Maintaining a manicured lawn –mowing, watering, fertilizing – can quickly monopolize precious summer time. Why not consider the alternatives?
Whether you want to be savvier with your resources or eliminate the monotonous patch of green altogether, here are the top tips for achieving a low-maintenance lawn.
Smart Lawn Care
If you’re not ready to give up your grass, make sure you’re caring for it efficiently.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is cutting their lawn the wrong height, says Bob Malgieri, manager of lawn care and tree shrub division at Borst Landscape and Design in Allendale, N.J. “Mainly they cut it too short,” he says. “When it’s cut too short, the root system and soil are exposed to the sun. You get more weeds and the lawn basically just doesn’t do well, as opposed to keeping it to two-and-a-half to three inches.”
To effectively hydrate a lawn, the water must be absorbed by the grass root system. Frequent, shallow waterings are not effective, and watering during the daytime when the sunlight can evaporate the water can waste a lot of the precious resource. Malgieri recommends an irrigation system for the best results.
“You’ll never be able to water well by hand and get it consistently throughout the lawn,” Malgieri says. Irrigation systems deliver a controlled amount of water that ensures coverage across the entire lawn.
Another big mistake is to over-fertilize the lawn. Simply leaving clippings on the lawn is a great way to naturally fertilize grass. “It’s the most organic thing you can do, as long as you have a mower that mulches the clippings,” Malgieri says. “There are a lot of nutrients in those clippings. You’re actually feeding your lawn as you’re cutting it.”
The Grass Isn’t Greener
If you really want to cut down on the time and water your lawn requires, consider eliminating some of your yard’s traditional grass and replacing it with native plants or hardscaping. Consider adding a patio, which will be useful even in winter in cold climes.
“There are a lot of opportunities to have a beautiful landscape that meets your idea of beauty in a much more eco-friendly manner,” says gardening expert and author Melinda Myers.
Planting a heartier native species instead of grass can cut down the amount of mowing and watering you lavish on your lawn.
“It’s better to find species that are slower-growing,” says Evelyn J. Hadden, author of “Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives” (Timber Press, 2012). “Those are species that are labeled ‘no-mow’ or ‘low-growing’ species. They don’t need as much mowing because they don’t grow as quickly. Those species also cut down on things like fertilizer because they prefer an environment that’s not as rich.”
For example, a short prairie grass can work in hot, dry conditions, and sedge will flourish in shady spots, Meyers says.
However, be sure to check with a local nursery to find out which plants will suit your environment, she says. Plus, incorporating new and diverse plants will give your yard new color and texture.
If you’re not ready to replace your lawn, start small. Widening a garden, planting ground cover underneath a tree, or even replacing grass on a tricky slope or hillside will cut down on mowing and watering.
“I’m not an extremist,” Hadden says. “I think that people should look at the places where you only go to mow. Converting them can decrease your workload and also give your yard ecological function.”