What we (finally!) did with our lawn

July 8, 2010

Yes, nearly two years after I first asked the interweb what we should do with the lawn, we finally did something!

Under pressure from a looming wedding brunch, I finally got my act together and chose the EarthTurf grass seed mix for our lawn. EarthTurf is apparently made by Hobbs & Hopkins in Portland—or at least it shares a physical address and is sold through the same site as their seed—and as far as I can tell is roughly the same as the Rough & Ready mix that H&H sells, so it may just be the same mix rebranded. It’s similar to the Fleur de Lawn mix that everyone overwhelmingly picked on my little poll a couple years back, but without the flowers. (I had read stories of Fleur de Lawn that noted that the flowering plants tended to attract slugs, which are a HUGE issue in our yard, so I decided we didn’t need any more of that, as nice as the flowers would have been!) Instead, EarthTurf mixes white microclover with creeping red fescue, hard fescue, sheep’s fescue, chewings fescue, dwarf perennial ryegrass and smooth stalked meadow grass, all drought-tolerant types of turfgrass. In theory, when the lawn is mature it will need little water and the clover will help fix nitrogen so that it self-fertilizes. The few reports I’d read of people who’ve grown it also noted that it was especially resilient to dogs. We’ll see!

Yard pre-grass

Yard pre-grass

The new garden path!

The new garden path!

We’ve gone back and forth on whether to put grass back into the center of the yard over the past two years, but in the end, we decided it was important to have some turf for the dog to run on. We did ring the grassy area with a three-foot path all the way around, though, and encircled the baby avocado tree with rocks to set it aside, so we have far less grass than we did to start with. Still, it’s been slow-going. Growing grass from seed turns out to be hard and somewhat unfulfilling work. I like the EarthTurf mix a lot where it’s come up, but seeding a lawn has turned out to be far more difficult than I imagined. In addition, while it’s easy to tell mature microclover and oxalis apart, it’s not so simple when they’re seedlings, and we might have had better luck exterminating the oxalis had we used sod instead. If I had it to do over, I think I’d just get the sod and deal with having a less-than-ideal mix of grass types. By the time we seed and re-seed to fill in the bald spots, we’ll probably have spent about the same amount, and sod would have been much faster!

Grass growing (a little!)

Grass growing (a little!)

Grasses and microclover

Grasses and microclover

For now, the plan is to keep watering the grass that did come up as it matures, and then when the rains start in the fall I’ll reseed in the areas where nothing happened. Hopefully we’ll have a lush lawn by next summer! In the meantime, I’m also pleased to report that the Labradane has taken to the new paths with flying colors, and is now pretty adept at jumping the fences that are supposed to keep him off the grass and running around the yard on them (except when a squirrel is in play!)


In theory, our grass will someday look like this. (Photo from http://www.earthturfco.com)

I’ll post an update after the next rainy season to see how this stuff weathers a California winter. (Since it’s designed for the Pacific Northwest, I have high hopes that it will thrive here too, since our weather isn’t so different, but I couldn’t find anyone in the area who’d tried it, so I guess we’re the guinea pigs!)

(Oh, and for those who don’t remember my little garden plan from last summer, we’re actually making nice progress on it! See?)

Update, 04/02/2013: Many months ago, someone asked what software I used to create the plan for our yard. It was a tool called Garden Planner by Artifact Interactive. I used an older version for Mac, but they now have an online version that looks pretty handy too. It’s free to try and relatively inexpensive to buy (it’s good to support small software developers–plus the guy who created it has a very cute baby!), and very easy to use.



  1. Hey, I know you have your tanks already, thanks to Gene’s help, but did you see this? (Oakland residents only).


    Apparently ARRA funds are subsidizing the cost of these barrels….

  2. Nice—I’ll try to get that post up in time for people to take advantage of this if they want to grab one! (And these are cheaper and far simpler to put together than ours, if not quite as pretty… ;))

  3. I am also torn between the earth turf or rough and ready. Curious if you have any new feedback on the earth turf lawn. Pictures would be great!

  4. Hi! I have been neglecting this blog somethin’ awful but will try to get some photos up. I’d say our general feedback is that we don’t really think the earth turf is super drought tolerant (had to water many times this summer and it’s still hurting) and it is definitely not no-mow, although I suspect it could be low-mow (once a month or once every other month)—but left to its own devices it will get very tall and go to seed, which makes a big mess. However, if you’re down with those two things, it’s a nice dense cover that held up well to our dog until it really got dry/brown late in the summer (at which point it started to get dusty and we started watering more). So it’s not quite what we were hoping for, but it’s definitely better than what we had. I’ll try to take some photos now and also after the rains start, when I expect it will bounce back with more oomph. Hope that helps!

  5. Very nice design. May I ask how you did it? Did (or do) you have landscaping experience? Did use software and if so which application? I have an oversized lot and my husband is not visual. If I could make something like your plan it would go a long way to getting something done around here. Thank you for any suggestions you care to offer.

  6. Thanks! No, I don’t have any landscaping experience (as evidenced by the current state of our yard, if/when I ever do get some recent photos posted…) but I do work in a design-related field so I know my way around the Adobe suite, which has been invaluable in designing house and garden projects. I did use some sort of freebie software for the garden plan, though–I will try to dig up what it was (since it was several years ago at this point) but it was very easy, basically a drag ‘n’ drop program with a palette of garden “items” you could choose from.

  7. Hi, I am looking at overseeding with the Earth Turf brand. How has your project come along since you did it back some time ago? Is the clover overwhelming when you look at the lawn? Any new pics?


  8. Hi, I’m in the process of redoing our yards to cut down on the water use. Since you planted it 6 years ago would you still recommend Earth Turf Overseed, or is there something better? We’re just going to sprinkle it on the grass. We have dogs and LA DWP suggested clover. Any help you can give me would help a lot. Thanks so much.

  9. Hi Linda and AB–sorry for the long delay! I’m actually not really sure how to respond to this one. EarthTurf has not been a great fit for us, and we’ve pretty much abandoned ship on it although some of the grasses have stuck it out. A big part of this was likely the CA drought that started shortly after we planted–we cut back watering considerably and that may have been the death knoll for it. However, we also had issues with one of the grasses in the mix taking over entirely; the clover is completely gone (so to AB, no, not at all overwhelming–I’d like to be a little more overwhelmed by it!) It has held up well to dogs where it’s taken root, but we never got it to full coverage despite several strategic reseedings and transplanting to fill the gaps. The grass that is now dominant is longer and hasn’t been especially kid-friendly just because it’s hard to wade through. We do still have patches of Bermuda grass that have hung on too despite our early efforts to extinguish it. We haven’t really figured out next steps on this yet, but will either do sod or move away from grass all together. I think the failure of the Earth Turf is about evenly split between it not being as good a fit as we’d hoped and our not watering it as well as we should have, though. (It is also not really no-mow in a yard that is getting frequent use; it’s pretty long and meadowy so you do need to mow to keep it from getting unwieldy.) Good luck with your projects!

  10. Hi AB, I appreciate your response, and I will need luck with this project, and your comments have been helpful. Take care, Linda

  11. Oops. I mean Artemis

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