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Meadow and decks ... easy-maintenance and naturally handsome.

Meadow and decks . . . easy--maintenance and naturally handsome

A grassy sea laps at the edges of this house in Davis, California. Looking like wind-stirred water, it covers the front and side yards and spreads behind the house like a natural meadow--punctuated with trees, shrubs, and a dry creek bed.

To play up texture, the exotic-looking grass, creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra), is left uncut. A little more than a year old, the fine grass has thin, roundish, foot-long blades. Relatively hardy in both heat and cold (to 20|), it also tolerates more shade than many lawn grasses.

For owners Kim and Tom Chin, the choice of this lawn was a matter of necessity rather than esthetics: fescue is the only type of grass to which Mr. Chin is not allergic. For them, its interesting appearance and low maintenance requirements are bonuses.

Sacramento landscape designer Michael Glassman, of Environmental Creations, planned a limited high-maintenance area with raised-bed planters where the Chins grow vegetables and cut flowers. But the fescue lawn, covering most of the garden, requires only watering, infrequent leaf clearing, and periodic fertilizing.

The Chins installed pop-up sprinklers in the front but have fixed heads on risers in the side and back gardens. In summer, they water every third day for a half-hour.

Trees planted around the perimeter were selected for eacy maintenance and to blend with neighboring yards. They include "Aptos Blue' redwoods, deodar cedars, Chinese tallow trees, and tree and shrub crape myrtles, as well as a stand of existing oaks along the back.

Near the back deck is a long koi pond. Where the house provides afternoon shade, ground ivy and young Japanese maples flourish. Where the koi pond ends, a dry creek starts, winding its way to the front of the house--where underground drain lines carry off rainwater.

At the front of the house, 8-foot-wide decking pads lead guests from the street, across the grass, and up to an elevated entry deck. Decking and pads are Alaskan yellow cedar, treated with a bleaching stain so the wood blends with the cedarsided house.

How to plant a fescue lawn

In low elevations of California and Arizona, fall is the ideal time to plant creeping red fescue. (In the Northwest, wait until April.) Before you begin seeding, make sure the soil is weed-free. To prepare soil, add organic amendments and rake smooth.

Scatter seed, by hand or with a spreader, at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. (The Chins had their lawn hydroseeded.) Lightly rake soil; cover with a thin layer of peat moss. Water often enough to keep topsoil moist until seeds germinate and sprouts are about an inch high. In hot or windy weather, this may be as often as three times a day.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring and fall; don't feed in hot weather. For other maintenance, you may wish to cut off seed heads that form during summer and rake out thatch periodically.

Photo: Wave-like grass--it's unmown creeping red fescue--borders entry bridge (left) and surrounds house. Crape myrtle shrubs add interest to grassy meadow beyond rear deck (below)

Photo: Dry stream bed, above left, edges bermed deck. At right, fescue lawn meets ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) at koi pond, creating interesting contrast in textures

Photo: Low-maintenance lawn curves around house. Raised beds are in rear corner
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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