It is estimated that lawns cover over 62,000 square miles of ground across the United States. They not only generate high maintenance costs and negative environmental impact, but also provide minimal wildlife value. They are visually uninteresting to humans and wildlife.
While lawns may offer a great place to have a quick pickup game of baseball or a picnic, they also require a lot of maintenance. The picture perfect lawn has numerous negative environmental costs. The synthetic chemicals you apply to control pests and promote growth are a source of pollution and wash off into the storm drains and end up in our streams, lakes, and bays. Those chemicals applied to your lawn can also be dangerous to your small children and pets who tend to get up close and personal with your lawn. Lawns also require additional water – lots – to maintain that golf course fairway look. If endless amounts of mowing, fertilizing, watering, and other lawn chores are not for you, we suggest that you replace your lawn with native shrubs, trees, and perennials.
Suggestions for how to reduce the size of your lawn include:
Reduce the Size of Your Lawn
- Choose areas of lawn that are the least used and most difficult to maintain. Expand the size of your garden beds and employ smooth curves, particularly in corners. Be sure to call NJ One Call before you dig if you are uncertain of where utilities might be buried at (800) 272-1000 or 8-1-1
- Terracing any slopes on your property will save work and help to reduce erosion.
- Remove turf from under your trees, at least as far as the drip line so that leaf litter can remain in place. Then plant a living mulch.
- Plant using multiple layers or mixed borders. In nature plants thrive in a layered landscape. From canopy trees to understory trees, to shrubs, to mixed perennials, including ground covers, nature provides plants for every situation.
- In a sunny area replace your lawn with a meadow of native wildflowers. Wildflower meadows usually require only a single mowing early in the season, reducing work while adding beauty and extensive wildlife value.
When you landscape sustainably, you enable the soil, plants and animals to live and work in harmony to sustain each other.
BENEFITS OF REDUCING YOUR LAWN SIZE
- Reduce lawn care costs. The costs of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can add up.
- Save monies on watering. Once established, a bed of native plants requires little to no additional water.
- Save your time and energy. Applying synthetic chemicals, watering and mowing requires time that you will no longer have to supply.
- Reduce pollution. There are health concerns with the application of synthetic chemicals.
- Reduce yard waste. Sustainable landscaping practices calls for you to reenergize your property by keeping your yard waste to a minimum and reusing it on site.
- Reduce air and noise pollution from gas lawnmowers.
- Increased biodiversity. Give back a small portion of the habitat that we took from native wildlife with overdevelopment. Support pollinators, birds, and all types of wildlife by offering varied native plantings that offer shelter and food.
- Increase the value of your property. Just as trees add value to your home, so too does low-maintenance native landscaping add value.
- Add beauty to your landscape. Learn to restore the local environment and enjoy that sense of wonderment that comes when your support of nature allows you to observe it up close.
Low Maintenance Tips for the Remaining Lawn Areas
Tips for reducing costs of time and monies spent on your remaining lawn include:
- Don’t fertilize unless you actually need to. Get a soil test.
- Use natural fertilizers.
- Grass cycle – leave your clippings on your lawn to break down and add nitrogen as they break down.
- Water only when needed.
- Mow high. Longer grass shades itself during the heat of the summer, keeps it cooler, and helps to retain moisture.
Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. Figures show that grass disposal may account for 10-20% of New Jersey’s municipal solid waste stream. With the high cost of waste disposal and limited space in landfills; we can no longer afford to dispose of grass clippings in the household trash and at the same time waste a critical natural resource. The simple solution is actually the best solution. Grow a healthy lawn just by leaving grass clippings as you mow your lawn. It’s simple, easy, saves time, money and energy.
When you leave your grass clippings on your lawn to decompose; it acts as a natural organic fertilizer supplying half of the nitrogen your lawn needs to thrive. Clippings, which are 80% water, settle between the blades of grass where they shelter the roots from the sun – conserving moisture. They also cool the roots and block weed growth. Your lawn will remain healthy and green because each time you mow; you will return valuable nutrients to the soil and ultimately need to water less frequently.
Grasscycling begins with proper mowing
To maintain your lawn properly, mow high and mow often, so that you never take off more than 1/3 of the length of the grass. This will result in an attractive, neatly trimmed lawn. Keep grass mowed to 2” in early spring, gradually raise the height to 3-4” by summer, then gradually reduce to 2” by late fall.
You don’t have to go out to buy a new mower. While most new mowers are mulching mowers; you can attach mulching equipment to your existing mower. Just remove the grass catcher. Ask your lawn mower dealer if you need a special safety plug or adapter kit to convert your mower into a ‘recycling’ mower; installing a mulching blade also is helpful.
There are times when grasscycling does not work. Prolonged wet weather, mower breakdowns, or infrequent mowing are situations where the large number of grass clippings should probably be collected. Add those clippings to your compost pile or use them as mulch around trees, flower beds, and shrubs. The addition of this organic matter will ultimately improve your soil; sandy soils will retain more water and heavy clay soils will become more productive.
So Why Grasscycle?
So grasscycle for a healthy green lawn; to save a lot of green; and to be environmentally green. Take advantage of the beneficial organic matter it adds to the soil making it greener and healthier, crowding out weeds and reducing the need for fertilizer. Save time and effort by eliminating the bagging, raking and disposing of grass clippings. And finally, help the environment by reducing water and fertilizer requirements and reducing toxic runoff entering storm drains and polluting creeks and rivers. It’s the ‘green’ thing to do.