A perfectly manicured lawn looks great, but a lot of work is involved to grow it to perfection. Whether you’re doing the work yourself, or hiring a lawn care expert to maintain it, a lawn costs a lot of money and time. There’s a new, low-maintenance alternative on the market and Christina Haddad tells us how to get it.
Easy and relatively inexpensive to install, soft to walk on, wonderful to look at – conventional lawns are the favourite landscape feature of many homes. But their makeup of fine turf grasses means that they need watering, mowing, as well as occasional weed and pest control. While many homeowners enjoy these activities, others may find them time-consuming, costly and resource-intensive, especially if they’re relying on lawn care experts to do the work.
A low-maintenance lawn, on the other hand, practically takes care of itself. In a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) study, the following was determined:
- Residents with low-maintenance lawns spent 50 per cent less time;
- 85 per cent less money;
- used 85 per cent less fertilizer;
- 100 per cent less pesticides per year than residents with conventional lawns.
Planting costs were also comparable, although some seed mixes could be slightly more expensive.
All about low-maintenance lawns
Low-maintenance lawns tend to be made up of hardier species that are better suited to a wider range of conditions and more drought-tolerant than conventional lawn species. Most are slow-growing or low-height so they need less mowing. Some, such as fescues, are less prone to insects, and other factors that can stress conventional lawns.
Others, such as clovers and trefoils, are able to fix nitrogen, an important plant nutrient, in the soil, which reduces the lawn’s fertilizer needs. A diversity of species also provides some assurance that if one or two species are vulnerable to a specific disease or insect, other species can compensate.
I’m interested. How do I construct it?
For the homeowner interested in moving towards a low-maintenance lawn, there are a growing number of commercially available, low-maintenance lawn seed mixes and in some areas, specialty sod. There is no specific formula for the best low-maintenance lawn mix, but a general guideline is 40 per cent fescues, 40 per cent other grasses and 20 per cent broadleaf species. You can adjust the percentages based on your own preferences and the intended use. For instance, in areas where there will be a great deal of foot traffic and other activity, the amount of fescue can be reduced.
If you like the idea of a low-maintenance lawn but don’t have the time for the initial set-up, then why not contact one of our lawn care professionals to help?
Can I convert my current lawn to a low-maintenance one?
You can also gradually turn an existing lawn into a low-maintenance one by raking it to expose bare soil and overseeding with low-maintenance species. Depending on the species already in the lawn, you may have to overseed every year for as long as three years, however. It requires a little bit of work, but think about the cost and time-savings in the long run!
But before you get started…
Assess your needs and the best locations for your lawn. Where lawn is not required for specific activities, consider other low-maintenance alternatives, such as rock gardens, cedar mulch or ground cover plants.
Large, relatively flat areas are better suited and easier to maintain as lawn than are slopes, shady, narrow passages or several small lawn areas. For example, a narrow side yard on which people occasionally walk may be better suited to groundcover plants or low shrubs, with a pathway of stone or crushed brick.
There are so many alternatives to a lawn. Take a look at this video:
Sounds too good to be true
If there is a downside to low-maintenance lawns, it’s that they typically appear less uniform than conventional lawns. They can also be made up of species once considered weeds, such as clover, trefoil and vetch. As well, with reduced maintenance practices, some species will naturally colonize your lawn. Many colonizers can become desirable components of a low-maintenance lawn, but some, such as thistle and ragweed, may prove undesirable and will need to be removed.
Nevertheless, a less-than-perfect appearance may well be worth the savings in time and costs, if caring for a lawn is not something you care to do. Creating a low-maintenance lawn will greatly reduce the amount of money and water you could otherwise consume with a traditional lawn – and give you more time to relax and enjoy the view.
If you need some advice, why not consult our directory of lawn care professionals? Upon a site visit, they’ll be able to determine if your outdoor living space can benefit from a low-maintenance lawn and help you get started!
About the Author: Christina Haddad is the vice president of Ontario’s Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation division.