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Old 08-20-2014, 09:36 PM   #21
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I live in the Midwest, too. I have read that grass is the most labor intensive way to cover a yard, and I say that is total BS. Maybe if you groom it like a putting green, but it can be very low maintenance. My wife likes shrubs, ground covers, daylilies and other flowers, and she enjoys messing with them. I do not enjoy this stuff, so I try to minimize the work. Ideas:
-Learn to live with some weeds in the lawn. I spot-treat for weeds in the lawn using a good brand of weedkiller and a hand sprayer about twice per year--it takes about an hour for our 1/3 acre yard. I'll bet I use less than 10% of the chemicals used by my neighbors who have lawn services, and I probably get good bang for the buck. I don't mind clover and violets at all, I just concentrate on the thorny weeds and the really aggressive spreaders (Creeping Charlie--and I'm tempted to sign an armistice with them).
- Fertilizer: the store-brand dry stuff, one application in the fall. I'm not an expert, but I figure that we're doing something a bit unnatural by asking the grass to growth this thick--it doesn't typically do that in the wild. So, I help. Also, mulching the clippings returns a lot of nutrients to the turf (and is much easier than bagging the clippings).
- Avoid putting stuff in the middle of the yard. Flowerbeds, flags, trees: it increases mowing time a lot (esp with a riding mower) to go around all that stuff.
- Ornamental grasses for the border of beds: The mower goes right up to it and under the leaves, no need to trim.
- Trees: I haven't raked in years despite having a lot of trees. I just mow the eaves with my mulching mower and leave them on my lawn. Occasionally, when there are a LOT of them, I'll mulch them up and then go over the area with the bag on the mower and haul the shredded up leaves to our compost pile. Mix it in with grass clippings and stir the whole mess up occassionally= good compost for the beds.
- I agree with using glyphosphate (Roundup) along the fencelines and anywhere else that grass springs up and can't easily be mowed.

Most years I never get out the trimmer, but I can live with some Creeping Charlie runners working their way onto the driveway.
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Old 08-20-2014, 10:57 PM   #22
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We put in a native garden / low water in the front yard of our house in San Jose. The county actually wanted to encourage this and they reimbursed us roughly $1000 for plants /materials.
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Old 08-20-2014, 11:04 PM   #23
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I have about 40 feet of vinca ground cover, about 2-3 feet deep, along my back fence. It breaks up the monotony of the grass and is easy to maintain. I have it trimmed about once of the year. It came with the house which I bought 20 years. I had a flower bed put in next to the patio a few years ago and it has been a disaster - full of grass and overgrown perennials.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:54 AM   #24
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.... (Creeping Charlie--and I'm tempted to sign an armistice with them)....
Most years I never get out the trimmer, but I can live with some Creeping Charlie runners working their way onto the driveway......
See if you can find Weed B Gone Max. I tried it last year and it killed most of my creeping charlie. It's now starting to come back again, but I haven't been able to find "Max" this year. I was spraying it about once a week for 2 months before it knocked it out last summer. I read that it's good to spray it right before the first frost
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Old 08-21-2014, 09:23 AM   #25
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Slightly different approach perhaps? Here in Arkansas stuff grows. No way to really stop it. Put down cement and it will crack and stuff grows in the cracks! So...

Use it to your advantage. I put down frames and bought a trailer load of compost/soil mix to fill them. Grow food. The plants get large enough to shade most of the frame so we get a little grass growing in the boxes but very easy to pull between replantings. Cover them with plastic if you don't have something growing and that will kill everything in the box as long as the plastic lasts. Cardboard between boxes in the backyard. Could do straw/hay/mulch in the front yard if neighborhood requires it.
If its gonna grow, why not make it useful?

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Old 08-21-2014, 10:03 AM   #26
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Weeding, I get, it is necessary, but you can develop some personal tolerance for less than perfect. Assuming you've put down some kind of weed barrier? Or maybe some kind of spreading grown cover like phlox or periwinkle. And really, there's nothing to say you can't put down some decorative rock in problem areas and do a bit of a hybrid like in Arizona. They do that there out of necessity, not because that's the only place you can do something like that.

Trimming, why not just let the plants take their natural size and place? Did the landscaper not plan for this? Maybe you need to get a different landscaper in there to make suggestions on how to correct your issues. Hopefully you don't have to tear it up and start over.

Even more so with the moving around of plants. Why? Put them where they belong and leave them be. A garden that has a bit of a wild look can be every bit as nice as a meticulously manicured one.

I'm not a real gardener, so I can't really offer great ideas, but don't let yourself become a prisoner to your garden.
I've become more tolerant for less than perfect over the years. We've found that the weed barrier doesn't help much- just makes it harder to pull the weeds out. We've added some ground cover in the last couple of years and that seems to really help. Now that you mention that, I think the work load has decreased quite a bit in those areas.

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Weeding can be reduced. Do you have weed barriers and mulch? Natural mulch must be applied thick, needs a new layer every year(IMHO). I have seen, but never tried, a mulch made from shreaded tires. It was not cheap, but it shouldn't decay. Have you tried Preen as a weed preventive? Worked well, but you are applying chemicals.
Not sure I understand why you need to move plants, we did very little of that.

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Again, no weed barriers but we really should be using more mulch. Tried the Preen, but not sure it did much. We have bird feeders, which we have to fill a couple time a day, so this might be creating some of the weed problems. We're not moving a lot of plants... we have daisies, purple cone flowers, etc. that tend to spread which is nice but sometimes they start to grow in areas where I don't want them... like in the middle of another shrub or something. Maybe I just shouldn't worry about it.

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After 15 years of experimenting, my system has evolved to this: Pine needles, roundup, Christmas trees, and heather. The goal is a forest-floor motif.



I use roundup in the spring to kill anything that tries to grow in the pine needles.

I plant Christmas-type trees, or allow the volunteers to grow.

I plant some heather plants.



The heather does really well here, even with little sun. It grows very slowly, doesn't need any maintenance, and blocks out other plants.

I've had rosemary in the past, but that required some maintenance.
Really like this approach. Very nice and easy to maintain!

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Mine (so far) are just grasses. But I want to get some wildflowers going too. We coop a garden on a nearby farm, and the farmer planted wildflowers in the garden a few months ago. This is how they looked today. Amazing that the wildflowers could have grown 4' tall in a few months.
Beautiful!
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:27 AM   #27
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A few shots of our back and side yard...
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:48 PM   #28
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Have you considered edible landscaping? Our yam vines (leaves & young stems edible, as well as the in ground tuber) seem to take the AZ heat well, and once they got big enough they overpowered the grass. Some pavers for a walkway, and a mix of in ground, raised beds, and containers…
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:03 PM   #29
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I am by no means recommending it, but a former co-worker who lived in another neighborhood across town (thank goodness) - decided all the fertilizers/other chemicals, energy & pollution associated with mowing, and paid watering weren't socially responsible. So he let his entire lawn and landscaping "go" for almost two years - no mowing, weeding, or anything else. You can imagine what it looked like, but eventually his neighbors "convinced" him to resume taking care of his lot.

98% of our neighborhood keeps their lawns/landscaping nice or better. But we have a neighbor next door who has never fertilized or weeded in more than 6 years, and mows at a frequency of about once every 3-4 weeks. They have volunteer trees growing against their foundation, the largest up to 15 feet tall, and in all the landscape beds. The house has been for sale for over a year, but evidently no buyers are interested - imagine that. I hope someone buys it, any new neighbor would be an improvement...
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:19 PM   #30
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We have a few trendy neighbors putting in edible front yards and other neighbors freaking out over how it looks. I am in the pro-edible front yard myself, but my main concern going forward is a low water yard. I spend less on veggies at the Asian markets right now than we do on our water bill per month.

Our water department provides rebates for replacing lawns with native plants.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:15 PM   #31
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See if you can find Weed B Gone Max. I tried it last year and it killed most of my creeping charlie. It's now starting to come back again, but I haven't been able to find "Max" this year. I was spraying it about once a week for 2 months before it knocked it out last summer. I read that it's good to spray it right before the first frost

I use Roundup in a number of places for creeping Charlie and hard to pull weeds. One landscaper gave me a tip-just make it more concentrated if it doesn't 't work the first time. So I buy the concentrate and double the amount in the gallon sprayer. Works well.



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Old 08-22-2014, 05:17 AM   #32
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I use Roundup in a number of places for creeping Charlie and hard to pull weeds. One landscaper gave me a tip-just make it more concentrated if it doesn't 't work the first time. So I buy the concentrate and double the amount in the gallon sprayer. Works well.
The good thing about the Weed-B-Gone type weedkiller is that you can kill weeds in (most) grasses without killing the grass. In "open" areas, the Roundup works pretty well on almost everything. I haven't needed to increase the concentration yet, but I'm sure it would work.
The Creeping Charlie is fairly resistant to most of the older conventional 2-4-d type broadleaf weedkillers, but newer (more expensive) brands with added active ingredients slow it down a bit. I think the pre-emergent chemicals are supposed to do a good job on it, if they are applied at the right time.
I try to minimize applications of all this stuff by using it when it will be most effective and just where I need it. I get the impression that the commercial lawn service guys just spray everything and do it often because 1) The customer wants to see a perfect lawn and 2) time is money and they just want to walk the yard quickly with applicator, they can't afford the time to look for weeds. The yards they do look great, but . . .
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Old 08-22-2014, 05:42 AM   #33
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Weeding, I get, it is necessary, but you can develop some personal tolerance for less than perfect. Assuming you've put down some kind of weed barrier? <snip> And really, there's nothing to say you can't put down some decorative rock in problem areas and do a bit of a hybrid like in Arizona.
People have already mentioned that weeds end up growing through the weed barriers and I wanted to add a caution about decorative rock. Most of our flower beds were "mulched" with rock (stones, 1 to 1.5 inches across) when we moved in 11 years ago. I hate that stuff. I've pulled a lot of it out and pushed some off to the side or worked it into the ground. Rocks/stones are evil as a ground cover. The house was built 30 years ago. Over time, enough dust/dirt has gotten between the stones that it supports a healthy crop of weeds, but it's a pain to get rid of them without chemicals. You can't cultivate with tools and if you pull them, half the time the roots remain. I spend way too much time pulling weeds and when we downsize I will be taking a hard look at the landscaping on the properties we buy. No more fussy flower beds and rock gardens.

Good to hear about the vinca- we're getting some next week to cover areas where some dead shrubs were removed. We're in the Midwest and have had wonderful luck with dwarf Korean lilac. I never could get regular lilacs to grow but these require little care, they don't need much pruning and they smell heavenly when they bloom. We started out with 2 and have planted another half-dozen of them.
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Old 08-22-2014, 06:48 AM   #34
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Our driveway goes across the back of the house to the garage, there is a 16X16 concrete outbuilding/shed, a 24X32 patio with pergola, a 16X16 (mulched with grass clippings so no weeding) raised bed garden with mulched pathways, and the rest of the area covered by decorative gravel except for a few small areas of grass. The front yard is grass with fruit trees and a couple of palm trees. It takes about 1 1/2 hours a week to maintain other than picking fruits and veggies.

Cheers!
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Old 08-22-2014, 03:35 PM   #35
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This is a neighbor's house--it's a vacation rental:



They are out there maintaining the yard all the time, and to me, it looks, at best, messy.
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Old 08-22-2014, 03:47 PM   #36
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I've become more tolerant for less than perfect over the years. We've found that the weed barrier doesn't help much- just makes it harder to pull the weeds out. We've added some ground cover in the last couple of years and that seems to really help. Now that you mention that, I think the work load has decreased quite a bit in those areas.
...
Weed barriers might depend on what you are trying to keep out. In our area (Northern California) a 3 inch layer of medium bark works well. It allows the plants you do want and that might be spreaders to get their roots down into the soil. Occasionally I bring in another few cubic yards to get the thinning spots filled in. Deer hooves tend to chomp it up a bit but only on the deer's frequent used paths.

I do not like ground cloth because it's hard to replant in an area without finding it and cutting into it, plus it deters the spreading roots of planted bushes.
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Old 08-22-2014, 04:10 PM   #37
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All of this is very dependent on the area/climate you live in. I've lived and owned homes in So. Cal, Northwest Washington, and Philadelphia metro area.

Lawns are great in NW WA and in Philly. Plenty of rain to keep them green... just mow them and you're good.

They are terrible in So. Cal... take too much water, turn brown during the frequent water restrictions...

We use a mixed approach. We have a flowering groundcover in the front, with hedges along part of the front. It requires edging every few months.

In the back yard we have a couple of different areas... the dog poop area is just wood mulch that we get free from the city dump. Along the fence are the camelia bushes, bouganvilla, and some hedges. Fruit trees (mainly citrus on another side of the yard. Flagstone pavers with DG between them under the clothes lines. River rock around planters with tomato plants and artichoke plants, a couple raised veggie beds, and some clumping daisy shrubs and rosemary bushes near the fruit trees. It's chaotic - but VERY pleasant to hang out there. Friends comment what a pleasant yard. Very little grass - what we have we don't water - it turns green in the winter during the rains... but is mostly dirt/brown in the summer. Our sons are of mowing age and they take care of it.

Oh - and the requisite palm trees... this is San Diego after all.

When I lived in Bellingham I had grass with flower beds along the front porch. Grass grew and the only maintenance was mowing it.

When I lived in PA, my front yard was too shady for grass - so I had Hostas and Vinca vines. In the backyard I had grass. I could mow it in about 15 minutes.

Grass makes sense in places there is free water from the sky... not in places you must irrigate it.
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