Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grow Green with Ecolawns

If you believe the television commercials, then you need to add synthetic fertilizer to your lawn to make it lush and dark green. Adding a broadleaf herbicide to that fertilizer will allow you to have a pure turfgrass lawn, just like the local golf course. Having the greenest lawn on the block should be your life’s goal.

Balderdash! First, having a lawn is a choice. I did away with my front lawn years ago. It is a shallow yard, so I decided to spray it out with glyphosate (I used herbicide since our lawn was creeping bent grass and that is notoriously hard to kill) and be done with mowing and watering. I now have a simple, mostly native plants with reseeding annuals, and low water requirement garden. I haven’t regretted it for a minute since.

When I remodeled my backyard, 17 years ago, I reduced the turf to 20’x 30’. It’s just the right size for games and easy care.

Turfgrass needs one pound of nitrogen every month during the growing season. You can cut that amount by one third just by using a mulching mower. You can also cut down to fertilizing in March, June, and October, if you aren’t crazy about mowing constantly. I covered how I fertilize my lawn (once a year) in another post here. DO NOT OVER FERTILIZE! The excess fertilizer is carried by runoff into our streams and lakes; killing off aquatic life.

Lawns need one inch of water per week. That’s easy to do. Just choose one day a week and water your lawn until you have filled a tuna or cat food can full of water. In very hot weather you might want to add an extra half-inch of water. It is considered best to water early in the morning to reduce evaporation and the chance of disease. Don’t overwater; you are wasting your time and money!

Check with your local Cooperative Extension for the type of turfgrass that works best in your area. I was one of the first people in my circle to try out ‘ecolawns.’ These turfgrass/flower blends are a way to enjoy a lawn filled with the herbal look of old English estate gardens. The lawns at Queen Elizabeth’s garden parties are known for the chamomile mixed into the turf. It is that fragrance everyone identifies with meeting the Queen at the party.

I used ‘Fleur de Lawn’ a mix of dwarf PR8820 Dwarf Perennial Ryegrass, Lolium perenne, O’Connor’s Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum, Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritimaand, Dwarf Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, Wild English Daisy, Bellis perennis, and Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesi. It is a mix I would recommend, although any mix with Yarrow needs to be watched, as it travels into flower beds.
English Daisies in 'Fleur de Lawn' Hobbs & Hopkins Ltd.

The bag recommends seeding at 1lb per 1000 sq ft. Double that, Ryegrass is a clumping grass and needs to be seeded thicker to make a full stand.

The Sweet Alyssum and Baby Blue Eyes bloom the first year while the lawn is establishing itself. The Strawberry Clover, Dwarf Yarrow, and English Daisies continue on for years. I think the Daisies died out about eight years ago. There isn’t much Strawberry Clover left, but the Ryegrass and Yarrow are chugging along!

The best part of the lawn is that being a dwarf ryegrass, only six to eight inches high, you really don’t need to mow! Really, it is a nice sort of shaggy lawn that can also be kept mowed and looks very neat.

Nichol’s Garden Nursery in Albany, OR has an assortment of ecolawn blends that Rosemary Nichols and Tom Cook, a retired professor at Oregon State University, have perfected over the years. I found other ecolawn mixes at Hobbs & Hopkins, Ltd. Just type ‘ecolawn’ in your search engine to find alternatives to traditional turfgrass lawns.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh I am so glad that our lawns are not such hard work. Never water them even in a drought. Waste of time they come back as soon as it rains.
    An early spring fertiliser and a late spring weed and feed. That's all. Cut when necessary of course too.