Lawns are an important part of many functional, beautiful landscapes and provide a lot of enjoyment – especially for kids and pets and outdoor entertaining. But not all home landscapes need lawns, and there are many options for going turf-free.
For homeowners that wish to have a thick, healthy lawn but are starting from scratch or want to rejuvenate a stressed yard, late spring/early summer is a good time to plant bermuda grass seed and is also a good time to lay sod. Start with good soil preparation – turfgrass will establish much better and maintain a better appearance and stay healthier in the long run if the soil is loosened up and compost is tilled in before planting. But be sure to smooth and level out the soil before planting the seed or sod. Water lightly very frequently at first to help establish roots, then slowly reduce frequency and increase duration until one inch of water is applied no more than once per week.
To maintain, mowing and irrigation are two of the most important tasks to focus on this time of year. Frequent, correct mowing and appropriate irrigation have the biggest impact on the lawn staying dense and keeping out weeds. Mow at the correct height (about 0.5 inch for hybrid bermudagrass, 1 inch for common bermudagrass, and 2.5 inches for St. Augustine), often enough so that no more than 1/3 of the height of the grass is removed at once. Water deeply but infrequently to encourage deep rooting. Once inch of water, once per week is sufficient in the hot dry part of summer, and once every two or three weeks is enough when it’s cooler in the spring and fall. Use an efficient irrigation method and consider converting sprinkler nozzles to a more efficient type if needed, such as a multi-stream nozzle. Sprinklers should not throw a fine mist, but large droplets that make it through the air and into the soil.
A turf-free landscape is a good option for those that don’t need turfgrass. There are lots of options that can help create a beautiful green, lush yard that conserves natural resources and doesn’t require weekly mowing; and it can be done in a well-designed, attractive way. Try an internet search such as ‘lawn free landscaping’ to get visual ideas and inspiration. Flagstone pavers with small groundcover growing in between, more beds for perennials and edibles, and turf-alternatives such as mondograss or native grass mixes are just a few of the many ideas and options.
Join the Concho Valley Master Gardeners for a Spring Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 21 to see several home landscapes and demo gardens to get ideas of what works well in the Concho Valley, including some beautiful turfgrass-free landscapes. It’s free to participate, but pre-registration is required. Visit https://txmg.org/conchovalley/ for more details and to register.
Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at [email protected]