Apr 14, 2010

Tired of Spring Lawn Care Already? The Alternatives

At last, your patch of green has emerged from under the snow . . . and it's growing. Before you resign yourself to spending many weekend hours mowing, fertilizing, and watering, however, let's take a look at some alternatives:

1) Buy a better mower. The May 2010 issue of Consumer Reports covers options with features like wider cutting areas and good steering for tight spaces, as well as  environmentally friendly options that run on batteries or electricity. If you're going to be mowing the lawn anyway, you might as well cut down on frustration and energy consumption.

2) Replace your lawn with artificial turf. Yes, what was once known as "Astroturf" is making a comeback, with newly attractive versions in a wide palate of green shades, that last about ten years. It's actually got some environmental credibility, since it reduces pollution from lawn mowers and use of water and pesticides, and is porous enough to let rain water pass through. But the April, 2010 issue of SmartMoney points out some problematic aspects to this new green stuff. It gets awfully hot on the toes in summer weather, it still needs enough raking and other care to make sure that leaves don't pile up and create a new environment for weeds to grow in, and you've got to pick up the dog droppings ASAP or they develop a peculiarly awful smell. What's more, some homeowners' associations ban the artificial turf altogether. And if you decide or are forced to roll yours up and get rid of it, that's a rather large bit of landfill you'll need to occupy. 

3) Replace your lawn with other landscaping. This is the one I'm planning to go for soon -- partly out of necessity, having discovered that keeping a lawn under a California oak tree may kill it, because its roots can't tolerate summer water. But it can be a wise move for any homeowner, offering new opportunities to create a beautiful outdoor landscape that attracts birds and butterflies, while cutting down on all the environmental baddies mentioned above. There's lots of online advice for doing this, from sites like this one in Washington State, this one in Minnesota, and this one in California.