As summer begins to take full effect, many homeowners start paying much more attention to their lawn. Fertilizing, re-seeding, mowing, watering. Just thinking about it makes us tired, and when it comes to watering – it makes our wallets hurt!
What if you could plant a grass that, after it’s first growing season, didn’t need to be watered (except in extreme drought) and didn’t HAVE to be mowed? No twice a week, or weekly nights spent out mowing when you could be at the park or having fun with the family. No daily waterings.
Wildflower farms has a grass seed called “eco-lawn”, which has been in production and available for household use for the last 10+ years. It is a blend of 7 fine fescue grasses that grow into a thick turf that can thrive in a variety of soil types, even dry or infertile soils. The grasses are able to live in those conditions because of the deep roots inherent to their properties. In hard clay the roots can grow up to 9″ deep, while in sandy soil that depth can reach 14″. This allows the grass to pull water and nutrients naturally from a much greater area of soil.
Eco-lawn is quick to germinate, but slow-growing once solidified. Over the course of a full growing season, if left unmowed the grass would be 9″ long, but because of the thinness of the blades it falls over the a carpet-like look at a height of 4″. If you are still wanting the “classic cut lawn” look, however, it will only need to be mowed once a month to a height of 3-4″.
From a sustainability standpoint, this is the first major incentive. Lawn mowers drink gas like a child does koolaid. The EPA states that “operating a typical gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour produces the same amount of smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average care almost 200 miles under typical driving conditions.” Just think of all the places you could’ve visited, adding up all of those miles, instead of mowing the lawn!
The second, and yet equally great, issue from a sustainability perspective is the lack of watering needed for the turf to continue growing. While the seeding/germination process is similarly intensive to common grasses, once the turf has passed its first growing season successfully it only needs to be watered during times of extreme drought. Think of all the money, and WATER, you will save by cutting out the 3+/wk waterings! Wildflower Farms provides a chart, which can be seen here, of the cost effectiveness of eco-lawn compared to normal lawns.
Northern USA should plant in the beginning of May or around Labor Day if considering switching to eco-lawn. The seeds germinate best in cool temperatures (55-77), morning dew, and occasional rain. Their planting chart based on location can be found here.
If you decided that you would like to convert your lawn to an eco-lawn, the steps you take are similar to any other lawn conversion process. You should first eliminate any weeds and remove debris. If the home is new construction and grass has yet to be planted, then you should rototill the site at a dept of 3″, rake smooth, and then spread a weed-free organic compost 1/4″ deep.
If converting a lawn from a different grass type, you can either kill the current grass (and then either plant over top of it or remove it and re plant like new construction), or you can overseed onto the current grass. If killing you can use either organic or non-organic herbicides (the non-organic tend to take longer), mow the dead grass as short as possible and then rake hard before seeding. Overseeding into existing lawns can be done, but it takes longer to fully switch, requiring yearly re-seedings for up to 4-5 yrs. This time can be cut down, however, if you re-seed in both spring and fall.
When you reach the seeding process, you want to achieve 15seeds/sq. inch or 25/sq. inch if wanting extra thick grass to help keep out weeds. Gently rake the seed/soil mix so that they are just barely covered and then roll the lawn with a lawn roller.
During the germination process you should water every day for 3wks for about 20-30 minutes, or the time needed to make the soil moist up to a depth of 1″. After 3wks, cut the watering back to every two days for 2wks. (only water if it’s not going to rain) The germination process typically takes 7-14 days and will take 4-6wks before it arrives at a hight of 4-5″ and is in need of it’s first trim (if you prefer a manicured lawn). Once the grass has solidified after its first growing season, as mentioned earlier, it need only be watered during extreme droughts. If this case arises, remember that it is better to fully saturate the ground for this type of grass than to provide frequent light sprinkles.
Below is a video of a customer installation and review of eco-lawn at their home (a redsox fan it seems!). If you are interested in converting your lawn, eco-lawn can be purchased either online or at 8 retailers in Mass or 1 in NH.