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.