Cut the Mowing Habit
Love the idea of having a yard you can be proud of, but hate all the work that it requires? Concerned about the effect herbicides and pesticides you use on your lawn might be having on the environment? Or is it just the expense of fertilizing, watering and caring for your yard that's getting you down? You do have some alternatives that can save you time and money and also help the environment. They just require a little change in your thinking and giving up the idea that a beautiful yard means a well-manicured, lush grass lawn.
How about adding some clover?
Lots of people think of clover as a weed and attack it with herbicides to get rid of it. However, some strains of clover (particularly Dutch White Clover - also known as Shamrock or Irish Clover) are actually good for lawns. This clover has a long root system that makes it very drought resistant so it doesn't require constant watering to stay green even in the heat of the summer.
The long roots also mean it doesn't need to be fertilized on an ongoing basis and they actually help break up and aerate the soil as well as putting Nitrogen back into the ground. Clover is relatively bug free (no pesticides needed) and even resists the brown spots from dog urine - a major headache for grass lawns. Plus, here's the real good part, clover is slow growing so you don't need to cut it twice a week and since it can tolerate low mowing without damage, when you do cut it, your lawn will stay lush and green.
You can add clover to your lawn at any time of the year, but it's easiest to do it in the spring. Just mix some clover seeds in with your grass seeds and keep all the seeds moist for about a week. The clover will sprout, spread and give you a beautiful green lawn all summer that won't need to be cut every couple of days. (Make sure you don't use broadleaf herbicide on your new lawn containing clover or you'll end up with a patchy mess that no one could be proud of).
Here's an idea that's becoming more popular in the drier states in the Southwest. Xeriscaping actually replaces grass lawns with indigenous ground covers and native grasses combined with drought tolerant shrubs and bushes that are allowed to grow unmowed. (The name Xeriscaping comes from the Greek words "xeros" meaning dry and "scape" for a view).
By using native plants that are adapted to the normal regional rainfall, you minimize the need to water and fertilize your lawn. Native plants are also pest resistant so you minimize your use of pesticides and best of all, your entire lawn becomes low maintenance - you don't need to mow it.
Don't confuse Xeriscaping with "hardscaping " which essentially consists of gravel, stones and concrete with an occasional cactus added for color. Xeriscaping uses native plants and shrubs that grow naturally in the region, so xeriscaped yards can provide color, texture and seasonal variety.
Make your gardens bigger
If clover or Xeriscaping are too big a transition for you to make all at once, expanding your gardens will give you less lawn to mow while adding a visual component. You can expand an existing garden or start a new one by removing the sod, turning over the soil, adding peat moss and fertilizer and compost and create a great growing environment.
As an added bonus a new garden doesn't need to be a lot of work (once the ground is prepared). Adding hardy perennial plants to your newly created garden space can provide you with color (wild flower seeds available at your home store) or green space that doesn't need to be mowed (winter creeper).
As you can see, you don't need to be slave to your lawn and mower this summer. Just do a little thinking "outside the box" and you'll come up with some ideas that will give you the time to enjoy the summer rather than working through it.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published in the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics, but specializes in home maintenance and how to's