Gardens: An extraordinary yard
An extraordinary yard
The yard extraordinaire. Phil Lovett takes the guesswork out of a perfect lawn.
Story: Bridget Broihahn
Photos: Briana Bailey
In every neighborhood, there is always that one guy who has the perfect yard. The yard with grass that looks like a green carpet, those emerald blades that would put even the best golf course to shame. Out in Mahomet’s Country Ridge neighborhood, that one guy is Phil Lovett. His grass is so thick and lush that it just begs for bare feet to walk around and enjoy it.
“You know, grass isn’t hard to grow correctly. It just takes the right amount of water, a little fertilizer, then some upkeep, and you’ll have a beautiful lawn,” Lovett said from his patio one sunny spring afternoon. “Mow it short when it’s cool, so it stays healthy, and mow it longer when it gets warmer. Let the clippings mulch back into the lawn and use a good fertilizer. I get good results with Scott’s.”
Years ago, Lovett had a yard with sod. It didn’t grow just the way he had imagined or wanted it to grow.
“I went to Bob Cooper at True Value and asked him what to do,” he said. “He really helped me out. I still use his advice to this day”
According to Lovett, in the East Central Illinois area, many lawns are primarily comprised with Kentucky Blue grass, a fine shafted high quality turf that can withstand very high traffic and bounces back well from drought and heat. It is very dense with smooth upright stems. It is a perennial, which means it comes back from year-to-year, and is very competitive with other grasses, often crowding them out. It is believed to be an introduced species, from Europe or Asia. It can grow well I dry or moist soil.
“Ideally, a lawn needs about one inch of water per week,” he said.
Lovett said it’s easy to measure the amount of rainfall by accessing the local weather reports. Then, if sprinkling is needed, a cup or small bowl can be placed in the yard to measure the amount of water that is delivered to the yard’s grass.
“I finally decided to design my own sprinkling system,” he said. “I would be moving sprinklers around every twenty minutes.”
He cut his sod deep enough to bury lines of high quality water hose. He attached four sprinkler heads and misters to each line of water hose. These would rotate giving water to each area for 15 to 20 minutes per area. He runs it very early in the morning, before the sun rises.
“I had to take into consideration that the closer the sprinkler, the higher the water pressure, if I had flower beds that needed water or it was just turf that needed water, you know, things like that,” he said.
He was shocked to learn that his neighbor spent $6,000 for a sprinkling system.
“I spent about $800 on mine,” he said with a smile.
Lovett also had beautiful plantings and landscaping, too.
“My mom started me out on all of this,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed taking care of a yard and keeping it nice.”
His last house had an established lawn with mature plantings, so when they built his current home almost 12 years ago, he made a deal with his daughters, Courtney and Ashley. “We talked, and they said they would help me get this yard established,” he said. “They sure did a lot of work to help out.” Lovett designed his own landscapes. “I drew it up myself. I researched and read about the different varieties,” he said, adding that over the years he has tried many different types of landscaping.
He rides his bike around and he gets ideas from others’ yards.
“I see things and I think, ‘That’s a good way to do that,’” he said.
He likes to layer plantings. “I’ll have my bushes three, four or even five deep. I like the way that looks. I also like to keep annuals in my planters, and I like my beds to have perennials,” he said.
He said that it can get expensive, so he tries to find ways to save money when he creates his landscapes and hardscapes. “I wanted our builder to put in a sidewalk along the side of our house. It was really expensive,” he said.
The Lovetts put in a brick paver, gravel and stepping stone walkway that was but a fraction of the cost that the concrete sidewalk would have been to put into place.
“It just takes a little thought. I enjoy all the work. It’s rewarding,” he said.