What is an ecolawn?

An ecolawn is a low input alternative to a conventional perennial grass lawn. Ecolawns provide a turf-type ground cover and tolerate typical uses of grass lawns.

Unlike a standard grass lawn, however, an ecolawn is a mix of broadleaf and grass species that:

  • are mutually compatible and ecologically stable
  • stay green through the dry summer months
  • need less water than conventional grass lawns
  • require little or no fertilizer

An additional benefit is that ecolawns usually require less mowing than standard lawns - once every 2 to 3 weeks during spring, summer, and fall. If watered and fertilized like a conventional lawn, however, luxurious growth will result requiring more frequent mowing.

How do I establish one?

Site preparation and establishment are basically the same as for a standard grass lawn. Regular watering is necessary for seed germination and establishment, especially during the first summer.

Once established, however, water requirements are estimated to be 1/4 to 1/3 those of a conventional lawn.

There are several commercially available ecolawn seed mixes, but most include key components tested by OSU Turf Specialist Tom Cook. Ecolawn components include:

  • Dwarf perennial ryegrass and hard fescue - non-competitive grasses, green during winter, may go dormant during summer depending on irrigation
  • Yarrow – drought tolerant, green through summer, can be invasive around edges
  • Clover – nitrogen fixation, drought tolerant, green in summer

Some mixes include other flowering broadleaves plants such as English daisy, Roman chamomile, or alyssum.

Another choice for a drought-tolerant lawn is a dwarf tall fescue such as Water Warden. This turf resembles a conventional lawn but again, needs much less water once established.

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