Planting Grass (or, Just Say No To Sod)

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We decided to add a patch of grass to the Mill Creek NetZero Home’s yard. Although xeriscaping has become popular among Edmonton homeowners who don’t want to do any yard work (shouldn’t they really just buy condos?), there’s a problem with it: it can be ugly and uninviting. Too often, it involves yards full of itchy scratchy rocks:

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Anyone feel like sitting down and having a picnic?

Grass has its place, and it can have a minimal impact while at the same time providing an inviting space to sit and/or play soccer.

(Not) Watering

I have never watered an established piece of grass turf. Not watering is the key to grass being a benign, easy-to-care-for piece of a yard. When it’s dry in Edmonton, I just let the grass go brown. Of course, this is easier in my neighbourhood than in most. You see, we’re dirty hippies in Mill Creek. We elect communist politicians, and we care more about how much food you grow in your yard than how immaculate your monoculture front lawn is. That said, I would take the same stand anywhere. Grass is not a good enough reason to use up drinking water.

I have also never fertilized grass. If you really want a yard to be a lot of work, fertilize and water your grass often.

Planting Grass (Just Say No To Sod)

The two major ways in which we "greened" our little patch of grass was to plant it from seed, and to choose a drought-resistant variety.

Sod production uses a lot of chemicals and a lot of diesel fuel. It then uses more diesel to transport the pieces of sod to your yard.

Instead of phoning the sod guy, I picked up a bag of Scotts Pure Premium Heat & Drought Grass Seed Mix from Home Depot for $17. Containing "varieties of Chewing Fescue, Creeping Red Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass and turf-type Perennial Ryegrass", it will look and feel better than regular grass on the rain-only diet that I intend to feed it.

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I seeded the grass in early spring following the instructions from one of the many grass seeding videos on Youtube. I did ignore the boilerplate advice to fertilize the soil before seeding. Grass will grow just fine without ever being fertilized. The city has great advice on grass' ongoing maintainenance.

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We're happy with how our grass turned out. The kids will finally have a place to play soccer, and the cheapskate in me is enthused that we only spent a few bucks to get it.

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I believe that the 'rock garden' above is an unfortunate case of zeroscaping and has nothing to do with Xeriscaping (Xeros means 'dry' in Greek). Xeriscaping is a form of landscaping that uses drought tolerant PLANTS to reduce watering needs. It is also not necessarily low maintenance. Weeding needs to be done and plants need to be cut back. Unless you want the perfect looking weed free lawn, a lawn is by far the lowest maintenance type of landcaping you can choose. The rock garden above may be low maintenance for a couple of years, but once the weeds blow in it will be very difficult to keep them under control in a way that does not involve Roundup. To anyone interested in true xeriscaping I recommend the book 'Creating the Prairie Xeriscape' by Sara Williams. http://www.amazon.ca/Creating-Prairie-Xeriscape-Sara-Williams/dp/0888803575

Thanks Philip!

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