What's new: New grass needs less water

A new line of grass seed promises to produce grass that requires up to 30 percent less water and uses fertilizer more efficiently.

Pennington Seed selected drought-tolerant grass varieties in developing Smart Seed. In addition, the seeds have a coating that includes mycorrhizal fungi, microorganisms that help the grass plants absorb more minerals and water than their roots could alone.

The Smart Seed line includes tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, as well as Bermuda grass for warmer climates. Sun and shade, fescue-bluegrass and dense shade mixtures are also available.

The seeds will be available at major lawn and garden and home improvement retailers nationwide. Suggested retail prices for 3-pound bags are $12.98 for tall fescue, $15.98 for Kentucky bluegrass, $11.98 for perennial rye and $13.49 for the tall fescue/Kentucky bluegrass mix. Greater quantities are also available.

The shelf: Gardening tips help save time

Some gardeners have more appreciation for plants than time to care for them.

Those are the people Carolyn Hutchinson wants to reach with "Time-saving Gardener: Tips and Essential Tasks, Season by Season."

Hutchinson lays out gardening projects according to the time of year they should be done, and prioritizes them with a rating system of exclamation points. She also estimates the time required, so time-pressed gardeners can decide what they need to do and set aside the time to do it.

Illustrated instructions help the gardener accomplish the task efficiently. There's also a directory of plants that grow well with minimal effort, saving even more time and labor.

"Time-saving Gardener" is due out later this month from Firefly Books. It's priced at $19.95 in paperback.

Liner or coating for old tub?

Q Which is a better choice, having a tub refinished or covered with a fitted insert?

— John Lovich, New Franklin, Ohio

A Each method has its pros and cons. Refinishing is the cheaper alternative, but liners typically last longer.

Refinishing involves chemically etching the old tub surface, applying an epoxy and then applying polyurethane finish coats. The process involves toxic chemicals, and for most people, it's not a do-it-yourself job.

Renee Riggenbach, vice president of Ohio Porcelain Resurfacing, said her company charges about $320 to refinish a tub in white (colors cost more). The new coating has a three-year warranty but usually lasts 10 to 15 years, Riggenbach said. A non-slip tub mat or anything else that traps moisture can cause the coating to bubble, but refinishing can be done again and again, she said.

Relining a tub involves having an acrylic or polymer liner made to fit snugly over the old one. Dot Randall of All-Custom Re-Bath said her company's factory makes the liners from molds that exactly match more than 850 tub models. The company installs a new drain and overflow, attaches the tub with butyl tape and silicone adhesive and seals the seams.

Costs typically range from $2,000 to $4,000 for a tub and walls, and less for the tub alone, she said. The company offers a lifetime guarantee.

Concerns have been raised about mold growing between liners and the original tub and walls, but Randall said a liner that is properly fitted and sealed should keep moisture out.