Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers

Cutting Down on Lawn Care (page 2 of 3)

by Warren Schultz

Northeast and Midwest

Fine fescues have a well-deserved reputation as low-maintenance grasses. But perhaps the most trouble-free of all, hard fescue, has been overlooked until recently. "If anyone in the Northeast wants a true low-maintenance grass, hard fescue is the way to go," says Richard Hurley, of Loft's Seed Company in Bound Brook, New Jersey. This grass has wiry, needle-like blades like other fine fescues, but it grows slowly and has a mature height of only 6 inches. "At my vacation home, I often make only two mowings per year: one in the third week of May, one in mid-June," says Hurley. "In fact, sometimes I don't even use a mower; I just knock off the seed heads with a string trimmer. When I'm done, I get more compliments than you could imagine." 'Biljart', 'Discovery', 'Reliant II', and 'SR 3100' are good varieties.

Though common Canada bluegrass is found in pastures throughout the cooler areas of the North, it grows most vigorously and forms a dense turf in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 and 4. New varieties, such as 'Reubens', have better color and finer texture than the species, but they retain the ability to grow well in poor conditions, including low fertility, acidic soils, low moisture, and cool temperatures.

Another potential lawn grass for northern regions is the ultra shade-tolerant Poa supina 'Supernova', a perennial and spreading relative of the famous weed, annual bluegrass (Poa annua). Tests at Michigan State University established that 'Supernova' can grow in deep shade far better than any other lawn grass. It needs cool temperatures and moisture. Availability is limited, but you can find it as a component of some shade-area lawn mixes for northern regions.

Southeast

Southerners in the know call centipede grass the lazy man's grass. That's because this light green grass grows slowly and requires less mowing and fertilizing than most other warm-season grasses. Centipede grass is very well suited for the sandy soils of the Southeast and Gulf states. It is coarsely textured, low growing, and somewhat cold-tolerant (to 5° F).

You can grow common centipede grass from seed, but improved varieties, such as 'AU Centennial', 'Oaklawn', and 'Tennessee Hardy', must be propagated by sprigs, which are individual plants, runners, cuttings, or stolons that are planted at spaced intervals.

Throughout the upper South, blends of turf-type tall fescue have replaced Kentucky bluegrass as the fancy lawn of choice. Only an expert could tell them apart, yet the fescue is much less demanding and less problem-prone.

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