By Cynthia “Meems” Glover
Trying to conquer the challenges of lawn maintenance used to feel like a losing battle. The outcome was not worth my endless efforts.
My Gulf Coast lawn presented one troublesome issue after another. Limited rain in spring produced random dry spots. Dry turf plagued by high early-summer temperatures created the perfect environment for chinch bugs, which decimated patches of my St. Augustine grass. Midsummer heavy rains invited an array of fungi.
After years of wasting money, energy and unwanted chemicals, I decided that wearisome lawn maintenance required a permanent solution. Little did I know at the time, the solution would unleash an exciting world of creativity and motivation to build a more sustainable and peaceful garden.
I began by replacing troubled and dead portions of grass with regionally suitable low-maintenance shrubs, groundcovers and perennials. Although using alternatives for lawn turf is popular with gardeners these days, it seemed like a drastic solution all those years ago.
In the beginning it involved an enormous amount of labor to gradually dig out patches of stubborn St. Augustine turf. Eventually I discovered a much more user-friendly method: Layering the area with newspaper or cardboard and then covering it with soil or mulch causes the grass underneath to die. I cover the layers with soil for creating new planting beds or mulch for new pathways.
I’ve removed three-quarters of my lawn over the last 14 years. Replacing turf grass with planting beds and pathways has given me the opportunity to create a peaceful setting that benefits my family and me year-round. Regionally suitable plants require less water, fertilizer and maintenance than a sprawling lawn. Once the plants are established, the garden is more sustainable. It’s also a delightfully natural habitat for a growing population of pollinators, birds and wildlife.
Have you discovered this easy solution to the endless problems your lawn produces?