Of European heritage, a lawn serves various purposes
Whether you have a home with a large yard or an apartment with a small lanai, plants create a more luxurious mood. Attractive trees, shrubs and lawns actually increase the value of a home. In fact, if you cut down that big shade tree in the front yard, you may be reducing the value of your property by thousands of dollars – think how much it would cost to have a landscape company replace it. When trees are destroyed, it affects the whole community. Trees protect us from wind and the sun’s destructive rays, supply oxygen, reduce carbon dioxide and can be used to screen unattractive sights.
Besides trees and shrubs, one of the main elements of many landscapes is the lawn. Be it Bermuda, buffalo, centipede, zoysia, seashore paspalum, or a chop suey mix, green and healthy is the key.
It is pleasing to see expanses of lawn, shrubs and trees. A green lawn serves as the right setting for the homes they surround and may be used in heavily trafficked parts of the garden.
Artistically, lawns serve as the plain element in a garden picture, offering contrast of simple greenness to surrounding mixtures of color, texture and form in flower and foliage. This simplicity should be maintained by keeping the smooth sweep of lawn undisturbed by intrusions of shrubs and trees.
This does not mean that shrubs and trees may not be placed at strategic spots on the lawn, but in general, it is best to keep the lawn uncluttered and unobstructed.
From a practical standpoint, a lawn serves a number of ends. First, it reduces heat and glare as the sun beats down on the earth. Second, it controls mud and erosion.
The chief value of a lawn over other kinds of ground covers is that it offers a pleasing place to walk and play, as well as being artistic. In a dry and sunny area, a grass such as Bermuda makes a successful path, or can be used for auto parking.
A grass cover also offers one of the easiest ways to control weeds, provided you mow frequently, fertilize occasionally and make sure the grass is watered sufficiently.
A perfect lawn: That is a different proposition. But if your idea is just a green expanse to set off the surrounding shrubbery, it really does not matter of what the expanse consists.
Ordinarily, grass is not a good cover for sloping areas where it is difficult to handle a mower.
Lawns are a garden heritage from Europe. They are not typical in Asia – moss, pebbles or sand is commonly used for a “plain” landscaping element – or most tropical regions, except through Western introduction. In England, turf is key to the landscape and mainland Americans have inherited this tradition. In the wet tropics, however, turf is generally not part of the native picture, since meadows are infrequent. Here, it is a good idea to consider whether or not a lawn is an essential part of your garden.
The luxuriant “jungle effect,” with paths and lush vegetation, tends to be more natural in the tropics than lawns. Grass is quick and reasonably inexpensive to install, especially on roadsides and median strips. However, it requires more care after being established with its constant need for mowing. Areas like the median strip entering Kailua-Kona from the north and the Volcano Highway leaving Hilo would be far easier to maintain if trees and shrubs were used instead of grass.
A perfect lawn in the tropics is an expensive proposition. To keep it perfect requires constant attention to weeding, rolling, fertilizing, mowing, watering and control of diseases. Just about the time you have everything under control, some unforeseen condition arises, and the lawn goes up in smoke. Most lawn grasses require sun for best performance. Zoysias, centipede and buffalo grasses will tolerate some shade, but Bermudas and seashore paspalum require full sun.
Today there is a strong inclination to let the lawn be more informal along with the rest of the garden. This means that a mixture of grasses and ground hugging broadleaf plants are permitted to live together. Such a mixed green cover has its appeal, being more like a meadow than the monotype lawn.
A semi-natural lawn like this can be practical. It reduces maintenance by eliminating most of the weeding and the struggle to make one kind of grass grow under varying sun and shade conditions that make up the average open lawn area.
There is a legitimate reason for cultivating a green expanse around a dwelling even in the tropics, but don’t make it such a burden. When a weed pops up here and there, let it be. The secret is not in exterminating weeds, but in keeping the area mowed so they cannot go to seed or grow tall.
Whatever type lawn you have, it will require watering unless you live in an area with 50 or more inches of well-distributed rain per year. Deep watering is preferred. Frequent shallow watering will encourage shallow rooting. Water in the early morning to limit evaporation waste.
A fast-growing grass like Bermuda may need fertilizer every month. Zoysia may be fertilized three times each year, or less. A slow-release fertilizer, high in nitrogen, is preferred.
Think green. Humans have created too much desert in the past. Take an inventory of your garden and community to see what trees, shrubs and ground covers could be planted to make our lives better.
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