My first summer in my new-built house was 1999. That year we had an unusually hot and wet summer. It took a while for my builder to get his crew over to set up my landscaping, so it wasn’t until July that the newly formed flowerbeds finally stood in place and ready to house baby bushes and small ornamental trees. In they went, in 90-degree heat – not ideal conditions for the survival of both, the people planting, or the shrubbery struggling to stay alive in the horrid, humid, heat. But both, the people and the plants managed to survive, without respectively, passing out or drying up.
After months of mud, or dust – depending on the rainfall – my yard awaited the big event – HYDROSEEDING! In two weeks, I was told, I would begin to see baby blades of grass start to sprout. And sprout they did. But then, instead of growing healthy and multiplying, my budding lawn started to resemble the head of hair of a middle-aged man – wispy and thin (whoops, sorry middle age male friends).
I was heartbroken. In a panic, I rushed to the phone and called the lawn people to find out what was going on. My lawn was dying before even getting established. The problem plaguing my fledgling lawn turned out to be a mite-sized beetle called a chinch bug. Chinch bugs don’t usually hang around in Michigan; they like it better down South where they eat grass in the comfort of stifling heat and high humidity. But that year’s Michigan summer did the stifling heat with high humidity thing – hence, chinch bugs gnawing on tender grass roots – in particular – my grass’ tender fledgling roots.
Thanks to the ministrations of a professional lawn service, the story has a happy ending. Well, happy for the lawn, the chinch bugs are grass-root chomping in the Elysian Fields’ lawn.
The same hot and humid summer weather that invited chinch bugs to Michigan that year brought another strange life form to my yard – alien pods.
It started out as a perfectly normal sunny, summer, Sunday morning. One of my favorite endeavors to relax is to putts in the yard, pruning plants, weeding, planting plants, etc. And this is what I was doing on that particular Sunday morning.
As I walked around the northeast side of my house I noticed something weird on the mulch in the flowerbed. The something was a roundish mass of . . . “something,” about two feet in diameter, of a nondescript yellow-gray color, that looked sort of like some giant animal had decided to . . . well . . . to vomit in my flower bed.
Not wanting to deal with the “something” at too close a range, I reasoned that the best way to dispose of it would be to hose it down. I armed myself with the hose of destruction and set the nozzle to the jet stream setting. I stood at, what I deemed, a prudent distance away from the “something,” and blasted a stream of water at it.
And puff! The “something” exploded into a huge cloud of red-rust colored dust. I now knew what I was dealing with. The “something” was really an alien pod. Since I had been exposed to the otherworldly dust I probably had taken at least five years off of my expected life span, or, “a la X–Files,” I was going to undergo some sort of transfiguration into some tentacled, bug-eyed alien spawn, or, I would be dropping dead at any minute. Since the damage was already done, I figured that I might as well just keep on blasting the thing until disintegrating all of it. The red-rust colored cloud of alien pod dust billowed heavenward. The cloud’s size grew as I relentlessly blasted the thing into dust. I continued to hose the area down long after the pod had dissipated.
Later that day I ran into my next door neighbor and told him about my mysterious morning experience with the alien pod.
“It’s not an alien pod,” my neighbor said. “I saw the red dust cloud you made by hosing it down this morning. It’s a mold. Harmless, but annoying.”
“A mold? What kind of a mold? I’ve never seen anything like it. Are you sure it’s not an alien pod?”
“I’m sure,” he assured me. “We had some of the stuff in the mulch in our flowerbed. I called my lawn and garden expert person and asked him about it. He said it was a mold that happens in mulch under the right warmth and humidity conditions. It’s commonly known as ‘dog vomit.’ The best way to get rid of it is to get under it with a shovel and very carefully remove it without disturbing it. Otherwise you spread it,” he chortled, knowing that I had done precisely that – spread the revolting mold spores all over the mulch in my flowerbed by hosing it down.
I spent the rest of the summer carefully removing “dog vomit” mold growths from my flowerbed with a shovel. Ahh, the joys of gardening.!
By Cynthia Nill