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What Exactly is a "Low-Maintenance" Lawn?

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There’s been a lot of interest in low-maintenance lawns lately. With drought covering much of the West, concerns over chemicals finding their way into the environment and an interest in reducing fossil fuel usage, it’s no wonder folks throughout the country are looking to cut back on lawn duty. The buzzwords are everywhere – eco, green, no-mow, sustainable, etc. But what actually makes a lawn “low-maintenance”


Low-Maintenance Vs. Traditional Lawns

First, let’s look at the most traditional lawn grass for comparison. The most popular lawn grass used in America, Kentucky bluegrass, is considered the “Cadillac” of lawn grasses – and for good reason. It produces the highest quality dark green lawn with a soft, velvety texture that can withstand heavy traffic. But with such quality comes a high maintenance requirement. During the summer months Kentucky bluegrass requires around 2 inches of water per week, sometimes 2 ½ if the weather is really warm and dry. It needs to be mowed once a week and requires regular fertilizer applications to keep it looking its best. Occasionally it can fall victim to diseases and insect damage. To be considered low-maintenance a grass should be well beneath the maintenance requirements for Kentucky bluegrass.


Reduced Irrigation Requirements

Irrigation is one of the biggest factors in determining if a grass is considered low-maintenance. Generally, anything that requires only half the amount of irrigation that Kentucky bluegrass needs could be considered low-maintenance. A good example of this would be the fescues which only need 1 to 1 ¼ inch of water per week. Bermudagrass has similar irrigation requirements, and can be considered a low-maintenance grass for southern areas of the U.S. However, for superior drought tolerance and low-water usage, grasses such as buffalograss and sheep fescue are the real superstars. Once established they can be maintained on natural rainwater in many areas of the country; only requiring 1 inch of water every 2-4 weeks.


Reduced Mowing Requirements

Mowing the lawn – love it or hate it, you’ll probably spend more time each week doing this activity than any other form of lawn maintenance. During the peak growing season, a traditional Kentucky bluegrass lawn will need to be mowed about once a week. Any type of grass that eliminates the need for such regular mowing could be considered low-maintenance. Fine fescue is once such candidate. Hard fescue, sheep fescue, chewings fescue and creeping red fescue are all grasses known as the fine fescues. These fescues are very slow growing and often marketed as “no-mow”. While they can produce a great mowing-optional lawn, most folks will mow them about once a month to keep weeds out. For the warm-season grasses, buffalograss is once again the best low-maintenance choice. It can be left uncut or mowed about once a month.


Resistance to Pests and Disease

Resistance to pests and disease is another factor to consider when looking for a low-maintenance lawn. Traditional lawns are susceptible to a variety of insect, grub, mold, patch, rust and blight damage. A truly low-maintenance lawn will be unaffected by these problems. Some of the newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fescue have been bred to resist many of these pests and diseases. Here at Nature’s Seed, we only use improved varieties that have been top-rated by the Nation Turfgrass Evaluation Program. Other grasses such as buffalograss, sheep fescue and our own Low-Maintenance Seed Blend are virtually pest and disease-free.


Low Fertilizer Requirements

Finally, a low-maintenance grass should require very little fertilizer. Buffalograss and the fine fescues are very tolerant of poor soil fertility and only require about 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. The traditional lawn grasses can require between 3-5 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. Here’s another tip: by mixing white clover into your grass you can actually make your lawn even more low-maintenance. Clover has the ability to fix nitrogen and acts as a natural fertilizer.

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