So you might already know from my previous posts that I'm not a huge fan of lawns. They are not great for the environment; the water, fertilizer, pesticides, and other chemicals that people pour into their grass is unfortunate. You might also know that we scraped off several inches of our whole front yard and we have been working away at creating an edible landscape.
After much deliberation, we decided to dedicate part of our yard to a... lawn. I know, I know. I'll say it - hypocrite! Before you give me a hard time, hear me out. We have two young kids who spend lots of time playing outside in our garden. We have a sizable suburban front yard which makes for a great place to play. So, we had space to fill and kids who need somewhere to play close at hand. If we were going to do a lawn, we needed to have an environmentally-conscious approach. We already did not use pesticides or fertilizers on our previous lawn, so we didn't need to change our approach in that respect. We also didn't water our lawn either. We let it go brown in the summer (oh boy, did it go brown). We did have concern that the invasive chafer beetle was closing in on our neighbourhood, having ravaged the lawns of other adjacent municipalities. We had two concerns - a prickly dead brown lawn and the chafer beetle. Who knew that we could solve both problems at the same time?
We found a lawn seed blend that combines tall fescue and microclover. This combination does not form a layer of thatch that other grass blends create. The layer of thatch is what helps critters peel back the top layer of grass to eat the juicy chafer beetle grubs hiding underneath. The thatch is also inviting to the chafer beetles which see it as a good place to lay their eggs.
Some people may cringe at the idea of deliberately putting clover into their lawn, but clover is a natural nitrogen fixer, which will help to keep the tall fescue green and healthy. The clover will die back in the winter but re-emerge in the spring, with the fescue remaining green year round.
Tall fescue is a type of grass which grows tightly together, not leaving much space for the chafer beetle to enter and lay eggs. it also forms deeper roots which allows it access to moisture deeper below the surface of your lawn, meaning it will stay greener for longer.
As a bonus, between the microclover and the tall fescue, this blend is suited to both full sun and part shade!
Here's the catch. This type of lawn seed blend is best applied to bare soil which has been prepared for grass seed application. This mix does not lend itself to over-seeding. We were fortunate that we decided to make the change to this blend when we had no lawn at all.
So here's how we did it:
1) We removed several inches off the top of the previous yard/lawn, removing the grass and some of the clay with it. The clay was not conducive for growing anything at all. When our yard was dry, we had no shovel that could pierce through the rock-like surface.
2) We put down a layer of turf blend (50/50 sand and compost mix) to help with drainage and hopefully break up the deep, heavy clay underneath. We put another layer of bulk garden soil on top. This wasn't perhaps the best idea, but it was the least expensive option we had. We also need the soil to form the beds we were making. There were lots of bits of wood and bark that I raked out to the best of my ability.
3) I fluffed up the top layer and levelled it with a levelling rake.
4) I seeded the soil, then raked and levelled it again.
5) I did an extra sprinkle of the seed mix, just for good measure.
6) With daily sprinkling of watering to get it started, it was showing clover and fescue growth within a week! Now, I'm hoping that the spring rain will take it from here.
Voila! That's it! I will keep you updated to let you know how it looks over the summer once it becomes established.
UPDATE 2022: Not only did our lawn stay lush and green through the heat dome and drought, but it looks like it will bounce back just fine after our fierce winter. I've noticed more lawns in the neighbourhood getting damaged as a result of chafer beetles, which is another reason I'm glad that we went with this blend.