Many homeowners want a green, lush lawn. A well-kept lawn shows your property in the best possible light and outdoor curb appeal increases its value.
We interviewed two garden experts to provide us with their tips for the best ways to maintain a healthy lawn.
What is Trending in Lawn Care?
“Having a big lawn space was a greater priority with Boomer-age homeowners than with the Gen Z and Millennial generations,” says Cullen. “Especially as people are considering their environmental footprints.”
“If anything, they’re reducing the size of their lawns,” Cullen says. “They’re putting in bigger vegetable gardens, larger flowering gardens for pollinators, trying to do what’s right for the environment. That’s not to say having a lawn is bad for the environment, It’s just that there are other things you can do with your yard that are better for the environment.”
What Does a Healthy Lawn Look Like?
Carson Arthur agrees. Arthur is a landscape designer, gardening expert, author and television personality, including as a regular on HGTV and Cityline. He’s also been a presenter at the National Home Show in Toronto.
“Lawns have to be more than green,” he says. “They also need to give more back to the environment than they require. The way we care for and feed our lawns can make these spaces more harmful than beneficial to the planet.”
Fresh grass releases oxygen and stores carbon, which is important to help combat the effects of climate change. Cullen says homeowners should realize that lawns are just another product of Mother Nature and go through seasonal cycles.
“People have this idea of the picture-perfect, golf course-quality lawn,” Cullen says. “Best put that out of your mind.”
In Canada, lawns tend to look spectacular during early spring and fall months but will look less attractive during warm season, prompting many people to overwater their yards during the summer. But every lawn goes through a period of dormancy and turns brown during the hotter months. That’s rest the grass needs during that period, and it will bounce back during the second or third week of August with cooler evening temperatures and the heavier morning dews, Cullen says.
In the past, many homeowners relied on heavy use of chemical pesticides to ward off insects and weeds but now the “cosmetic” use of chemical pesticides is restricted in some provinces and municipalities in Canada.
There are more natural ways to maintain your yard, the experts say, which will help keep it healthy and are better for the environment as well as support important pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
- Open up your grass. The first thing to do in spring, after the snow melts and the rain stops, Cullen says, is gently rake your yard. “Take your time with this,” he says. “Get the grass blades to stand on end, since that will encourage fresh air to circulate through the crowns of the grass down to where the green part of the plant meets its roots.” Opening up the grass this way will discourage disease like snow mould.
- Cut your grass higher – around 2.5-3 inches. That’s one of the best things you can do because the taller the grass blades the deeper the roots, and the deeper the roots the healthier – and more drought-resistant – the grass plants are, Cullen says. “If you have a grass plant that’s resistant to drought you’ve got a grass plant that’s more resistant to a lot of things, including insects and diseases,” he says.
- Use organic fertilizers only to feed your lawn, Arthur says. “Chemical fertilizers have been linked to all kinds of concerning data around unhealthy soils,” he adds. Instead, you can spread a layer of nutrient- and mineral-rich compost over the bare patches of grass in the early weeks of spring or fall, around two inches thick, Cullen says.
- Mulching lawn mowers. It’s a great way to return that “nitrogen-rich goodness” that’s in grass clippings back into the soil, Cullen says. Nitrogen helps the blades grow straight and strong and gives the grass its rich colour. As the lawn clippings break down and rot around the roots of the grass, they are delivering nutrients naturally, reducing or eliminating the need to fertilize.
- Natural pesticides can help combat unwanted pests. Try nematodes for grassroot-munching insects such as grubs and corn gluten to keep crabgrass in check.
- Stay away from using just one type of grass seed. “By choosing blends with various types of seed in the mix, your yard is better equipped to handle pests naturally as most grubs and insects prefer only one type versus many,” Arthur says.
- Aerate your lawn, or perforate, the soil, to better allow air, water and nutrients to get to the roots of the grass. Ontario residents, for example, live in a clay belt, which is very dense. It’s not as easy for air to get through the soil, Cullen says. When you aerate you are pulling plugs, around an inch or two deep, right out of the soil, opening up the root zone of the grass plants so they can better absorb oxygen. The plugs will break down naturally. “Every plant needs oxygen at its root zone,” he says.
One final tip is to be wary when considering natural solutions for your yard. Homeowners planting wildflowers and self-seeding to create a meadow effect around the house can cause problems as well, Arthur says.
If these plants become invasive or spill into neighbouring properties that then end up needing aggressive controls. Many municipalities also have rules and guidelines about what kind of plants you can have and how high they can grow, so it’s important to do your research if you want to go that route.
Arthur says our attitudes about lawns are changing, with homeowners being more concerned now with investing in good, sustainable landscaping rather than trying to achieve a perfect look as a status symbol. “Curb appeal is more than just a nice lawn.”
The information that appears on this page is provided to you for informational purposes only. The wording of the actual insurance contract prevails at all times. Please consult the insurance contract for complete descriptions of coverage and exclusions. Certain conditions, exclusions and restrictions may apply.