How to - Lawn Care

The lowdown on easy-care lawns

By
Larry Hodgson
Photography by
Wildflower Farm

Cut down on mowing with these easy-care lawn tips

Weekly mowing can be a thing of the past if you plant the newest slow-growing lawn grasses. You’ll only need to mow twice a month (or even just twice a season, if you don’t require a close-cropped, manicured look). Easy-care lawns are drought tolerant, insect resistant and rarely need fertilizing.

Low-maintenance mixes contain little or no Kentucky bluegrass, the fast-growing but labour-intensive turfgrass traditionally used. Instead, they’re blends of different slow-growing fescues (hard, sheep and red creeping), often with a bit of precocious but short-lived perennial ryegrass to fill things in while the slower fescues set up shop. They produce an extra-fine-textured lawn that does better in tough situations than does Kentucky bluegrass. Don’t look for it sold as rolls of sod though—this new turfgrass is only available in seed form.

Most of the newer mixes contain endophytes—beneficial fungi that produce a bitter alkaloid insects don’t like, making the mixes highly resistant to leaf feeders such as billbugs, chinch bugs, sod webworms and fall army worms. Endophyte-enhanced grasses are also more disease resistant than standard varieties.

There are plenty of choices such as Enviro-Turf, Eco-Lawn, No Mow Lawn Mix, OSC Low Maintenance Lawn Mixture and Bio-Tourbe. Many garden centres even offer their own store brand. Slow-growing fescues all perform well in full sun to partly shaded conditions; in full shade, they’ll produce a thinner lawn.

Getting started
Although low-maintenance turfgrass seed may be sown in spring, the best time is late summer or early fall—up to 45 days before the first hard frost—as grasses germinate well during the shorter days of fall, while most weeds do not. Cooler temperatures also help ensure the soil remains more evenly moist, which is essential to initial growth.

If you’re starting from scratch, cover the area with 10 to 15 centimetres of good-quality topsoil (make sure that it’s weed-free). Rake it to a fine, smooth tilth, breaking up any clumps. Apply grass seed according to manufacture’s directions and water lightly. Until the grass is established and growing vigorously, water thoroughly as soon as the top two centimetres of soil dry out, and don’t walk on it.

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