Saturday, September 5, 2009

Never mow again: here's how

Summer is short enough here as it is. Taking care of a perfectly manicured lawn is a time sink that will drain your summer dry if you let it. Now if you're one of those people who lives for lawn care, this column isn't for you.


Sheep's Fescue: Minimal effort, needs patience. Without much work you can transition away from the lawn you have to a Sheep's Fescue lawn. Sheep's Fescue is a short growing perennial grass that will grow to about six inches, and then flop over into spirals. It's drought tolerant, and you don't need to mow it. Overseeding is best done in May, June, or September, and it may take 2-4 years before the Sheep's Fescue really takes over. There are other varieties or mixes that are better suited to specific applications, but this is a good place to start.


One of the reasons that Sheep's Fescue isn't more popular is that its roots are too deep for people to sell it as sod commercially. The sod would take too much topsoil. It's more profitable to sell the water-hungry shallow rooted thin sod that you have to water, mow, and fertilize constantly. Instead, with some time, and a bag of seed, you can avoid ever having to mow it again. You still have the grass, but you don't have to do anything to it. What could be better?


Xeriscaping: Lots of effort, big reward. Completely re-landscaping your yard is a lot of work, but when you consider that you won't be mowing that area ever again, the labour of a few weekends will pay you back every time you walk past someone mowing their lawn like a sucker.


Between gravel, paving stone, and mulch, there are lots of options for how to do it (do your research and plan it out ahead of time), but the basic pattern is to kill the grass and weeds, cover with some sort of growing barrier then add mulch or gravel. Then plant native or adaptive perennials, trees, and shrubs. Remember to allow for the full grown size of the plant. When the plants are small, it's easy to plant them too closely together.


This is also a good opportunity to plant things you like to eat. Between wild strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, as well as things like potatoes, tomatoes or carrots, you can work some food production into the yard. Find some things that you like to eat that also look good in the landscape. Let the landscape reward you (with food) for the work you've done.


Learn More: You can't fit all the info you need to landscape your yard in a single newspaper column. A web search for 'permaculture' or a trip to www.eco-yards.com will provide lots of information on how you can landscape your yard so you'll never have to mow it again.


Bonus tip: Sell your lawn mower, not so much for the money, but to reclaim the storage space. You won't be needing it anymore. When you see people mowing their lawns, try not to gloat too much.

1 comment:

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