(TNS)—Leah was such a sweet dog. I never heard a peep from her, and she was always friendly in a calm way.
We met when I bought a duplex, and she was living in one of the units with her owner. I moved into the unit next door after the sale closed, and gradually she warmed up to me.
But Leah was brutal on the lawn. Dead spots pockmarked the turf from where Leah, um, relieved herself. The grass was having a hard enough time as it was—being on a slope in the dry Foothills [of Idaho], and the strip of grass on the north side had zero shade.
In this climate, maintaining a decent looking lawn can be a struggle—even without a dog. If you pay for your water like most of us do, it can also be an expensive endeavor. I didn’t like wasting money on water and fertilizer. I also didn’t like spending my weekends mowing, and I didn’t like how hard it was to keep the lawn looking halfway decent.
So I decided to kill some of the lawn.
One July, I mowed that strip on the north side down as short as I could and watered it thoroughly to increase the humidity. Then, I covered the whole thing with a black plastic tarp, securing the edges with landscape staples every few feet.
The idea is to cook the grass under the tarp. I turned off the sprinklers in that area and left the black plastic on the strip for the rest of the summer and through the winter.
As spring began to thaw the ground, I peeled back the black plastic. The technique had worked. The grass was brown and thoroughly dead.
Spade by spade, I turned the turf over so the dead grass would decompose into the soil. I manually broke up the clumps of dead turf with the shovel. This was tough work, but it gave me a good canvas on which to start planting.
I really struggled with what to put in the space. I’ve never been good at making household decisions. What color should I paint this room? Um, I don’t really know there are so many dang swatches. What kind of carpet would be best? Well, uh, what’s on sale? I took a class on native and xeric plants, which provided lots of ideas. But that was part of the problem: The possibilities seemed endless. What would give me a nice-looking yard with minimal maintenance? The answers were plentiful, and therefore elusive.
With the encouragement of my then-girlfriend and now-wife, Jessica, I dedicated the top of the strip to a vegetable/herb garden. She took charge of this area. The zucchini went crazy, and so did the tomatoes and thyme.
I dedicated the bottom portion to native/drought-tolerant plants.
Lawn will always have a place in our landscapes. When I was a kid, ours was the outfield grass for Wiffle Ball games, and the grass got beaten up good during neighborhood football games. But if yours doesn’t get that kind of use, there are a lot of options that are less expensive, less time-consuming, less wasteful and more aesthetically pleasing than standard turf. Just do a little research to see what works in your area.
©2017 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)
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