Personal Finance

Less is more for a green lawn and wallet

Last weekend, I was behind a guy in line at the hardware store. He had a pile of lawn stuff in his cart, to the tune of $135! (Yes, I’m nosey about how people spend money.)

I love a thick, green lawn as much as the next person, but seriously. If you follow the typical lawn regimen, you could be looking at several hundred dollars every year. And much more if you’re using a lawn service. Not to mention the money spent watering through the worst heat of summer.

Now that we’re approaching that time of year, you should know that watering, mowing and fertilizing less could actually produce a greener, healthier lawn. Give these tips a try this summer, and you’ll have more time and money for more important things.

Keep it long.

You would think tall grass would need more water, but actually you should mow at or near your mower’s highest setting. Taller, shadier grass keeps weeds from sprouting and keeps the soil cool and moist for longer periods, allowing grass to spread out over those ugly bare spots. The biggest benefit? Roots penetrate deeper, helping drought resistance. Water early, less often.

Want to keep the lawn green all summer long? Water it only after seven days without rain. It’s better to run the sprinkler for an hour once every week than for 10 minutes every day. You want to encourage roots to grow deep. If the soil isn’t moist below the roots, they won't go down. To avoid rapid evaporation, turn on the sprinkler late at night or early in the morning.

Forget the fertilizer

. Most yards don’t even need it, especially in summer. Have your soil tested. If it isn't deficient in nutrients, decomposed grass clippings alone provide nearly half of the nitrogen needed for a healthy yard. They break down quickly without promoting disease or thatch buildup. Save the fertilizer for fall when grasses focus their energy on root activity. Strong roots provide the best stimulation for vigorous growth next spring.

Based on my experience as a homeowner, a truly healthy and beautiful lawn is a long-term project, and the results build over time.

These quick fixes for the summer– i.e. massive fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide treatments – are actually more expensive, labor intensive, and far more damaging than a “less-is-more” approach. I found a web page titled “Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy” that makes an interesting case. makes the same argument, and sums it up in a lot fewer words.

Think about it. Who doesn’t love less mowing, fewer nights messing with the sprinkler, and no chemicals on the very place your kids and pets play every day? Now throw in the money you’ll save on gas, water and whatever else you


you need for a beautiful lawn. Doesn’t get much better, huh? Now get out there and enjoy that beautiful lawn and the extra green in your pocket!

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click