Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A new look for our yards: the Eco-lawn

by Kate Riley, Community Engagement Program Manager, Snohomish Conservation District

Micro-clover lawn (foreground)
with traditional lawn (towards the back)
Here is my prediction: within 10 years, Washingtonians will shift from their plain grass lawns to a new, Northwest landscape look that is aesthetic while requiring little water and maintenance. It is happening already, with many suburban landowners coming out of a summer of drought wondering what to do with their struggling lawn. Many are realizing one of the biggest myths of gardening: that lawn is easy to maintain. That is why we spend our precious weekend hours, billions of dollars, 30-60% of urban freshwater, and 10 times the amount of pesticide and fertilizers on lawns than farmers do on crops (source: EPA).

So, one option is to have less expectations of lawns, as we learned in an earlier blog in this series, Lawn care in a drought: brown is the new green. But the second option is to do something different, something that is truly low-maintenance and sustainable - the Eco-lawn. If you love the look of traditional turfgrass, and still need a walkable groundcover for children or pets, this is the alternative for you.    
A closer look at Eco-lawns
Eco-lawns are usually sown by seed in the fall or early spring, after the soil has been prepared. If you have existing lawn, you will need to remove it with a sod cutter, or through sheet-mulching - where you cover the grass with cardboard, compost, and mulch. If you have bare spots in your current lawn, you may also overseed with an eco-lawn mix.

Mature Fleur de Lawn
There are several different options for texture, color, mowing height, and even flowers in the seed mixes. A favorite choice popping up around our state is the Fleur de Lawn, developed at Oregon State University.

Most mixes stay green, self-fertilize, and require little mowing or water because of the addition of micro-clover. Clover is one of those powerhouse plants we have traditionally been fighting in our landscapes – but look at the results when we embrace it!

Next time you walk by to admire your neighbor’s green lawn, look closely! It may be nature doing the work. For more Sound Home ideas, check out

1 comment:

Diane Emerson said...

I love the idea of eco-lawns, mostly because you can't have mini clover and Bellis perennis and drought-tolerant yarrow AND use Weed and Feed. The 2,4-D in Weed and Feed is very toxic to salmon (and us!) so the more people that switch to these lawn mixes, the better for the salmon, our own health, our water resources, and our finances. Win win. Diane Emerson