The Low-Maintenance Lawn: 7 Tips for a Lazy Gardener

Many proud homeowners love to lean back, put their feet up and gaze out at a pristine lawn, but maintaining perfectly manicured grass isn’t always this relaxing. Grass lawns are, in fact, an element of the garden that often require more work than other sections of your backyard.

But don’t despair. Whilst lawn spaces always require some love and care on the part of their keepers, there are ways you can minimize the amount of time and effort spent nurturing your grass whilst still keeping it looking neat, fresh, and healthy. We’ve assembled some top tips for lawn lovers who don’t want to be toiling in the sun all season.

Many of these tips are also good for the environment too, so you can be helping the health of the planet whilst also saving time and money.

1.  Choose a grass species that’s well suited to your climate and needs

You can save yourself time, effort, and headaches by thinking carefully about which species of grass you use for your lawn. Choosing a species that is both well suited to your local climate and the specific needs of your garden is crucial in making sure your lawn is as resilient as it can be, requiring less intervention on your part.

A primary difference between types of lawn grass is whether a species is cool season or warm season. Cool season species tend to be better at tolerating frost, diminished light levels, and generally colder temperatures. They also have a different growing season to their warm season counterparts, beginning to grow late in winter or early spring, before becoming dormant as the hotter months reach their peak. Your local climate will likely dictate whether a warm or cool season grass would be better suited to your needs.

In addition to climate, what you intend to use your lawn for can also indicate which sorts of species you may wish to consider. For example, bermuda grasses can be a great option for gardens in warmer climates that are also likely to see a fair amount of physical wear and tear. These grasses are tough and resilient, can survive hotter months without heavy watering, and produce denser growth. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are two popular options for cooler climes.

To find out which species may be best for your local area, contact your local agricultural department for recommendations.

2.  Get an automated robot mower

Although buying and installing an automated mower can involve a small upfront investment of time and money, the amount of manual work it will save you in the months and years ahead can be astounding. These increasingly affordable robots are becoming ever more popular with homeowners who want to keep their lawn healthy and trim but don’t have the time or inclination to be manually mowing it every few weeks.

Automated mowers tend to operate via a pre-installed boundary wire, showing them where to mow and where to stop, though some higher tech models can also be programmed simply via GPS and steer by motion sensor. All reputable commercial models come with a range of safety features built in, including automatic cut-off if the mower is tilted or lifted.

When an automated mower runs out of battery, it will return to its electrical charging point to refuel. Other than requiring an occasional rinse-down, these machines really are incredibly low maintenance.

3.  Leave your lawn clippings in place

Another advantage of automatic mowers is that they leave grass clippings in place, allowing the clipped grass to be reassimilated into the soil and feeding your lawn with nutrients. Even if you don’t have an automated mower, leaving your grass clippings on the lawn after you’ve mowed can be a great way to organically reintroduce nutrients and save time.

Some people worry that leaving grass on the lawn can cause unwanted thatch to form or even stifle fresh growth. As long as your clippings are not thick or long enough to entirely cover your lawn, this shouldn’t be an issue. As a general rule, lawns love to have their grass stems recomposted back into the earth, meaning less need for chemical fertilizer and other potentially time-consuming interventions.

4.  Avoid buying unnecessary fertilizer

Lawns often don’t require as much additional fertilization as people sometimes think. Many homeowners, influenced by the persuasive advertising of fertilizer companies, think that unless they apply a range of chemical products to their grass they simply won’t get the bright green sheen they’re looking for.

In fact, many lawn spaces only need a marginal addition of nutrients, if any at all. To save yourself investing in fertilizer products that can also prove harmful to insects and the ecosystem at large, consider carrying out a soil test to see whether or not your soil actually lacks any key ingredients.

If your soil profile does need remedying in some way, consider opting for an organic, slow release fertilizer rather than high-concentrate, chemical additives. With the latter, you risk burning or over feeding the grass, and the higher levels of nutrient in the product won’t necessarily be absorbed effectively. All plant species, grass included, can only absorb so much of a nutrient until it is no longer useful and potentially even counter productive. 

5.  Create a solid edge around your lawn

If you do opt to mow your lawn regularly and you have a number of borders to navigate, adding a solid edge to these borders can help speed up the mowing process and make your garden appear neater at the same time.

Raised wood at the edge of flower beds or protective stone banks around trees and roots can make mowing around the area far easier, as you can simply run the mower up to the edge of the solid boundary without having to be too gentle or careful. The border itself is also likely to need less maintenance and will look cleaner and neater for longer. You might save a few precious flowers from accidental mowing too!

6.  Don’t water excessively and use irrigation systems wisely

Just as with fertilizer, many lawn owners actually end up giving their grass more water than it needs. A well chosen species of grass should be able to do well in its appropriate climate with only around an inch of water a week. One moderate spell of rain should be enough to keep it happy for days.

Watering the lawn can sometimes feel as time consuming as mowing it, so see if you can reduce the amount you’re actually spraying or hosing.

Automated irrigation systems can be a great way of cutting down on human effort, but make sure you have them set to only provide the requisite amount of irrigation. Try to choose models, or calibrate your sprinklers, so that they distribute large drops close to the ground rather than firing mist high into the air.

It’s also worth ensuring that, however your lawn is watered, this takes place early in the morning, before the sun has had a chance to reach its height. All these steps will significantly reduce evaporation. Good for your water bill, good for your schedule, good for the planet.

7.  Consider introducing alternative landscape elements to your yard

Finally, if you find yourself with a lawn space that genuinely fields too unwieldy to maintain by hand, consider turning part of it into something that can thrive with a more hands-off approach.

Meadow gardens with wildflowers or rocky spaces interspersed with drought-resistant plants can help break up a grass space in a way that will mean less effort on your part in the long run. They can also boost the biodiversity of your garden and provide well needed sustenance for pollinators and beneficial insects.

Other plant species can also be introduced to keep your garden looking lawn-like, but without relying on traditionally needier lawn grass. Groundcover species such as clover can be a great way to supplement your lawn and still maintain much of its smooth, green aesthetic.

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