Lawns; a low maintenance guide
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 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 this article is for you!
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. 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. 80% of the lawn will not get much wear from you at all.
So in the interests of less work, decide if the lawn needs to be as large as it is.
Now before think that digging up the grass and replacing it with flower beds would make more work (which it would). Consider this, do you need to tend the 80% of the lawn that you don’t really use as much as the 20% you do?
The perfect lawn is seen as a status symbol, but in reality, perfect lawns are virtual deserts for insects. It’s like flying over the Sahara for a bee! They contain not a scrap of food and exist only for us humans. But if 80% of the lawns isn’t used, why have it?
Lower maintenance lawns
Introduce blocks of unmown grass in the areas you don’t use much. For example under the canopy of a tree, allow the grass to grow longer.
If you have swings or slides on the lawn, don’t mow around the base of the swing. Create a longer grass section and just mow a wide sweep around it.
Decide if you really need a lawn at all
Small lawns really aren’t worth the effort and neither are unused lawns.
Grass is a wonderful surface to walk on or sit on. But if there is no traffic or use, why have the grass at all.
Incidentally, this front garden would look fantastic as a garden or ornamental grasses. The soil is poor, dries out easily, it’s quite sunny but best of all; ornamental grasses require just one trim a year!
Having a tiny patch of perfect lawn is more trouble than benefit. Small lawns should be removed and replaced with another landscaping material. Or have a tiny grass meadow and let the whole thing grow and cut it once in late autumn.
Sort out your seed!
Most lawns have good bits and threadbare areas, but don’t get seduced by the ‘Super Fast Lawn Repair’ adverts. The problem are the words; ‘Super Fast’ and ‘Instant’. These seed mixes aren’t clever. They don’t repair the lawn super fast and then slow their growth rate down. 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. Only use it in areas of the garden that are heavily worn; like football goals. 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 you end up mowing it more often.
You are best buying a normal seed mix and keep adding to any bare patches. If the grass really struggles to grow, then you need to reconsider if the lawn is in the right place. Heavy footfall wearing the grass our can be improved by adding a protective grass mesh. If the area is really shaded then most plants will struggle to grow. Use tough plants that thrive in deep shade ditch the threadbare grass for something more robust.
What shape is best?
Lawns come in all shapes and sizes, but if you want low maintenance lawns and 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.
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 neat. Unless of course you still just love mowing!