May 29, 2014 12:17 pm

Naturalized lawns reduce need for mowing and trimming

Allowing a lawn to naturalize rather than constantly maintaining a traditional turf lawn is an alternative experts like Victoria’s Christian Barnard recommend.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Christian Barnard Land Studios

VICTORIA – It’s the time of year when homeowners devote countless hours to keeping their lawns lush and green only to have watering restrictions imposed by many municipalities later in the season cause their efforts to dry out and maybe even turn brown.

All that time and labour invested in keeping a lawn green with sometimes a disappointing outcome is leading many homeowners to consider alternatives.

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Christian Barnard, owner of Victoria’s Christian Barnard Land Studio, says many of his clients are beginning to ask him about options other than traditional turf.

“I think a lot of the clients I have now are looking for something that is more biodiverse because they equate turf with high resource input,” says Barnard.

“When homeowners think of turf they think of lawn mowers and Weed Eaters, and so they should to a certain degree.”

Even though many properties traditionally have landscapes dominated by lawn, Barnard says it may not always be the most viable option. One of his clients trained dogs in her 15-by-15-metre plot of grass. In her case turf was never going to be a long-lasting or easy-care option, and he recommended artificial or synthetic turf.

“Synthetic turf has come a long, long way, and it is amazing how real it can look. But if I had my way I tend to steer a lot of my clients into a more biodiverse option for turf,” he says.

Barnard trained in the United Kingdom before coming to Victoria, and he says he was recommending to a lot of clients to let their turf lawns naturalize, which means reducing the mowing and trimming, and allowing native wild flowers to return. He also says he used a wildflower seed mix instead of turf.

“Sometimes I tell clients that turf wouldn’t be bad in certain situations, but why do we have to keep it trimmed to a quarter-inch all the time?” he says.

“Why don’t they let it naturalize and allow for spontaneous species to pop up and bees can come in and enjoy it. One man’s weed is another man’s flower.”

With 171 municipalities across Canada, including the entire provinces of Ontario and Quebec, banning pesticide and herbicide use, a certified horticulturalist says homeowners have to develop a tolerance for weeds in their lawns.

“People are looking at their lawns and what was the status quo and realizing they can’t have the green weed-free lawn anymore, and looking for alternatives,” says Jason Erb, owner of Victoria’s The Gardeners of Oliphant.

The easiest alternative for homeowners looking to move away from turf is to reduce the overall amount. Erb says this can be done by increasing the size of garden beds to cut down on the amount of lawn to maintain.

Introducing hardscaping like patios and pathways is another option for reducing lawn space, and Erb says pathways can add flow to a backyard.

“The other alternative is veggies and pushing the need for edibles in a landscape,” he says. “A lot of people will say they don’t have space for a veggie garden, and then you look out and 80 per cent of their landscape is lawn.”

Erb says he encourages homeowners to carve out segments of a large turf lawn to create raised beds and plant fruit trees and even berry bushes like blueberries and raspberries.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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