How to get a Low Maintenance Lawn

Low Maintenance Lawns – are they possible?

Lawns are very definitely not low maintenance….but you can lower the time you have to spend manicuring them.

If you love mowing and trimming the lawn and it’s part of your favourite weekend routine, then please don’t read any more, if however your lawn is a bit of a pain in the ‘sunday mornings’ then do please carry on!

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We love lawns though don’t we. In the UK we have always prided the standard of our lawns. A totally bump free, striped (of course), verdant swathe of green that has been trimmed to a regulation height and contains not one daisy has been seen as the ultimate status symbol in many a garden.

It is a statement of how Man can command nature to comply with our rules.

Well that’s great if you love military precision and mowing but it takes an awful lot of time and effort.

Lawns are one of the most time consuming chores any garden produces, so if garden maintenance is not your favourite occupation, how can you reduce the time spent mowing!

Analyse your lawn!

If you have heard of the Pareto principle – 80% of the work arises from 20% of the possible causes. In this case 20% of your lawn will be walked on 80% of the time and 80% of the lawn will not get much wear from you at all.

So in the interests of lowering the maintenance of the lawn, you need to decide if the lawn needs to be quite as large as it is.

Now before you all roll your eyes and think that digging up the grass and replacing it with flower beds would be even more work (which it would), think instead do you need to tend the 80% of the lawn that you don’t really use as much as the 20% you do?

This does mean, tackling the cultural icon of the perfect lawn as a status symbol, but in reality, perfect lawns like the one above are virtual deserts for insects. It’s like flying over the Sahara for a bee! They contain not a scrap of food and are there for our own pleasure, but if we aren’t really using 80% of it, then what pleasure are we indulging?

How would this apply to a small average garden lawn though, wouldn’t it look rather out of place? Well not really, think of it as adding to a boring flat lawn and play with different heights of grass. You can introduce blocks of unmown grass in the areas you don’t use much, so for example under the canopy of a tree, allow the grass to grow longer, so you don’t have to mow it so often.

If you have childrens swings or slides on the lawn, don’t try and mow up to the base of the swing, create a longer grass section and just mow a wide sweep around it. It won’t look as daft as you think it will and this is all about reducing the time mowing!

Decide if you really need a lawn at all

Small lawns really aren’t worth the effort and neither are unused lawns.

front garden bare

We’ve all passed by front gardens like this one, clearly gardening isn’t this owner’s passion,  but having a swathe of lawn like this is just adding to the list of weekly chores. Grass is a wonderful surface to walk on, if there is no traffic or use, why have the grass at all or at least reduce the weekly workload by reducing mowing.

Incidentally, this front garden would look fantastic as a grass garden, the soil is poor, dries out easily and it’s quite sunny – so a perfect place for easy to grow ornamental grasses – that require just one trim a year!

If you do have a tiny patch of grass, then the chances are it will get quite a lot of footfall, is a threadbare lawn really worth having.  In reality small lawns should be removed and replaced with another landscaping material…unless you decide on a tiny grass meadow and let the whole thing grow and cut it once in late autumn.

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Sort out your seed!

Most of you will have inherited the lawn that came with the property, it would be nice if it was a beautiful one, but most likely it had good bits and threadbare areas. So you probably have popped off to the DIY or Garden Centre and have bought yourself some ‘Super Fast Lawn Repair’ kit or have  splashed out on ‘Instant Patch Repair Seed Mix’, sown it  and ‘bob’s your uncle’ – lawn restored.

There is a but coming and it’s this, ‘Super Fast’ and ‘Instant’. These seed mixes aren’t actually that clever, they won’t repair the lawn super fast and then slow their growth rate down to match the rest of your grass!

These are fast growing grasses, so they keep growing and require mowing more often.

The same is true for ‘Hard Wearing Lawn Seed’, this too grows fast, so it can recover from the constant wear. Sow this seed in areas of normal use and you end up with patches of faster grass growing.

Adding different types of seed mix to a lawn creates a patchwork of differing growth rates and in some cases greens, which make the lawn look more unkempt and you end up mowing it more often.

low maintenance lawn

You are best buying a normal seed mix and keep adding to any bare patches. If the grass really struggles to grow in a certain corner, then you need to reconsider if the lawn is in the right place. If the problem is due to lots of feet running on a small area, then consider adding a grass mesh to help protect the grass. If the area is really shaded then most plants will struggle to grow, there are some tough plants that thrive in deep shade so maybe it’s worth ditching the threadbare grass for something more robust.

What shape is best?

Lawns come in all shapes and sizes, but if you want a speedy mow then follow these tips;

  • Don’t have tight corners to the lawn – it makes it awkward to get a mower round
  • Keep pots and chairs off the lawn if at all possible to speed things up.
  • Use plant supports that keep foliage off the grass and that are high enough for the mower to run underneath.
  • Raise the height of the cutter deck -since when was 1/2 inch the only height you could cut grass too!
  • Try to avoid raised edges on borders or paths that are tricky to mow next to.
  • If you have a grass path, make it at least 2 mower widths wide for ease of cutting.

Mowing Frequency

The best way to reduce the time mowing is to mow less. The grass will obviously be a bit longer, mow every other week but trim the edges every week, the lawn will still look pretty neat and you have spent less time mowing.

Unless of course you still just love mowing!

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Next Week: It’s all about your borders….exciting stuff!