Plant smarter for tougher turf

Lamberts_Best1841 copyBy Denise Metzger

“A weed is plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some lawns look a little sad this time of year. Record weather patterns and improper watering have inflicted a lot of stress on landscapes and many lawns have suffered.

There’s a way to deal with this.  Plant differently. Choose the right kind of grass, the right kind of plants and trees for the site, and a better way to care for, and irrigate both.

This fall, during overseeing time, one approach to solve the problem of a stressed out lawn is to consider planting a polyculture turf.

For decades, parks and golf courses have set the standard for perfect lawns. But this perfect turf and its monoculture, or single species of grass, has a labor-intensive downside:  it’s maintained by mowing, fertilizing, dethatching and watering, and depends heavily on chemical support to keep it that way.

When we allow our lawns to mimic nature, we end up with a healthier, and environmentally more beneficial asset in our garden.

A lawn imitates nature by growing a range of beneficial partner plants to create a ground cover ecosystem. This blended, or polyculture, lawn option improves the health of the soil, saves money on fertilizer, reduces watering and nitrogen needs, and saves time on maintenance.  It can also reduce your watering bill because you can water less.

St. Augustine, a popular turf grass in the Dallas area, for example, especially benefits from having clover in its midst.  St. Augustine’s shade tolerance keeps it happy below a clover canopy and the grass enjoys the humidity provided by clover’s ground cover.

Clover once grew naturally in all our lawns, but the introduction and use of herbicides eradicated the broadleaf weeds and removed deep-rooted clover.  Without clover to help absorb water and nutrients, the typical shallow-rooted lawn needed more water to keep it green.  More water often led to overwatering, causing a different kind of suffering for garden plants, and more water was wasted than ever before.

Today, water is not as plentiful and our priorities have changed. The sustainable solution to optimize irrigation and nutrients is to inter-plant a monoculture turf grass with a hardy species mix, including some ornamental grasses, thyme, moss, white clover and clover blends.  Clover in particular is a legume, which means it makes its own nitrogen and contributes to enriching the soil.  It can be mowed or left to grow, and attracts birds and bees which are essential to the garden’s ecosystem.

Discover the virtues of an ecological lawn and a strategically considered and cared for garden.  Conserve water, introduce sustainability through options that mimic natural systems, eliminate toxic chemicals, and create a welcoming habitat for people, plants and pollinators to thrive.  It’s safer and healthier for kids and pets, too.

About the author:  Denise Metzger is a Garden Services Manager at Lambert Landscape Company.

Photo: Organically treated landscape courtesy Lambert Landscape Company © 2014


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