For being au natural, lawns sure are high maintenance. Every year, the average American spends 73 hours mowing, fertilizing and pruning their yard – an agricultural labor of love that rakes in $40 billion a year nationwide! That’s nothing to sneeze at (grass pun intended), so try one of these seven ways to ensure your dollars cover maximum ground.
Water early in the morning. In a perfect world, nature would work its rain magic like clockwork and you’d be able to skip watering altogether, but that’s not always possible. The prime time to water lawns is between 5 AM and 8 AM, or right before the sun rises. Since it will be cooler (and dark), less water will evaporate. Considering that it takes about ½ gallon of water per square foot to achieve the recommended 1” irrigation level, this can amount to major savings! Note: Watering your lawn right after the sun sets is better than during the middle of the day, but keep in mind that leaving grass moist overnight may promote fungal growth.
Observe the 3” rule. Unless you live on a baseball field, there’s no need to give your yard a buzz cut. In fact, keeping your grass on the longer side is better for its health! At 3”, grass has more surface area for photosynthesis to occur, which will result in a stronger root system. Stronger root systems prohibit weed-growth, so you’ll spend less money (and time) on weed killer, which can cost upwards of $30 bottle. If weeds do pop through, use an everyday item to fight them.
Xeriscape. No, this won’t hurt a bit. Xeriscaping is simply a fancy way of saying “plant things native to your area.” Specifically, native plants that can tolerate potential drought and require minimal care. Not only will it beautify your yard, it will reduce the need for the wallet drainers that are watering and mowing. To find recommended plants for your region, visit: Water Use It Wisely.
Grill your lawn care guy. If you hire lawn care help, ask for details about their technique. Many lawn care companies treat all weeds equally to cut costs, but grassy and vine weeds are a completely different animal than the broadleaf variety, and require different strategies for eradication. Make sure the people you hire know their stuff so that you can avoid return visits – and their $50-$100 price tags – down the road.
Compost. Not only is commercial fertilizer jam-packed with toxic chemicals, it can be pricey, too (up to $40 a bag). Avoid the store-brought fertilizer dance altogether by composting your food scraps and using those, instead. Your yard, your wallet and the planet will thank you.
Mulch. By returning grass clippings to the yard – a.k.a. mulching – you’ll provide your lawn with vital nutrients free of charge. And contrary to popular belief, this does not create a thatch buildup! The clippings break down into microbes quickly and can account for up to 1lb. of your lawn’s annual nitrogen requirement. Bonus: It’s also a water saver because the clippings retain precious moisture.
Plant perennials. Perennial plants are nature’s survivors. Unlike annuals, which need to be purchased and planted each season, perennials bloom like clockwork year after year, sparing you the burden and (often staggering) expense of shrub shopping. Better yet, after a few seasons of healthy growth, you can spread the love to other parts of your yard by dividing them into segments.