Everyone loves a lawn, thick and lush, to be played on, as a foil for your beautiful plants, and a frame for your home.
But they take so much maintenance and care, not to mention chemicals. So how do you get a lawn that requires little to no additional care than mowing and the occasional feeding?
You're in luck; and if you're starting from scratch building a lawn where no lawn has gone before, you're even more fortunate. There are some times when laziness is a great attribute. Here's my low cost alternative to a greedy lawn of sod or seed.
First, either rototil or hand rake the area you want a lawn. Then stand back, hold your demands for instant gratification, and see what happens.
Most likely, you'll get lots of weeds that thrive in open soil, the pioneers. Those will be whatever is native in your area.
Mow these, to prevent them from setting seed, and wait for at least two years. In time, grasses will start to show, as these need more shade and protection from the sun and weather. Keep mowing. Resist the urge to water it.
Over time, when you leave the finely cut mowings on the lawn, these will create a mulch effect. Each spring, instead of using chemical fertilizer or weed and feed products, sprinkle dolomite lime on the surface of the lawn. I do this just before a good rain so it will soak in.
In the fall, layer on some screened compost, either your own, or purchased. If you don't have any, some worm castings work the same way. The ideal situation is to sprinkle it so the grass doesn't have to struggle to work its way through. Drag a bar or screen around to break it up and work it into the roots.
If you're extra picky, dig out the dandelions or plantain by hand, preferably before they set seed. If you can time it so that they flower first, all the better. The tiny pollinators and predatory insects really like dandelion nectar and pollen first thing in the spring.
Plants like alsike clover and other low growing plants bring the nutrients to the surface for the shallower rooted plants like grass to access. As well, they break up the hard pan, and invite earth worms to the party to do their work too.
Eventually, your drought tolerant lawn, or green sward, will be tough and reliably green all year, with no water, no fuss, and no chemicals.