Keeping It Low Maintenance
Especially for first-time homeowners, the work and cost involved in maintaining a lawn can often come as quite a shock. In Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James suggests that if you find keeping a lawn to be burdensome, you should consider how often your lawn is used and whether grass or a lower-maintenance ground cover would work best for you. She suggests that you check with a nursery about hardy ground covers that thrive in your locale — drought-tolerant and low-maintenance ground covers such as pachysandra, dichondra, and ivy.
She also offers these tips for simplifying lawn care (if you do choose to keep your lawn):
Make the lawn portion of your yard smaller.
Many types of grass have an opportunity to grow healthier roots when they can grow up to 2 or 3 inches. Keep in mind that the taller the grass, the more shade is provided by each blade, thus not only will the grass weather the heat better, but less water will evaporate.
Take care not to overwater your lawn (according to Elaine St. James, most people overwater their lawns by 40 percent). Water slowly and deeply and keep in mind that certain times of the day are far better for watering than others — to fortify your grass for the day ahead (and to reduce evaporation) water in the early morning.
Use organic fertilizers (if you need them) and don't pick up the lawn clippings. Not only is it simpler to leave them there, but they are better used in your yard than in a landfill. These clippings actually serve as a natural fertilizer.
If your yard is small enough, you might want to purchase a manual (push) mower. These mowers are much easier to move than their bulkier gas or electric counterparts, and they never need to be charged and never run out of gas. They are ecologically friendly and they might even help tone your arms for the summer months. Keep in mind that if your mower is easy to transport from your shed or garage, then you will be more likely to use it — and less likely to let the grass get completely out of control.
Caring for Your Yard During a Drought
During a drought when water is limited, you're better off giving water to your trees rather than your lawn. Lawns are incredibly resilient and can be recovered during a moisture-rich year. Trees, however, are costly to replace and grow slowly. Trees need the moisture during the summer months to fortify them for the year ahead. If trees are treated well, they serve as natural air conditioners in the yard, providing a shady place to rest on even the hottest of days.
Pets and the Yard
While it can be a great luxury to open your back door and let the dog make his own choice about where to go, this practice can be very hard on your lawn. Dog urine is caustic for grass and will leave unsightly brown spots. One solution is to train your dog to use the same area every day, an area in which you've placed small pebbles or wood chips. This will make it easy to spot droppings that need to be removed, and will reduce harm to your greenery.
Because dogs will generally follow the scent from the day before, training them to use the same area should not be too difficult. Begin by placing the dog on a leash and taking him to the same spot every day. Praise the dog when he goes in that spot, and perhaps give him a treat. Eventually, your dog will be conditioned to go only in one area. You will have a much simpler job keeping that area clean, your lawn will be preserved, and your kids can play in the grass without worries.
Another way to reduce wear and tear on the portion of a yard used by dogs is to install brick or stone pathways. These pathways add an attractive accent to the yard, and it can be easy to spot and clean droppings on them.
Get the Hose Out
Even if you've trained your dog to go only in designated areas, your dog, or a stray dog, may occasionally urinate on the grass. When this occurs, quickly get a hose and dilute the spot where the dog urinated. The water will prevent the high concentration of salt and nitrates that can be the most harmful to your grass.