What Size Should My Lawn Be?

Assuming you have had your soil tested already and have some idea of the content, early spring is the time to reconsider you garden layout and how you want to use it. Getting back to the top ten eco-friendly garden practices so popular on the internet and in garden magazines, there are a couple of simple suggestions that are the proverbial “no brainer”.  One is to reduce your lawn size wherever possible.

Lawns are the highest maintenance areas of any garden. Some environmentalists advocate for the complete removal of the lawn as it is completely a fabrication of man and very labor and water, and often chemical intensive. The truth is, the lawn is about as American as Apple pie. We all love lawns, we like to play on them, care for them, many folks take pride in them. The compromise is to reduce your lawn to a more manageable size. Do this by expanding, or adding perennial beds  and groundcover areas while  reducing your lawn to a size that still allows enjoyment but does not dominate your landscape maintenance budget.

Like most eco-friendly practices, the prime motivator for many of us is budget. So consider this. If you are spending $ 100.00 a month on a lawn care service, you are also spending approximately $ 75.00 a month from Mid April through Mid October (for between 1500-2000 square feet) that’s about a dollar a foot per six months of the year or over two thousand dollars a year. That does not cover lawn aeration, replacement of sod areas, or fertilization and pest treatment generally. That price is for cut and trim services only. You can cut this down to five hundred dollars a year (saving $ 1500.00) in maintenance and water or less depending on what you choose to replace some of your lawn areas with and get greater texture, color and interest for your money.

In my own garden, we have carved our lawn down to about five hundred square feet from one thousand. Our garden now uses forty percent less water (lawns get very thirsty) and I spend half the time caring for the lawn than I would were it larger. The first place to look to replace lawns are steeply sloped areas, and around trees and shrubs. Sloped areas are dangerous to maintain with a mower (and therefore costlier). Caring for the lawn around trees and shrubs often leads to mechanical damage to the plant material (which eventually kills them costing you money). Also eliminate lawns in areas seldom frequented around the house. It’s just not worth it to spend money caring for areas you don’t use, plus there are water savings to be had particularly if you are replacing low use lawn areas with draught tolerant natives.

Wasteful lawn areas are usually on the side of the house, the perimeter in front of hedges or fences, transitions from shrub areas to sod, and even the front of the house facing the street. Alternatives can be groundcovers and perennial beds which though they cost more to establish initially, are low or no maintenance over years. If you are working with a lawn care professional, they may not be to terribly helpful in this regard, as they make their money caring for your lawn and charge by the square foot. Depending on your garden knowledge, you may want to consult with a landscape designer or architect in terms of best plants to replace your non-essential lawn areas.

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