It's the Plants, Darling

Eco-Lawn Giveaway: Want to Try a More Sustainable Turfgrass?

EcolawnsantaBarbara WINNERS ANNOUNCED BY ECO-LAWN:

– Michelle
D. is the grand winner of two 5 lb bags of Eco-Lawn. I delight in the fact that
she has done a huge amount of research into various types of lawn – seed, sod
even artificial turf. I like the look of the site, the sandy soil and the fact
that Eco-Lawn will in some small way contribute to the family's quality of life
as they support the dad through his healing process. Her Northern California
location will work beautifully.

– I
would also like to offer a five lb bag of Eco-Lawn to the somewhat skeptical Mr.
Dave Reed in the mid-Atlantic area. I invite his disciplined due diligence and
will be pleased to work with him!

– I
thank all GardenRanters for playing in this giveaway game!  Since not everyone
can win, Wildflower Farm is offering a 20% discount on all Eco-Lawn orders from
now through the end of October.  When ordering, use the code GR1009. 

Miriam Goldberger.
________________________
Alternative lawn types are finally getting the attention they deserve. The key is to find the ones that do best in your region, but for lots of North America, that'll be mixes of fine fescues, many of which are native to the North and East.  They really ARE lower-maintenance than the turfgrasses we grew up with (Kentucky bluegrass, et al,) because they're more drought-tolerant and slower-growing. 

Unmowed, they'll grow to 8-9" and fold over to 4-5" tall.  If you decide to mow, you won't have to as often as you would with conventional grass mixes.  After it's established, watering isn't needed in most regions reportedly only required during the longest droughts.  In the hotter, drier regions they need about 75 less water – either by irrigation or rain – than common turfgrasses.  This photo is of the mix  called "Eco-Lawn" in a park in Santa Barbara, CA.

Another big plus?  They tolerate a lot of shade and are quite cold-tolerant (but less suited to the hotter regions).  Another advantage we read is that in most soils they need no fertilizing.  They MAY stay green all year, assuming no severe drought and adequate snow cover.

Drawbacks?  Hey, if there weren't any, we'd have been growing this stuff all along.  The questions on everyone's lips are how much heat and humidity can they withstand?  And how much traffic?  Miriam Goldberger, who sells Eco-Lawn from her Wildflower Farm in Ontario, tells me they're bringing out a high-traffic, sports-ready version soon, so the R&D on tougher varieties must be pretty promising.

Here are the FAQs about Eco-LawnHere's their chart of seeding times by state – seems to be a wide window of opportunity and their tips for installation.

FREE ECO-LAWN TO A WILLING GROWER/REPORTER

Planning on putting in a new lawn?  Tell us about your new-lawn project in a comment, with an estimate of the square footage, and win enough Eco-Lawn to do the job.  The only catch?  Tell us the results!  That means following the instructions – to give the product a fair shot at succeeding – or telling us how you didn't.  So you're applying for an important job here – the test-grower who'll help us find turfgrasses that need drastically reduced inputs.  We're accepting entries by comment until 9 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, 9/11.

Posted by on September 10, 2009 at 9:28 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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38 responses to “Eco-Lawn Giveaway: Want to Try a More Sustainable Turfgrass?”

  1. ksb1 says:

    I have a back “lawn” which I’d be willing to try the seed on if you think it’s suitable.
    Measures approx. 70′ W x 50′ D. North facing depthwise. Zone 5/6 (SW CT). Acidic. I have a soil test from 3 yrs ago if you want to know the full details. Approx. 25% of the width gets sun, 50% gets partial sun and 25% gets shade. I have tried many seed types over the past 3 years with more success with Agways Conservation Mix and top-dressed with compost this past spring (no chemicals thank you). However, shaded areas have no/little grass, some moss and a few weeds (hey, they’re green, they look like grass from a distance). The partial shade/sun area has some grass – spotty/clumpy (obviously not rhizomatous) with area filling in with crabgrass and a few weeds that I think are smartweed(?). No, really it’s a delight!

    I do not have to water this “lawn”. Overhead on the shade side are 80-90ft white oaks and a couple norway maples (which certainly doesn’t help in the super shady no grass area – they are likely part of the problem.)

    When it’s mown it doesn’t look as awful as it sound here but I’ve been focussing on other parts of the yard (front) more. Eventually I will have to face it!

    If I don’t reseed the lawn, current plan is to convert shade area to gravel and containers and woodland garden and reduce lawn area to area that grows grass the best (approx 40′ diameter circle) by installing mixed perennial beds on sinny side.
    If chosen I would like to know if I’m expected to rip up up the existing lawn.

  2. al l says:

    not that I like to mow, but id just be concerned about deer ticks and other crawlies that might like that high unmowed look.

  3. Rob says:

    Hmm. I have been thinking about pulling up the rest of the lawn (much of it already having gone to various beds). The lot is 1/3 acre, but I’d estimate the lawn is only 1/3 of the remainder, so maybe 5,000-7,000 square feet, including the area between the sidewalk and curb.

    Of this total, half is in full shade, and half in full sun. I do not provide supplemental water to the lawn, and it hasn’t been a problem in the last 4 years.

    This may be because we’re firmly in zone 5 territory (Chicago, IL). If we don’t use this, I am planning on using something like it. :-)

  4. I’ll answer ksb1’s questions. Based on your description, Eco-Lawn will do quite well in your varied locations. There are many many Eco-Lawns growing in CT! In fact there are Eco-Lawns in every state and province! The fine-fescues in Eco-Lawn grow naturally in the shade under both deciduous and pine trees and in open sunny meadows.
    Under thirsty maples and oaks Eco-Lawn works well too. The roots of Eco-Lawn go down 9 – 14 inches and when mature can compete successfully with nasty tree roots. Check the Eco-Lawn FAQ for the easy steps.
    And you’ll be pleased to hear there is no need to rip up your existing lawn. That is waaaayy too much work. Simply mow your existent “lawn” super short. Then take a steel rake and rake the thatch away and rough up the soil bout a quarter inch. Then seed. Simple.

  5. Meryl says:

    We totally need this!

    Just moved into a new house, so we’re reconfiguring what the previous owner had in the backyard. We’re moving some beds around and eliminating others. (The way it was done is just so random). About half of it is pretty shady, and the other half gets late morning/afternoon sun. We’re currently having trouble keeping grass in some of the shady parts because of dog/foot traffic, and planning to re-seed everything as soon as possible to deal with both the places where there is no grass and the places where we’re moving stuff.

    It’s about 30′ wide by 70′ long–although we do have some veggie gardening going on in part of it that would make it smaller. But truly, if you’re looking for humidity (Kansas) or foot traffic (two bad dogs) I’m your girl!

  6. al l – Thanks for the question. In all the years people have been growing Eco-Lawn in areas prone to deer ticks or any other insect creatures we’ve never had reports of deer ticks or creepy crawlees as an issue. Here at Wildflower Farm we’ve got lots of Eco-Lawn cut and uncut and in the unmown areas we’ve found no additional insects or rodents to be problematic.

  7. Meryl – Eco-Lawn does beautifully in Kansas and grows great in both sun and shade. What I generally recommend for high traffic sites is to do the Eco-Lawn installation incrementally. If you can spare the space it’s the most successfuly system for seeding yards bursting to the seams with kids and pets. I recommend that you choose to partition off an area this fall and devote it to seeding and then overseeding the same area in the Spring. Keep it partitioned off until the fall. Then switch the partitioned areas and begin seeding the other side. Works great. Happy to clarify further!

  8. Justin says:

    I have a 2300 square foot lawn in drought-prone Utah. I am bound by a homeowner’s association to retain a lawn, so I am definitely interested in a turfgrass that will keep up with a drier watering schedule. I am assuming that the Eco-Lawn, being a slow-growing grass, is less invasive than traditional grasses like Kentucky bluegrass. This would be great for our lawn as our flowerbeds are lawn-edged and thus we are constantly pulling out new grass growth. Also, a neighboring, untended field provides us with a lot of thistles, chickweed, and clover. How does Eco-lawn do with competing weeds?

  9. meredith k says:

    hi there! we have a patchy lawn of about 500 sf… 1 part bare dirt, 1 part weeds and 1 part grass. we live on a small city lot and are trying to take advantage of every square foot with beds for shrubs & perennials, raised planters for edibles and a small lawn for our pup! with fall coming up, i would love to reseed the lawn area and this eco-lawn sounds like a great alternative!

  10. Alexis AuBuchon says:

    I recently purchased my first house in Savannah, GA and I have a small backyard (about 20’x60′) that I think would be a perfect test site. I have two small dogs to test high-traffic capabilities, and the Savannah heat and humidity will be the ultimate test for this grass. I have a small shed (about 8’x8′) and would like to add some beds around the perimeter next year for veggies, herbs etc., so the area will be a bit smaller. I also have a large live oak tree in one corner, so there is a good mix of full sun and shade areas. I have been looking for an alternative to conventional grasses to reduce watering, and this sounds perfect!

  11. I’m currently working on a very worthy project for consideration.
    The location is in Northern California adjacent to the coast.
    The family and I have spent months doing research on various types of lawn seeds, sods, and even artificial lawn in order to make the best environmental choice for their location and family needs.
    The soil is sandy and we plan to bring in adequate soil amendments.
    An automatic irrigation system will be installed that will have the capacity to be to hooked up to a Smart Weather Station for further water savings.
    All of the automatic heads will be efficient rotor types to eliminate mist drift with matched precipitation rates nozzles.

    On a personal note, this family is really quite deserving.
    Last year the husband was hit by an oncoming car while on his motorcycle and suffered massive head and body injuries.
    He has made miraculous strides due to the love and help from his family and community of friends. Having a soft pliable lawn area would further help in providing a place where he, the kids, the family dog and friends could practice hand to eye coordination games via recreational lawn games.
    If you would like to see photographs of the site , I’d be happy to post them on my blog.
    Thanks for your consideration,
    Michelle D.

  12. Nancy Ortiz says:

    I have about an acre in plants and I live on a sand dune. My dogs were eating the native grasses and we visited the vets for an expensive sticker burr. I planted a dog-patch of fescue behind my house last year and have yet to mow, for the dogs and my horses do a great job of cutting my lawn. I would love to replace the water-requiring fescue with your grass. My dog-patch is 10 by 20 feet and has a south/west exposure. I water with a sprinkler, by hand, as the dogs sometimes decide to seek and destroy potential gophers/bad things which happen to grow under the fescue and create spaces for more grass to grow. I usually put a stepping stone over the space until the dogs lose interest. I live in Nipomo, CA, just an hour above Santa Barbara and a mile from the beach.

  13. Jaime Leick says:

    Wow! I would love to see if we could finally get some grass to grow in our parkway — about 120 sf. We’ve invested untold time, money and WATER into finding something that will take hold and thrive here (lots of neon PatchMaster and sprinkler contraptions). This year we gave up and, as a consequence, get muddy run off creating dangerous slip-n-slide conditions on our sidewalk. Everyone else has grass in their parkway and we’re on a generally shady street. All I can think is this area must be shadier than most. If it works there, we’d gladly give it a shot in the patchy front yard where we were recently advised to start over — fresh dirt and all. I know we live in an old home, but they’re telling me my dirt is tired??

  14. Linda says:

    We have just moved into new construction and need to put in turf. The area is approximately 1.3 acres (seriously!). It would be a good test case. There are trees shading the sides of the area, with a center stretch that is in sun. So, we need something that could grow sun or shade, or I have to find 2 kinds of grass (ugh). The yard is on the east side of the house. We are in Oklahoma so drought tolerant is important. We would be more than happy to document, photograph, and report at every stage.

    If that’s not challenging enough, we have a backyard that is west facing, in full sun, and slopes down a hill to a pond. Take your pick!

  15. Tibs says:

    Now I understand why I don’t get the whole anti lawn movement. To me what is described as eco lawn is a normal lawn. It’s grass, it’s green, you can mow it short or leave it longer. Looks like what my grandma and dad called orchard grass. And if I remember correctly, it is pretty tough on mower blades.

    Oh, not in the running for a test site.

  16. Justin – Eco-Lawns perform well in Utah. Eco-Lawn is quick to germinate and slow growing which means it requires less mowing. It will not spread aggressively into your garden beds or your neighbors lawn. But, it will hold its own against your neighbors aggressive, high maintenance lawn. As it matures, it comes in quite thickly so over time it crowds out weeds. Interestingly enough, Cornell University completed a study demonstrating that fine fescues like Eco-Lawn are allelopethic – that fancy word means that these grasses emit a chemical that kills off competitive vegetation. So not only does it physically crowd out weeds, it is its own natural weed killer.

  17. Thanks Meredith,
    I am a HUGE fan of the less lawn movement. Eco-Lawn is a great lawn for the sustainable urban gardener.

  18. Nancy Ortiz –
    I have some questions for you. What type of fescue did you plant? There are, as you know, many native grasses that grow in pure beach sand. Eco-Lawn grows in super sandy soil but will struggle in pure beach sand. An established Eco-Lawn takes a great deal of traffic but time is required to get it established. Then dogs can happily frolic on it!

  19. Jaime L. –
    Eco-Lawn definitely grows well in the shade. I’m guessing your soil may be “tired” or nutrient depleted. Eco-Lawn grows well in nutrient depleted soil. Because of its deep roots that extend down into the soil 9″ – 14″ it knows how to source water and nutrients. The problem may also be compaction. For compacted shade areas I find that a thin layer (1/2 ” will do) of weedfree/sterilized soil or compost works as a base. Then seed the Eco-Lawn directly into that. The friable soil will excellerate the Eco-Lawn’s growth and then the roots will penetrate right down through the compacted soil. The Eco-Lawn FAQ has more tips on this!

  20. Tibs – Eco-Lawn is not difficult to mow. You can mow it just like regular lawn grass. In 2008 Wildflower Farm did fairly extensive research on pushmowers because we wanted to make sure that eco-conscious push mower owners could mow their Eco-Lawns. Not a problem. I’m a huge fan of Brill mowers. They self-sharpen, are well designed,durable and very light!

  21. Miriam-
    Eco-Lawn me. I’m waiting for my test!
    Shirley Bovshow

  22. Matt says:

    I’d be very interested in giving this a try. I’ve got a pretty small yard; about 50′ x 40′ in zone 4(Minneapolis area). Half of the lawn is partial shade and the other half is full sun. Try as I might, I can’t get the grass in the full sun area to take hold before the crab grass and other weeds choke it out. I reseed each fall and it always starts out well when there’s spring moisture, but as soon as the summer months take over, the grass in the sun gets choked out and the process starts over again. I’ve been considering starting totally fresh by ripping it all up, but it’s not a very enticing option. The grass in the partial shade usually does pretty well, but I end up with nice long grass under my trees and blueish weeds everywhere else. I also have a push reel mower and was curious how they stacked up to the Eco-Lawn. I’d be willing to try anything at this point…

  23. John Vo says:

    I just purchased a house in March of this year. The house was a foreclosure and was on the market for a year and the “yard” was filled with weeds. Our neighbors have tall pine trees that constantly shed onto my roof and into my front and backyard. The house is situated near the bottom of a very rocky hill. Living in the inland desert in sunny Southern California, I’ve been looking for low water, low maintenance ground cover. I like the look of a nice green lawn, but find them quite impractical for both the work required to maintain them as well as the ecological impact. It girlfriend commented that we’re being “green by going brown.” It’d be nice to look green while also being “green.”

  24. Shirley dwells in Southern California and her enthusiasm gives me a great opportunity to mention that there are a myriad of Eco-Lawns growing in California. Residents of Southern California need to wait until temperatures are optimum for seeding. Optimum conditions for seeding are between 55 and 70 degrees farenheit. nights are cool. often one finds dew on the ground in the mornings. Southern Californians and residents of the deep south do their Eco-Lawn seeding in the winter months. You can usually fit in two seedings; one in November and a second seeding in late February or early March. Patience oh EdenMaker!

  25. Matt brings up some interesting challenges as far as weed management goes in his sunny area. I have two options to suggest to you Matt. You can cut your weedy lawn as low as your lawn mower will go. Then take a steel rake and rake away the thatch and disturb the soil exposing as much soil surface as possible. Then add the Eco-Lawn seed. Gently rake to combine seed and soil. Then apply pressure. Keep seed bed moist for about a month. You’ll see germination in 7 to 15 days. You’ll add seed again in your next seeding window, likely that’s the Spring – depending upon where you live. Basically you can aggressively overseed and Eco-Lawn will eventually crowd out the weeds.The number of overseedings you need will vary depending upon how dense or patchy the areas are to begin with. As it matures Eco-Lawn becomes quite dense. And, mature fine fescues actually emit a chemical that kills off competititve vegetation. Second option I tend to call the speed dial Eco-Lawn conversion method; Use an organic herbicide to kill off your existing “lawn.” There are many of these on the market; products vary from state to state. Follow the directions. They usually take effect in just a few days. You may need to use two applications. They tend, according to one study, to be about 80% effective compared to harsh chemical herbicides. Then mow your lawn super short then the process is the same as the first method. You will still want to do a second overseeding the following season. I find it takes two seedings to produce a mature new lawn. As far as your push mower goes, any mower pusher or otherwise can cut Eco-Lawn providing the blades are well maintained and sharp – which is generally advised for mowing all kinds of lawns, anyway. Wildflower Farm did a study last year and tried out lots of push mowers on thick, mature, uncut Eco-Lawn and the all mowed well. I tend to prefer the Brill mowers best because they self sharpen for 8 years, are well designed and super light weight. Hope this helps!

  26. John Vo – Eco-Lawn grows really well under pine trees. It really isn’t adversely effected by acidic soils like typical sod lawns. Providing your rocky hillside isn’t pure beach sand Eco-Lawn will grow will grow quite well. You can choose to ammend the soil to add more organic materials but it’s not necessary.I love your girlfriend’s ironic comment that we’re being “green by going brown.” It’d be nice to look green while also being “green.”
    That’s the excellent thing about working with Eco-Lawn – you get to be green while also being green. My background is that of a native plant grower and I’m all about the flowers and grasses and shrubs. I believe in the less lawn thing. But I believe there is a place for lawns in the landscape – as long as they are truly “green” lawns.

  27. Michelle D – Sounds like a very interesting project. Is the soil pure sand or just sandy soil? If it is sandy soil no soil ammendment would be necessary. I really try to discourage people from adding soil since so often top soil or triple mix is filled with weed seeds. I would be pleased to see some pics of the site. Please let me know when you post them.

  28. Rachel says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I live in Ontario where Eco-Lawn was developed and it is absolutely beautiful. It is used frequently in the boulevard strip (hell strip for some of you). I have used it myself. Gorgeous and I have not noticed any additional bugs, but your mileage may vary.

  29. Justin says:

    Thanks for your reply to my question Miriam. It’s also good to hear that my Brill will do well. As it is, we’re mowing twice a week to keep things in check.

  30. Alas, I have no lawn. No level ground to seed one on. If some spot should need some open space, I’ll just whack what pops up and call it lawn de grass.

  31. Hello Miriam,
    Thank you for your interest and reply.
    I’ve posted photos and a plan of the project on my blog;
    http://deviantdeziner.blogspot.com/2009/09/eco-lawn-candidate.html

    Thanks for bringing a level headed eco-minded conversation to the table for those who are researching information on an ecological and economical turf candidate.

  32. addendum,
    To your question about the soil profile.
    It is extremely sandy.
    The property is adjacent to Stinson Beach , Marin County , CA.
    Just north of the golden gate.

  33. Do you have more than one mixture for Florida? We go from zone 8 to zone 11 and our soil types run the gamut from red Georgia clay, to acidic sandy soil, to salty sand and clay, to alkaline limestone substrate.

    Just asking; I’m not in the running for a new lawn. I have a freedom lawn already.

  34. Ginny – Eco-Lawn is one mixture – period. Perhaps you’ll be sorely tempted to nominate me for snake oil salesman of the year after you read this. It’s a fact though that Eco-Lawn grows in red Georgian clay, acidic sandy soils, and just about any kind of soil except pure beach sand, pure gravel or a swampy soil that is perpetually damp. Providing that it’s well established and its root system is mature, an Eco-Lawn can withstand very hot temperatures in your region. It will still need to be watered but watered 75% less than a shallow rooted sod lawn. Hope this answers your questions!

  35. After two years of trying to maintain clients lawns through draught–I’m SSSOOO read for this. I’m proposing it to every one of them!

  36. Teresa – Thanks for the enthusiastic response. Eco-savy garden and lawn care professionals become heroes to their clients when they see how much money they’ll save off their water bill! Have a peak at the Eco-Lawn water savings chart to see exactly how much money your clients will save: http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=catalog&parent=4&pg=1

  37. Dave Reed says:

    Fine fescues are not a miracle grass. In the mid-Atlantic we have changed from predominantly bluegrass over the past decade because fescues have proven more tolerant, but fescues face the same issues that other turf grasses do. They bake and brown in the sun without supplemental water, they will not tolerate dry shade, and they lose much of their vibrant green in the Summer and Winter.

    In the clay soils we have in this region mature oaks barely send roots as deep as 9-14 inches, so unless the roots have been engineered to carry small dynamite charges, they’re not going any deeper than a couple inches, and certainly won’t outcompete oak and maple roots.

    It is absolutely without basis in fact that fescues left to grow will not host ticks, who cannot discern fescues from fence posts.

    So, while the Eco-Lawn fescue mix might be a fine product, and possibly an improvement over other fine fesuces, I think there’s been a bit of overkill here. We can diminish some turf problems with good preparation and cultural practices, but turf is inherently shallow rooted and subject to variations in temperature and moisture.

  38. Dave R – Thanks for lending some very healthy skepticism to the discussion. Having worked with Eco-Lawn for some 15 years now I welcome the opportunity to address your concerns. Eco-Lawn has been growing successfully in highly varied types of turf – compacted clay, sandy soil, and even acidic sandy soils. Eco-Lawn’s roots do indeed extend some 9″ down into clay soils and about 14″ down into sharp drainage soils. Have a look at this Eco-Lawn demo video where you will see the length Eco-Lawn’s roots extend into the ground.http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=catalog&parent=4&pg=1
    Many years ago Wildflower Farm devised a very simple technique that supports the successful growth of Eco-Lawn under thirsty Maples. You’ll find this simple technique on the Eco-Lawn FAQ site http://www.wildflowerfarm.com/index.php?p=page&page_id=EcoFAQ
    The only basis I have to answer the question about uncut Eco-Lawn not hosting ticks is as I mentioned, anecdotal history of Eco-Lawn growing in deer tic areas for 12 years with no reports of problems. There are many many Eco-Lawns happily thriving in the mid Atlantic region. Thanks again for your skepticism! Your further thoughts and questions are most welcome.

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