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Ornamental grasses at Bluestem Nursery

Bluestem's Enviro-Turf - Low Water, Low Maintenance Lawn Seed Mix

close-up of an Enviro-Turf lawn
pencil is shown for scale

Bluestem's Enviro-Turf - a low maintenance lawn seed


Want a lawn that is less thirsty and requires less work?

Just imagine a dark green lawn (even in the heat of summer) that needs watering every 10 days to two weeks, rarely requires fertilizer and grows slowly, resulting in less frequent mowing.

When developing our Enviro-Turf seed mix, the varieties of grass were chosen with the above qualities in mind. It has succeeded admirably. Visit our blog to read about how George in San Diego, California, cut his water bill in half.

So, for those of you who are planting a new lawn or replacing an old one, and who don’t like all the time and costs of watering/ irrigating, fertilizing, and mowing a conventional lawn (but still want a lawn that looks good), Enviro-Turf is a practical alternative.

Our Enviro-Turf mix is suitable for all of the US and most of Canada, however it is not suitable for soil that is constantly wet and has poor drainage. Clay soil is suitable if the drainage is reasonable underneath. Does water puddle on your soil for days on end? If so, you do not have good drainage and Enviro-Turf would not be a good choice. However as long as the water drains away within 24 hours, you should be fine with our Enviro-Turf.

G. Baboi's beautiful landscape, using our Enviro-Turf, in San Diego

 

 

This mix produces a lawn that looks very much like a conventional lawn, but is darker green in colour. The mix consists of:

  • Sheep Fescue
  • Chewings Fescue
  • Hard Fescue
  • Creeping Red Fescue
  • Perennial Ryegrass - contains endophyte (repel grubs)

Planting time is spring or fall and germination takes roughly 7 to 10 days. For best results, use Bluestem's Enviro-Turf in clean well-drained, weed-free soil. Keep the ground slightly damp until the seeds sprout, then be sure the new lawn is watered frequently for the first season.

In the second season of growth, try cutting back the water as much as possible. Watch the grass for signs of needing water. If the blades look dull-green in color, that is the sign that they are thirsty. Often a lawn will have an area where this will show up before any other area. That is the signal to water the entire lawn.

Recommended mowing height is 2.5 - 3". An organic lawn fertilizer can be applied in the fall. Try soybean meal, which can be purchased at a feed store. If your lawn is not a nice dark green (Enviro-Turf is naturally greener than conventional lawns) consider applying iron because it may help restore lost color without causing a flush of growth. The more growth, the more you must mow your lawn. So keep your fertilizing and watering to a minimum if you want to keep your mowing to a minimum. Adding potassium in the spring and summer will make your lawn more drought-tolerant. Do not add nitrogen in spring or summer, however, as this will have the opposite effect.

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn is recommended as they return valuable nutrients (particularly nitrogen, the main nutrient needed for grass). These clippings will not cause thatch, as they consist primarily of water. Research indicates that de-thatching is not recommended on fescue lawns.

When preparing your seedbed we have a few tips:

  • important - start with a weed-free seed-bed. Scrape young weeks with a weeding tool, but disturb the soil as little as possible so that you do not cause more weed seeds to come to the surface and be exposed to light, which will cause them to germinate
  • level the area as much as possible so that the seed doesn't all wash into the low spots
  • broadcast or drill seed at a rate of 2 - 3 lbs / 1000 sq ft
  • divide your area into sections and divide the seed into the same number of units you did for the lawn area. Spread one seed unit per division of lawn area. That way you won't run out of seed.
  • lightly rake area, then pack (tamp) with a board or roller (this is important to give the seed good contact with the moist soil)
  • important - keep evenly moist until seed germinates
  • give ample water the first season
  • spread corn gluten over the seedbed, but this must be done one month before seeding. It acts as a pre-emergence herbicide for annual grasses, particularly crabgrass. It will not kill existing weeds but rather prevents seeds from germinating. It can be purchased at many home and garden centers. It is recommended that you further research the use of corn gluten.

Canada: Since 2001, the Mow Down Pollution program has resulted in the return of over 12,000 mowers and trimmers across Canada and the reduction of over 270 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Visit the Clean Air Foundation website for more info.

  • Did you know? A standard gas mower can emit the same amount of common air pollutants in one hour as driving a new car for over 550 kms
  • the Environmental Protection Agency claims that 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That's more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, in the Gulf of Alaska!

 

Interested in Overseeding?

It is fine to over-seed an existing lawn with Bluestem's Enviro-Turf, however you will then have a lawn with mixed water requirements. You will still have to keep up the same watering schedule as you previously had in order to keep your lawn nice and green. The older grass in your lawn will go dormant and turn brown if you water the amount that Enviro-Turf needs.

Our recommendation is that you eliminate the old turf by covering it with four to six layers of overlapping newspapers, water them to give them weight (do NOT do this on a windy day), then cover with 2-3" of top soil. Now you are ready to seed with Enviro-Turf. The benefit to the newspaper technique is that when you kill the old lawn you automatically add organic material to the soil. If you remove the old turf you miss out on this valuable source of nutrients.

Another option to kill the current vegetation you may put a black tarp over the area. That will cause grass and weeds to die very quickly in sunny hot weather, though roots of grasses may remain alive. So do not remove too quickly. Once you are confident that the vegetation is dead, prepare the soil surface for seeding (the tarp must be removed).

Further info regarding eliminating turf can be found on this page of our website.

How can you tell if your lawn needs to be watered?

A "thirsty" lawn turns from the normal green color to a lighter green. These areas may be in patches, rather than across your entire lawn, making it easier to identify. This indicates that your lawn needs to be watered.

When you walk across your lawn the grass stalks remain bent over, leaving footprints.

 

Our Enviro-Turf on the roof of a garage under
construction in the Vancouver area
Photo courtesy Bruce Hemstock, New Westminster BC
PWL Partnership Landscape Architects Inc.

Seeding Times:

  • because the grasses in this mix are cool season grasses and therefore do their growing during cool weather, in order to grow a good root system, Enviro-Turf should be seeded before the weather gets hot. But at the same time, the weather needs to be warm enough to encourage the seeds to germinate. We think that between the time that the daffodils bloom to when the temperatures are regularly above 65F, is a good time to seed. You can seed earlier but the birds may get the seeds before they sprout.
  • in Zone 5, late August to mid September is also a good time to sow
  • in southern California, a landscaper told us that the best time to seed is from January to mid April, or as late as the end of April if the weather is cool


Seeding rate is 2.5-3 lbs per 1000 sq ft. Our 2kg bag (4.4 lbs) covers ~1500 sq ft.  
  Our 50 lb bag covers 11,000-17,000 sq ft  (FYI: 1 acre = 43,000 sq ft)

Canada - 2 kg bag $30.00;   22.7 kg bag - $230.00     Order  

US - 4.4 lb bag - $30.00;   50 lb bag - $230.00     Order

Comment from Muriel: based on my own experience, plus the fact that I have seen a number of people who have had to order another bag at a later date, I would like to suggest that you do not skimp on seed. My own calculation for the square footage covered by a bag is closer to 1000 sq ft. But maybe the quail got some of mine...

Normally we have a minimum order of $40, however for Enviro-Turf seed, one bag is the minimum order. Unfortunately, shipping to the US also requires a $12.00 fee for the Phytosanitary Certificate.

Enviro-Turf is considerably heavier than the plants, so we sometimes have to charge a little more for shipping.