Yesterday, we read about San Francisco's two $50,000 "lawn drones." That's $100,000 on two remote-controlled mowers.
While we agree that public parks are one of the few reasonable applications for turf, a slope too precarious for humans to enjoy that also requires a $50,000 machine to maintain seems unnecessary. Are you dealing with a slope? Here are some ideas to save you from a lawn drone:
1. Build a retaining wall
Guess what never has to be mowed? A wall.
2. Grow an erosion-proof border
- Install jute erosion-control netting before planting on steep slopes. Unfurl the rolls on the slope across the grade; secure them to the ground with U-shaped galvanized or plastic-coated pins (usually sold with the jute). Cut small, X-shaped holes in the jute and plant the seedlings or plants through them.
- Choose plants with dense, strong roots that help hold the soil. Examples: artemisia, ceanothus, cotoneaster, creeping mahonia (M. repens), ice plants, juniper, rockrose, rugosa roses.
- Arrange plants in staggered rows when setting them on a slope where erosion may occur.
- Install drip irrigation so plants get the amount of water they need without a lot of runoff. Place emitters uphill of the plants.
- To catch rainwater, build berms on the downhill side of the plants using soil from the planting holes.
3. Plant a lawn alternative
In some parks, San Francisco uses a fescue blend that doesn't require mowing. We were all for this trend! Maybe it's time for the city to take another look at the ever-expanding options on turf alternatives (we recently caught up with Delta Bluegrass Company founder, Ed Zuckerman, to talk about what what it's like to be a sod farmer during a drought, including some really exciting product developments).