The truth about lawn options

86530962Sometimes you just have to admit the truth: I know lots and lots about growing turfgrasses and am happy to share that knowledge with anyone, but…I have no back lawn. There, I said it.

My back yard is all plants and a patio. There was a semblance of a lawn when I moved in 20-plus years ago. And there were a couple times it really did look outstanding. Then the ground ivy, a.k.a. Creeping Charlie, got established, though to this day I don’t know how as I’m completely anal and remove all soil from the plants going in the ground. All the soil. It doesn’t just limit weeds, but lots of insects and related creatures such as slugs.

It’s not that I don’t have some lawn. There’s my front yard, but I also have to admit a small truth — it takes me 10 minutes to mow it, though five minutes is spent taking the mower to and from the garage, and dumping the clippings in the compost pile. So, in other words, it takes me five minutes to mow the front yard.

Now, I don’t mind grass. There is nothing as wonderful as looking at a picture-perfect lawn and imagining kids running across it, dogs chasing rabbits or squirrels around the green turf, or a croquet ball being sent across the mown grass by a determined opponent.

And the smell of fresh mown grass is one of those imbedded synapses that you either will take to your grave or swear you never want to remember. I opt for the former.

Now, some folks are blessed with acreages and look at the grass as an inviting lawn to welcome friends and family.

Some of us are blessed with ­postage stamp yards and not enough room to grow all the trees, shrubs, ­flowers, fruits and vegetables we want. So something has to go and that’s the lawn.

A few gardeners will have the ­fortitude to just do it — just remove every blade of grass by hook or crook, which usually means by chemical, shovel and/or sod cutter.

Others may be a little sneakier, enlarging an existing bed by a few inches each year, moving the brick edging out bit by bit. Of course, ­anyone who regularly mows can determine that something isn’t quite right.

So, where is all this leading?

First, there is no law that says how much lawn you have to have. Personally, it would be nice to have a couple acres with maybe a lawn of grasses.

Second, there is no law on the ­quality of your lawn. There might be some municipal and county ­ordinances here and there about weeds and the height of the lawn, but if you want to have a prairie, no one can really argue unless there’s ragweed and a few thistles.

Third, if you want a nicer lawn, September is the ideal month to re-seed or re-sod, fertilize, aerate (the best thing you can do next to ­winterizer fertilizer), and dethatch, if thatch is greater than a half-inch. It would help to have an inch of water per week and 70 degree temperatures.

Fourth, you can go the European route and fence in your yard and raise sheep, goats and other livestock. Check with the local ordinances first, especially in the northeast part of the state.

Finally, if you want to plant ­nothing but tree, shrubs, flowers and edible plants, and save time, energy and money by not mowing, that’s a great choice. You lucky readers that live in most of Illinois Country Living land probably don’t need to worry about too many ordinances, so consider using the European route.

David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois.