Make Your Lawn Eco-Friendly and Low-Maintenance

fresh spring green grass
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The prospect of weekly vacuuming and annual steam cleaning is enough to turn off many people to carpet. Dishwashers have gotten so powerful that "pre-rinsing" is becoming as outmoded as vinyl records. Even toilets are self-cleaning. What does this have to do with landscaping? Well, it's a paradox: American homeowners are willing to hunt down every time-saving device for their home interiors, but they continue to spend dozens, if not hundreds, of hours maintaining their lawn each year. Moreover, the maintenance of your lawn is, if anything, worse for the local ecosystem than many of the low-maintenance alternatives.

Learn alternative landscaping techniques for your lawn and the myths about tending it by which you should no longer abide!

The Sanctity of the American Lawn

Arguably, natural grass landscaping is a generational thing. The vision of our dream home was conceived of early on in life: Our parents had natural grass lawns, so our dream house typically includes a natural grass lawn. But the 21st century has seen a growing concern for water conservation, while "grassless" landscaping design has improved by leaps and bounds. Green doesn't always mean natural, and many lawn grasses aren't even indigenous. It doesn't have to be a moral thing: Almost nobody will judge you for maintaining a perfectly manicured St. Augustine grass lawn. But at the same time you shouldn't base your choice of ground cover on the idea that natural grass is an inherently superior way to go. (Find highly rated professional landscapers in your area.)

Alternative Landscaping Ideas, Tips, and Benefits
  • Ground covers. Mother Nature has a much larger catalog of botanical beauties than just grass. Juniper, clover, periwinkle and mosses are just a few alternative ground covers. For something more inside-the-box, "low-mow" grass species or ornamental grasses can at least reduce your lawn maintenance load.
  • Conserving water. If you're less concerned with reducing maintenance and more concerned with eco-friendly landscaping, you should focus on water conservation. Reportedly, landscaping accounts for more than 50 percent of water consumption in some municipalities.
  • Reducing lawn area. Don't fall into the trap of all-or-nothing thinking. By adding decorative rocks, installing a concrete patio or walkway, and planting a well-placed tree or two, you can significantly reduce your lawn area (and maintenance) without completely losing the appeal of natural grasses. (Find highly rated professional walkway-installers in this area.)

Leaf-Raking: The Great Landscaping Myth

Hand-in-hand with the sanctity of conventional landscaping are a handful of myths that lead to further missed opportunities to lower your maintenance chores. Perhaps no myth is bigger than the one that you must rake and dispose of leaves before they're buried under the first heavy snowfall. It's true that you can't leave a layer of fall foliage to slowly decompose on your lawn, while blocking sunlight and moisture. But if you get the lawn mower out and churn those leaves up into fertilizing mulch, your lawn may actually be better for it. You don't even have to wait for a dry spell. Assuming your mower blades can avoid getting snagged, slightly damp leaves actually shred more readily.

Now, there is one caveat: A thick layer of mowed leaves can contribute to excessive thatch, the layer of organic material between grass blades and the soil. Ironically, the dead leaves that improve the soil quality can cause grass to grow too fast the following spring, the ostensible cause of thatch. That said, so long as you don't treat your lawn with conventional fertilizer and don't overwater, your lawn should be fine. To truly ease your mind, you can periodically (maybe once every one to three years) aerate your lawn, a wise step whether you rake your leaves or not. (Find highly rated professional landscapers in your area.)

Other Landscaping Myths
  • It's better to have long grass or it's better to have short grass. Different grasses have different optimal lengths, but more important, by far, is the willingness to mow your lawn often. Taking long grass and mowing it short will leave mostly bare stock, leaving your grass less able to produce new grass shoots. If you're unwilling to make this commitment, it's another reason to consider the alternatives. (Find highly rated lawn care professionals in your area.)
  • Hedges are the best way to improve my home's curb appeal. Hedges or shrubs are beautiful landscaping additions, but they can also be dangerous disguises. Hedges can trap moisture to the side of your home for extended periods. If you're trying to cover up siding that's already in decline, hedges can become the coup de grace. (Find highly rated professionals to remove trees or shrubs.)
  • It's best to water my lawn in the evening, when I won't need as much water. Yes, the midday sun will cause a certain amount of your lawn irrigation to evaporate, but your grass is still in greatest need during this time. By watering later in the day, you may be creating enough moisture for fungus to take hold. (Find highly rated sprinkler-system professionals in your area.)
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