Don’t Fight — Work With Mother Nature!
Most of the struggles we have with our lawns come from fighting the nature of grass. You can have a nice-looking yard without too much work; it just takes a little smart design.
Grass likes sun. Even shade-tolerant varieties, such as fescue, like to have some sun. However, none of the grass varieties we commonly grow in our yards naturally grow in north Georgia. So the more grass you have, the more maintenance you should expect.
Modern landscapers are using grass more selectively than in the past. In many new developments, turf installations are used more as accents and in activity areas, not as the main event.
Take a look at your existing yard. If you have beautiful canopy oaks, pines and hickories, do yourself a favor and extend a generous natural mulched area around them. Don’t be afraid to eliminate areas of thin, unhealthy grass where turf is a losing battle. Just mulch right over thin grass and create sharp new borders.
Look at the remaining grass areas. Are there lots of ins and outs or odd contours? Consider editing your remaining turf to attractive simple shapes, just for your high-function areas (activities/entertaining), with an “accent rug” of turf for looks.
Even if you reduce your turf areas, the remaining grass might be in such poor shape that you have to commit to a year of conventional “weed and feed” regimen, complete with pesticides and herbicides. But if you start fresh by installing new turf in a smaller, more efficient accent area, this won’t be necessary.
A final note of encouragement: If you choose the grass variety best for your yard conditions, and focus it in a mostly sunny area, you might be surprised to find that only a slow-release organic fertilizer is necessary to keep it beautiful, once the grass is established. Many healthy turf grasses, Bermuda grass being one example, will out-compete and keep weeds at bay.
3 Grass Maintenance Facts
I provide facts below not to say we don’t want beautiful turf areas in our community, but to show the potential benefits of reducing their size:
- Surprisingly, one gas mower emits the same amount of pollutants into your yard as eight new cars driving 55 mph the same amount of time. Gas lawn mowers and garden equipment engines are not regulated in the same way as auto engines (peoplepoweredmachines.com).
- Homeowners use 10 times the amount of pesticides and fertilizers on their grass per acre as farmers do for their crops (peoplepoweredmachines.com). In Towne Lake, chemicals run off from our yards into Allatoona Lake U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water.
- Lawn chemicals have been linked to two types of cancer in pets. Chronic (ongoing) exposure to Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticides has been flagged as a danger to children by the American Academy of Pediatrics (washington.edu).
– Ann Litrel is an artist and certified Master Naturalist. She instructs nature journal workshops and paints in her studio, Ann Litrel Art, in Towne Lake.