I’m old enough to remember when the “Weed Eater” first appeared on the landscape scene. As a landscape gardener I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I could manicure lawn grass in rough and hard-to-reach areas like roadside ditches and around utility poles, fence posts and fire hydrants with ease. Landscapers embraced this breakthrough invention, and eventually every homeowner had one.
The downside was that designers doubled down on planting lawn grass in places that made no sense. After all, hand trimming was now a breeze and could be done standing up. The fact remained that lawn mowing must be done over 30 times each season, so even if every step “only takes a minute” that means a half-hour of needless work each season, year after year. Many homeowners routinely spend an hour “weed-eating” every week, which adds up to over 200 man-days in a typical adult lifetime, the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of workdays.
I grew up working in a family business that specialized in industrial/commercial landscape maintenance, so I really pay attention to how landscape design affects maintenance tasks. The way a landscape is designed and installed makes a huge difference in how many man-hours it takes to maintain. Most landscape designers don’t have this perspective.
The number-one time-waster in lawn maintenance is what I call “stupid grass”. Stupid grass is lawn grass in places where it’s difficult to mow and requires weekly hand trimming. It’s also grass in narrow strips where you can’t avoid getting grass clippings into garden beds. It’s grass around tree trunks, fence posts, utility poles and other obstacles.
All this needless toil can be easily eliminated with good design. Lawn edges can be rounded off to eliminate tight corners and dead-ends. “Trim strips” of gravel or mulch can be installed along walls and under fences so that lawn grass doesn’t need trimming. Landscape beds can be expanded and lawn areas reduced. Obstacles such as utility poles, hydrants, mailboxes and signposts can be incorporated inside landscape beds. Steep slopes can be planted with groundcovers or shrubs.
I’m always surprised how few commercial businesses give this any thought. Efficient and practical landscaping enhances any commercial property, and the savings on landscape maintenance go right to the bottom line, but sloppy landscape design can lock business owners into decades of needless maintenance expense. Thoughtless landscaping costs real money, year after year, like a leaky faucet.
After location, curb appeal is the largest single factor in property value. Homeowners and businesses alike benefit from professionally-designed landscapes in many ways. An attractively landscaped business property attracts more customers and enhances the community, but few businesses actually put any thought into this. It doesn’t require a huge expense in most cases, just some quality design and installation. Over time, the initial investment in efficient low-maintenance landscaping pays off.
Look around your property and see if you can find any “stupid grass”. Once you learn to spot it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. So much of it, in fact, that you’ll start to wonder why so many people spend so much time and effort on it.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are on the “Garden Advice” page at www.goodseedfarm.com. For more information is available at www.goodseedfarm.com or call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.