Ecolawn: Less work and water
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 the OSU Turfgrass program and former 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 micro clover, English daisy, Roman chamomile, or alyssum.
Another choice for a drought-tolerant lawn is a dwarf tall fescue blend such as Water Warden. This turf resembles a conventional lawn but again, needs much less water once established.