Lawn maintenance is quite onerous. Have you ever considered what your lawn does for you? Or better yet, have you considered what you do for your lawn? And, why do you do that?
Yeah, those are serious questions. If you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your lawn. On the one hand, you appreciate it’s lush green look. You may even find it therapeutic to mow your lawn. On the other hand, lawn maintenance including mowing and weed eating, can be a dreaded, onerous chore that eats up your time on the weekends.
We’ve previously discussed this obsession of just adding bluegrass for the sake of adding bluegrass in the post Get Off My Lawn!, maybe it’s just a pet peeve at the moment for us.
Before moving to Colorado Springs, my wife and I owned a 5,000 sq. ft. lot in the epitome of sprawl in West Omaha. Our front yard was a disaster from the date of purchase to the day we got out of there. The grass had a very difficult time growing, which was somewhat of a blessing because I didn’t have to mow it.
The backyard, on the other hand, was steep and an absolute pain to maintain. I had a gas-powered mower and a gas-powered weed eater – both terrible for the environment. The backyard was a one-hour lawn maintenance chore every weekend from April through October. It also didn’t have an irrigation system, so I had one of those retro yellow tractor sprinklers to move around. I did all of this, because it seemed like the American Dream. My friends and family all did the same thing. I grew up with lawn maintenance, it was just part of life. I don’t know why it took me so long to challenge the stupidity of this, we barely used our lawn, but you can bet I spent a lot of time on it.
Today, I have a much smaller yard and even less of it has turfgrass. I experiment with my lawn, my wife may argue that I experiment with it too much. When we moved in, it started off as a Rhizomatus Tall Fescue (RTF) lawn that I had installed with sod. RTF has medium water needs, a green lush look, and it is somewhat tolerant of foot traffic. As is the case with most RTF sods, it contains a little bit of Kentucky Bluegrass. Bluegrass, as it does, found its way to take over. My lawn was a patchy mess that generally required more water than when it started.
So I killed it all, or at least I tried to kill it. This was necessary for the installation of Dog Tuff Bermudagrass plugs. Dog Tuff is a highly-drought tolerant turfgrass that takes little water, little mowing and can sustain high amounts of foot traffic. The problem is it needs full sun and can only be planted with plugs. You also have to kill any bluegrass that is present.
I thought that I had done just that, but as I eluded to in preceding sentences, the bluegrass did not die. It came back and took over once again leaving little patches of Dog Tuff every 12″ throughout the lawn.
Before I go into what I did next, let me give you some background. My “lawn” is about 300 square feet. That’s right, I didn’t miss a zero. It’s literally only 300 square feet. Remember at the beginning of this post when I said that I actually enjoy taking care of the lawn. I then went on to write that I dreaded the time that it took to maintain a large lawn in Omaha? A 300 square-foot lawn was the happy medium. Frankly, I would like to not have a lawn at all, but I have three kids and a dog. Especially during the long days, weeks, and months of the pandemic, my kids spent a LOT of time in the yard. Grass was a requirement.
So, I took on the lawn one more time and this time I leveled out the slope a bit and created some boulder retaining walls along a dry creek bed. I imported some good topsoil, tilled it in, and ordered some bluegrass sod.
Yep, I said bluegrass sod. Did you see that coming? As someone who advocates for sustainability, water sense and all things low water use, you were expecting something different, right? Sorry to disappoint, but that’s the point of this blog post.
YOUR lawn has to be calibrated to YOUR needs. That may mean that you have a lawn full of clover, strawberries, groundcover, or even native seed. It could also mean that you have artificial turf in your lawn. The design of your lawn needs to have your input, first and foremost. After you’ve told your landscape designer how you will use your lawn, then explore the options. If you LOVE lawn maintenance, perhaps a full yard of bluegrass is right for you?
For me, this is the perfect solution for the moment, until I change it up once again. I spend very little time working on the lawn, in part because I carefully manage the irrigation. Overwatering bluegrass is far too common and frankly problematic. Bluegrass does not need to be thick and a lush green all the time. Personally, I did not install a permanent irrigation system, instead I use two movable sprinkler heads that spray about an 8-foot radius. Hand-watering shrubs can also be quite therapeutic.
The lawn is watered once per week at the most, unless it rains. It is mowed once per week during rainy times and weed eat once per week. My mower is a self-propelled (no gas) lawn mower and my weed eater is electric. That means that my carbon footprint for my lawn is nearly zero, I use very little water and I still have a lawn for my son, his friends and dog to play in (our two daughters are too old and too cool to “play” in the yard anymore.
Now let’s say that you have a front yard full of grass – many homes do – it’s the lazy design solution. Do you actually use your front lawn, or is it really only the neighborhood dogs that use the front lawn? Perhaps it is steep near the sidewalk like many Pre-WWII-era homes like the image below. What real benefit are you getting out of this real estate?
I ask again, does your lawn work for you, or do you instead work for your lawn?
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