Saturday, September 26, 2009

What do you mean, "kill the lawn?"

Ask Me How

I have been seeing these bumper stickers on cars for a while and didn't know what they meant. I decided to find out and I signed up for a weekend 3 hour class at the "Tree of Life Nursery." They offered a 3 hour class on a Saturday that incorporated three topics including "how to kill your lawn," California Native Plants, and tips on maintaining your California Native Garden. Quite often these classes are only held one at a time so it was a good opportunity to take them all at once.

Their were about 36 people all seated underneath the most gorgeous California Sycamore you have ever seen. It was fortunate that we had some shade because it was a very hot morning and getting hotter by the hour. You could not ask for a more beautiful setting for an outdoor classroom.

The first class, the one that resulted in the mysterious bumper sticker, was "how to kill your lawn." I don't know what I thought the class would incorporate, but I didn't think it meant to literally kill the lawn. Surprise! That is exactly what it meant. I didn't realize that killing a lawn was so tricky, but there are two types of lawns that need to be killed in two totally different ways. There are cool season grasses and warm season grasses.

Cool season grasses include fescue, marathon, bluegrass and other grass blends that stay green in the winter. Most of our clients for the Landscape Architecture business we own have the fescue type grasses for their primary lawns. The majority of homeowners in the Newport Beach area want a lush and green lawn all year regardless of how expensive their water bill may be. The other type of grass includes warm season grasses such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoyzia and any other rhizomatous grasses that are brown in the winter.

Cool season grasses, while harder to grow and keep green, are easier to kill. The fastest way to kill it is to smother it with mulch and don't water it, strip and flip it using a sod cutting machine, or rototill it if there are no rhizomatous weedy grasses mixed into it. If you have nut grass weeds growing in your lawn, (like we do in our back yard), you will need a more aggressive approach to removing your lawn - like that of the warm season grasses.

Warm season grasses are easy to grow but much harder to kill. You can not rototill them. You have to hand remove the grass by weeding and digging out the roots which is very labor intensive. You can also use an herbicide. Although very controversial, herbicides are the most effective way to kill the warm season grasses because it kills the roots.

A slow way to kill your grasses is water, grow and kill and repeat the cycle several times until the lawn doesn't come up anymore. This takes a lot of time and your neighbors won't be very happy with you for having such an ugly yard for so long.

After teaching us how to kill the lawn I thought that there would be replacements recommended for a "lawn-like" plant to replace it with. We have a dog and I can't imagine having some sort of lawn type plant for her. However, I was somewhat disappointed not to be given information like that. They did give us a list of thirty plants to put in a low water requiring native plant garden, but they weren't low growing or grass like. My husband and I would like to replace our front lawn to try and decrease our ever growing water bill. Dave, my husband and a landscape architect, has been researching the different grass types that don't need much water or maintenance. So far it seems that the Carex variety of grasses are the best and look decent all year long. Some of the other types tend to need to be replaced every couple of years and who really wants to do that? If you do a google search for images and type in Carex you will see many types of this grass and they are quite attractive. Well, enough for now! This is what I learned in the first hour of class.... Sometime soon I will blog about what else I learned in the following two hours.