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Managing a Small Lawn

Lawns come in all sizes

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Managing a Small Lawn
photo © Kelly Burke

Small lawns in urban areas differ from their suburban counterparts mainly in size, but this difference changes everything about a small lawn's maintenance and management. Urban neighborhoods are often heavily treed and overwhelmed by concrete or asphalt, creating micro-climates and conditions requiring special care much different than suburban lawns.

It's most important to choose an appropriate grass species for the conditions and location of the lawn,like shade and drought tolerance. Whether it's a shaded, postage stamp lawn or a containerized roof-top lawn, proper grass species is essential for surviving and thriving in its location.

Large shade trees can provide a cool retreat in an urban setting but often they compete with lawns for moisture, restrict air movement, and provide so much shade that growing a lawn in it's presence can seem impossible. In addition to choosing shade loving grasses, trees can also be pruned to allow more sunlight and improved air circulation. Pruning is also beneficial to the long-term health of the tree.

The small size of urban lawns requires a re-thinking of normally routine maintenance procedures.

The far reaching effect of broadcast fertilizer spreaders becomes counterproductive. A drop spreader or liquid applications can be more effective on a smaller urban lawn.

Sprinklers would most likely be small misting heads to prevent over-spray. Some urban lawns can be so small it might be better to hand-water, as long as proper watering methods are followed. Water conservation is just as important in the city as it is in the suburbs.

Even the use of lawn mowers has to be re-thought on an urban lawn. A small electric mower, a push-type reel mower or even a string trimmer might make more sense than a traditional gas powered mower - especially if storage is limited or it takes longer to get it ready and in place than it does to mow the lawn.

Cultural practices should remain the same albeit on a smaller scale. Any lawn will benefit from a soil test, occasional overseeding, aerating and topdressing. In fact, hiring a lawn care company may make a lot of sense in an urban environment whether it's just for certain jobs like fertilizing or aerating, or for weekly lawn care. Just be sure to use a reputable company with fair prices and a la carte services.

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