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The perfect, low-maintenance modern lawn

by tamara on August 25, 2014, one comment

ecolawnHaving a luscious, green front lawn was never a priority. The manicured lawns of mid-century seemed water-excessive and high maintenance, plus I have at least 538 things I’d rather do on a weekend then mow the lawn. In fact, when we moved in, I had no plans to do anything to the yard (ha!). The front lawn was very ordinary, a mix of Kentucky Blue Grass, an assortment of weeds and ugly bare spots. So … maybe it was worse than ordinary.

Why water weeds and brown spots, we asked ourselves? Our immediate plan was to let the lawn die and rock it. A year later, after seeing the weeds take over our “experiment,” my amateur-landscape-designer husband decided to add back some green using fake grass. But a few quotes later, we ruled out artificial turf ($5,000 to $10,000 for 800 square feet? Gulp!). Then we learned about Eco Lawn from Wildflower Farms.

“Grows in full sun, part shade and even deep shade!”

“Highly drought tolerant”

“Can be mown like a regular lawn or left un-mown for a free-flowing carpet effect.”

Yes, Yes and Yes!

Eco-Lawn from Wildflower Farms, sold in 5-pound bags

Wildflower Farms mixes a variety of very fine fescue grasses that grow and blend together like undulating waves in a sea of green. Apparently, the roots dive deep to keep it hardy and require less water. After viewing the company’s photo gallery and googling for other evidence that Eco-Lawn really works, we bought a few 5-pound bags of seed. (We really only needed one for the front yard.) There was no option to buy rolls of ready-grown grass. You must plant Eco-Lawn from seed.

I call it my magic grass. It really is like a carpet. Neighborhood dogs and young boys like to roll around in it. We are now in the 4th year, having planted the seeds in September 2011.

This summer, we haven’t mowed at all. It only needs watering about once a week (maybe less since it’s been a pretty wet summer this year). Our monthly summer watering bill, which includes watering my 8-garden beds in the backyard, is between $20 to $30. That’s up from around $13 during the winter.

Obviously, Eco-Lawn isn’t for everyone. But for us, it’s as close to perfect as a front lawn could get. Plus, we love how it looks. I especially love the contrast of green against the gray gravel. We still have seeds left and when we have time, we may revamp our backyard as well.

If you’re thinking of going eco, here are my tips:

  • If you’re in a colder area where you need to blow out sprinklers, it needs to be watered at the start of spring. If your sprinklers haven’t been turned on yet, water by hand or it’ll die.
  • We prefer the natural, un-mowed meadow look. But I suggest mowing it short in the late fall after turning off any sprinklers. Otherwise, in the spring, the shaggy brownish grass covers up new growth underneath and may prevent new grass from shooting up.
  • When you do mow the tall grass, you’ll need to rake up the cut grass. Our annual mow does take time. And to get it short for the winter, you’ll need to mow, rake and mow again.
  • Sprinklers need to be tall enough to shoot up above the tallest grass, otherwise, water puddles up. We ended up switching out our 6-inch sprinklers to 12-inch.
  • There will still be weeds, especially that darn, creeping bindweed. Pulling bindweed doesn’t get rid of it because it has such long roots. You’ve got to kill the bind plant down to its deepest root.This broadleaf-weed killer works. But here in Colorado, we also have access to bindweed-eating mites, which I haven’t tried but I’m highly interested in.
  • It may attract wildlife. We’ve spotted many rabbits nibbling away, which is fine by us. That’s the natural order of things in a meadow. Besides, it seems to keep them away from the garden.
  • Did I mention you need to water in the spring? This critical period (before you officially turn on sprinklers) could be the death of your grass, especially if you are like us and make raised mounds in the front yard to give the landscape some interest.
  • Once the grass gets going, it will likely go to seed if you leave it unmowed (as like most plants). We don’t mind this because it’s free seeds! But the resulting wild fescue may be too unkempt for some cookie-cutter-loving surburbanites. Two years ago, we got a visit from the city telling us some neighbor complained about the wildness. After hearing this was low-water Eco-Lawn, the inspector took notes. Plus, she seemed to like that the grass was contained in an elliptical frame of gray gravel. The city gave us the thumbs up, and called it ornamental grasses.

A few angles of the lawn — four years after planting:

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