How to get and keep a greener lawn
By Karen Caffarini For Sun-Times Media
Gorgeous green: Homeowners can purchase drought-resistant grass seeds and flowers, as well as organic fertilizers, that can make a yard lush and colorful at a reasonable cost. | Photo by Fotolia
Do-it-yourself gardeners can go green — while making their lawn green without having to spend a lot of green — according to a local gardening expert.
Duane Nieland, garden center manager at Schroeder Materials in Worth, said there are drought-resistant grass seeds and flowers, as well as organic fertilizers, on the market that can make a yard lush and colorful, and the cost is sometimes equal to or less than that of other products.
Nieland said after last year’s drought, home gardeners might want to start with a grass seed called Black Beauty, which he said grows into fine-bladed, tall grass.
He said the Black Beauty can grow in both full sun and light shade. What’s more, it is less expensive and grows faster than the more traditional grass seed, Kentucky Blue.
“It’s a darker green in color and has a 2- to 3-foot root system that can pull moisture from a larger area. It is drought resistant and outperforms the regular Kentucky Blues,” Nieland said.
“You can build a new house and do 100 percent of your front and back lawn with Black Beauty seed. Grass starts to grow in 10 to 14 days, compared to three to five weeks for Kentucky Blue.”
He said there are two types of fertilizer to use on your lawn: traditional and organic. An 8-3-1 organic contains ingredients derived from natural sources, such as food and manure.
“Organic is more eco-friendly, more people- and pet-friendly, more user-friendly, usually doesn’t burn and can be used any time of year,” Nieland said.
Some traditional fertilizers, by comparison, have a salt buildup if used year after year and can contain ingredients that bother those with allergies.
Nieland said organic fertilizers usually are a little more expensive, but pointed out they are completely safe and often contain weed preventatives such as corn gluten, which is ground up corn. He said the corn gluten can be spread around established vegetable and flower beds, too, to prevent weeds. However, he warned that if the beds aren’t established, the fertilizer won’t allow the vegetable and flower seeds to grow either.
He said organic fertilizers also are safe for use around a body of water. Try to use fertilizers without phosphorous, though, as that can promote seaweed and algae growth in water.
Got to mulch
With flower and vegetable gardens and hanging baskets, Nieland said any mulching you do will help keep moisture in longer. Mulch can consist of pine bark, traditional mulch purchased at garden centers or even grass clippings.
“I use grass clippings on my vegetable plants at home. Just make sure there’s no weed killer on them,” Nieland said.
He said drought-resistant perennial flowers include cranesbill, or hardy geraniums, yarrow, coneflower, iris, gay feather and any ornamental grasses. Annual plants that last longer in the hot sun and prolonged dry weather include dianthus, lantana and the cemetery staples, regular geraniums, Nieland said.