Get an easy-care lawn |

Get an easy-care lawn

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

Lawn care is one of the most prevalent gardening activities in the country, with over 5 million acres of home lawns. People spend approximately $6 billion a year on their lawns.

Green velvet is often the look new gardeners to Nevada expect of their lawns, even though we live in a desert. Unfortunately, this expectation is not only challenging and labor-intensive to achieve; it is not environmentally sustainable.

Don’t despair. You can have a “green” lawn, both in color and from an eco-friendly perspective.

Lawns add aesthetic and financial value to a home, as well as a warm, homey feel. They reduce dust, cool the environment and muffle noise.

In addition, they control erosion and improve soil, and can even mitigate flooding. Even in dry Nevada, lawns can be lush and hardy with proper planning and care.

They don’t have to be chemical sponges, taking up every free weekend hour with maintenance chores. Lawns can be low-maintenance? That’s a novel idea! It is possible.

Healthy lawns start with properly prepared soils. Prior to seeding or sodding a lawn, add 3-4 inches of organic matter and till it in to an 8-inch depth. For existing lawns, aerate in the spring with an aerator that pulls out plugs. Leave the plugs on the lawn and top-dress with a 1/2-inch to 1-inch layer of compost. Then, water well.

The next key to having a healthy lawn is a properly designed and installed automatic sprinkler system. Researchers have developed affordable timers that are climate-controlled by precipitation, humidity, wind and temperature.

The timer evaluates all the data and tells the sprinklers when to come on and how long to run. This uses water efficiently, without waste. Complete coverage is necessary, so make sure the sprays from the sprinklers overlap each other.

Lawns do need fertilizer, but less than what most people apply. By applying less fertilizer, you can reduce mowing and watering requirements. Applying fertilizer at the optimum time, in the correct amount and in the proper formulation allows a lawn to thrive, while reducing the chemical impact on the environment.

A healthy lawn needs little in the way of herbicides, because strong turf outcompetes weeds. Weedkiller and fertilizer combinations contain primarily herbicide and very little fertilizer, so they do not supply sufficient nutrients.

They also present a threat to trees and shrubs with roots under the lawn.

In this era of thinking “green,” you can take care of your lawn and the environment.

For more information on gardening, contact me, 887-2252 or, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City / Storey County Extension Educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.