violets is a sad route to take.

 ADDITIONAL READING:

CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday

Battling squirrels at bird feeders I: to fight or join them

Battling squirrels at bird feeders II: to fight or join them

Battling Squirrels at Bird Feeders III: Types of bird feeders

BEAR CONFRONTATIONS: SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

BEAR STORIES ACROSS THE NATION

MOONSTONE RHYMES

BEAR CARNIVAL IN CONNELLSVILLE, PA.

OF FIREFLIES AND LIGHTNING BUGS

PINCH HITTING

BLACK FLIES AND OTHER INSECTS: Then and Now

THE AMAZING BEAVER

Found: Flash Drive. What should I do?

A FAT CAT AND A SAD DAD

EMILY AND MR. SPIDER

Moose, Goose, Deer

LOBSTER-TALES

BEAR CARNIVAL IN CONNELLSVILLE, PA.

OF FIREFLIES AND LIGHTNING BUGS

I BELIEVE GOD INVENTED DANCING

ON THE EVE OF 27

A SONNET IS A POEM?

RIDING THE RAILS: A True Story

QUINTESSENCE

FAITH THROWN OVERBOARD

SITE LINKS:

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com/

www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com

www.LVWonline.org

www.barbarapurbaugh.com

www.pennwriters.com

www.ellenspain.com

www.westmorelandphotographers.ning.com

www.ligonierliving.blogspot.com

http://www.methodists-care.org/

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