In honor of our recent blog award from Frugaldad.com, we thought it would be a good idea to address the theme of frugality in lawn and garden care. Contrary to the idea that a beautiful, lush lawn can only be achieved after spending huge amounts of money, I intend to show that you can actually have the best looking lawn in the neighborhood while at the same time spending far less on it than you might think. Sure, some of the following ideas might cost a little more upfront, but the long-term savings far exceed the initial expense. Remember we’re dealing with a long-term subject. There are few things that people purchase nowadays that are expected to last a lifetime. On the other hand, landscapes are one of those things that generations to come can enjoy year after year. Foresight, planning, and a good understanding of your lawn and garden will end up saving you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in the years to come.
Tip #6: Maintain Your Mower or Use a Reel Mower
Throughout my many years of landscaping and horticultural experience, I’ve worked some pretty interesting jobs and have been employed by some pretty interesting companies. One summer I found myself working for a local landscaping company on their residential and commercial lawn mowing crew. This company, I’m ashamed to admit, liked to cut corners. I didn’t agree with their ways and ended up leaving after one season. But while I was there I learned the important lesson of equipment maintenance, and truly came to understand the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This company skimped on equipment maintenance in an effort to “save money”. Later, after several costly break-downs and hours of lost time, they wondered why they were losing so much money. Keeping your mower properly maintained will save you hundreds in future repairs. Also, by making sure your mower blades are sharp you can reduce fuel costs while at the same getting a faster, cleaner cut. This not only looks better, but it helps prevent grass stress and leaves it less susceptible to diseases. If your lawn is less than 8,000 square feet, consider using a reel mower. Reel mowers provide the best cut while totally eliminating fuel costs. They’re also a healthy way to mow your lawn, both for you and the environment.
Tip #5: Plant Perennial Flowers Instead of Annuals
Most flowers can be classified into two groups, annual or perennial. Annual flowers perform their entire life cycle in one growing season and then die at the end of the year. Some people like this and enjoy being able to rearrange their flower gardens year after year. However, the continuous need to plant new flowers each spring can become costly. On the other hand, perennial flowers will come back year after year, making them much more cost efficient. Some perennials will grow so thick over time that they eventually need to be broken up and divided. This provides additional, free flowers that can then be planted in other locations.
Tip #4: Harvest Rainwater and Be Water Wise
When it comes to saving money, nothing beats free. This can be applied to our water too. Instead of relying only on municipal water supplies that continue to increase in cost each year, take advantage of the water that Mother Nature provides us for free.Rainwater harvesting can be as simple as a 30 gallon barrel attached to the gutter of a roof, or as elaborate as a 3,000 gallon underground cistern. For larger buildings and complexes, giant underground rainwater storage tanks holding 20,000+ gallons are become very popular. Whichever sized, they can all be attached to already existing irrigation systems or hoses, and can either supplement or completely replace existing irrigation water. Also, remember to avoid watering during the heat of the day since most of this water ends up evaporating anyway. Optimize your existing irrigation system so that you’re not wasting water on streets and driveways.
Tip # 3: Create Your Own Fertilizer and Don’t Over-Fertilize
One of the most common ways we waste money in the landscape is by over-applying fertilizer. Not only is this wasteful, but it can be damaging to the environment as chemicals end up leaching into the water supply. Instead, get a professional soil test from your local cooperative extension service. These soil tests will tell you exactly what nutrients your lawn needs and how much is required. Also, make your own natural fertilizer that you can apply throughout the year by composting organic material from lawn, garden, and food waste. The simplest way to cut back on the amount of fertilizer you need to apply is to mulch your grass clippings instead of removing them. This practice returns nutrients back to the soil while saving time.
Tip #2: Establish a Lawn From Seed Instead of Sod
By resisting the urge for an instant lawn, it is possible to save some major money by sowing seed instead of installing sod. Let’s say that you have a yard measuring 2,000 square feet that you would like to turn into a lawn. The least expensive sod is around $0.30 per square foot. That means you would be paying $600 for a new lawn. Compare this to a high quality grass seed which costs $0.02 to $0.08 per square foot. That’s a savings of 90-95% over sod. Not only is seed a more frugal choice, but it can produce a higher-quality lawn. Sod lawns usually contain only one species of grass and no different varieties of that species—this is known as a monoculture and can make your lawn more susceptible to drought, disease, and stress. But by sowing grass seed we can customize our lawns for the perfect grass in every area. Shade grass for the shade, water-tolerant types for those slow draining areas, full sun grass for full sun, and drought tolerant for those areas that irrigation can’t cover.
Tip #1: Species Selection and Using Top-Rated Grass Varieties
Perhaps the most important decision you will make in determining if your lawn will become a money-saver or a money-pit is species selection. All grass is not created equal. Lawn grasses come in a multitude of species and have a multitude of maintenance requirements. Some guzzle the water, while others need only sips. Some grow fast and need weekly mowing, while other species grow very slowly and can go multiple weeks without mowing. Choosing a low-maintenance grass species such as Tall Fescue or Buffalograss will cut back on the amount of water you’ll need for irrigation, fertilizer requirements, and frequency of mowing. Another major consideration when selected grass seed is quality. The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program is an organization responsible for testing different grass varieties and assigning a rating based on how well a grass variety performed in attributes relating to color, density, growth habit, fertilizer requirements, winter dormancy, spring green-up, establishment rate, traffic resistance, and drought tolerance. Here at Nature’s Finest Seed, we only use grass varieties in our blends that have been top-rated by the NTEP. By investing in high quality grass seed instead of caving into cheap “big-box store” seed brands, you’ll spend far less on maintenance costs during the years to come.