Sustainable Shades of Green - From the Golf Course to the Garden

My much improved front lawn
The house is a Queen Anne Victorian, built in the mid-1880s. 

Classical columns support a wrap-around porch, while dentil moldings, patterned shingles, stained glass windows and a decorative gingerbread gable lend the requisite whimsy. 

It's a gracious old house and I've lived here happily for over a decade, however, I must admit I've never actually taken care of the 1/2 acre of land that surrounds our abode.  I've tended to let my husband handle that part, and he in turn has always delegated it to a group of hurried young men with massive landscaping mowers and temperamental weed wackers.  They arrive once a week... always in pairs... and spend about 20 minutes before moving on to the next yard.

Needless to say, after years of such perfunctory treatment our lawn was looking less than lush.  A lot less.  When I went out in early April, to do an assessment, I could barely see the thick, thatchy crabgrass for all the gangley, spider-like dandelions... and the dandelions were being overtaken by aggressive waves of clover.  On that happy weedy note, I decided to see if I could turn things around, and I naturally took my inspiration from... golf.  Golf courses, to be exact.

Like many home owners, particularly those in America's suburbs and subdivisions, my horticultural fantasies are inspired by my yearly glimpses of a famous golf course in Augusta, Georgia. I've even attempted to convince myself that with a bit more effort... and a lot more fertilizer... I could have my own little version of Amen Corner right up here in Connecticut.  Fortunately, I never had the time... or the temperament... to act upon those grandiose fantasies, because the kind of perfection on display at Augusta National during the Masters is probably not achievable... and certainly not sustainable... for the average "recreational" gardener.  By the spring of this year... when I decided to focus on rehabilitating my lawn...  I understood this.  So my aspirations this time around were based on the relatively new breed of environmentally conscious courses.  The fact is, all over America, golf course managers and superintendents are using less water, fertilizer and insecticides while striving to maintain a beautiful course that challenges and entertains.

Most of the changes I've made thus far are simple;  First of all, I aerated.  We'd overlooked that important step for a while and as a result our soil was clearly quite compacted and unable to efficiently absorb water or nutrients.  That was the foundation. The men with the mowers still come once a week, but I've worked with them to ensure that their massive mower blades are kept sharp, and I regularly remind them not to go too low.  While the dream courses tend to keep their turf ultra-trim,  I'm keeping my lawn at about three inches to encourage deeper, more disease-resistant roots.

As for weeds, I'm working with them on two fronts; 1) I'm surgically removing them by hand... which can actually be fun with the right mindset... and 2) I'm developing a more accepting attitude to the less annoying ones. Happily, my lawn looks better than it has in years: greener, fuller, healthier.  I've used no herbicides and no artificial fertilizers... and I've relied entirely on rainwater for irrigation.  I'll have additional tips and photos as the summer progresses but for the time-being this more natural approach to a green lawn seems to be working.