What we (finally!) did with our lawnJuly 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!
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!
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!)
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!)
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.