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The week of no return 

I'm determined to beat the weeds. I'm outnumbered, sure. And if you consider the shape my shoulder was in after the last time I tried to pull them, they're arguably stronger than I am. But I'm determined to hoe those sickening purple-flowered things up by the roots and lay down mulch before the Week of No Return, that moment in late spring when nature goes into overdrive. If you haven't gotten things in shape by then, you can pretty much forget about it. Let the animals build their nests and just try not to trip. Still a few more weeks before that happens.

There's just one big problem: I'm supposed to do it au naturel.

An informal agreement--actually, it might even be in the bylaws--prevents the gardeners in our neighborhood from using inorganic chemicals. Coyote pee to keep the deer off the peas? Sure, works like a charm. And those nasty Japanese beetles can be kept in check with milky spore.

But I haven't found anything yet for the weeds.

The sight of artificially green lawns abutting the banks of the Eno River remind me why we abide by this rule.

But damn, those weeds are powerful.

Even the roses in our front bed rise like kudzu, creeping over the front porch and reaching practically to the bedroom window. If you look closely, you can practically watch them grow. It's a bit scary. Even after the root ball was dug out with a mattock and shovel, they've still popped up to sip the past week's rain.

For one brief moment last year, a shaded portion of our yard was in perfect shape: Hostas bursting from the ground into large draping leaves, ferns wrinkling their way across the yard, a bleeding heart plant draping its strange pink flowers over a faint bed of moss. I couldn't believe it. The only thing missing was a family of ceramic gnomes.

I hugged my fiancé and sighed, "Doesn't it look nice? Wait a second. What's that?" I pointed.

"That would be a dead rat," he said. A gift from the neighbor's cat had been offered right at the roots of a tupelo tree in the center of the bed. "Let's just pretend we never saw that," he said consolingly. "It'll be gone in a few weeks one way or another."

As the next-door neighbor's forsythia blossomed this month, a subtle panic began to creep in. Looking out the window during rainstorms, I took an inventory of the cabbage weeds and imagined I could see the dandelions pushing through the mulch I laid down last summer, pushing out the creeping phlox, their deep roots extending to the drop-ceiling of hell.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? So if someone could recommend a magical groundcover or an amazing all-natural form of Preen, that'd be lovely. Hurry, though, while there's still time.

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