Growing Green – Shrink Your Lawn
Did you know …?
- A 3.5 hp lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as an automobile driving 350 miles?
- The EPA says as much as 50% of urban fresh water is used to water lawns each year? (and up to 70% in hot, dry areas)
- And then there are the tons of herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers we dump on our lawns every year to keep them green…
I’m not quite sure where our love affair with the emerald green, perfectly manicured lawn came from but perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate just how much lawn we really need. With huge portions of the USA in record-breaking drought conditions and growing awareness of the harm caused by excessive pesticide and fertilizer use, now’s a good time to think about how to make do with less lawn.
I’ve never been a fan of lawns (too much effort and too many inputs required to keep it looking good, in my view) but I do admit that a lawn can be an asset in garden. Nothing showcases the planting beds and borders of a garden like a well maintained lawn. Still, I’ve never seen a home that couldn’t shrink the size of the lawn without any negative impact on curb appeal or house value.
Sure, if you have children, it’s nice to have room for them to play. And maybe you enjoy dining al fresco on the lawn. Or hosting friends for a cocktail party. Still, how much lawn do your really need?
How to Shrink Your Lawn
I’m not talking about xeriscaping here (although that wouldn’t be a bad idea for many of us). Rather, I’m asking you to take one or two simple steps to reduce the vast expanse of lawn around your house. Nothing fancy, nothing drastic – just a slow expansion of planting beds or replacing unhealthy grass with something better adjusted to your growing conditions.
A simple way to shrink your lawn is to extend the borders of existing plantings; removing just one foot of sod around each garden bed can make a huge difference in the amount of lawn you need to mow, fertilize and weed. A spade will do just fine to remove sod from smaller areas. For larger lawns, consider renting a sod remover. Just be sure to remove all the grass roots; leave even a few and you’ll quickly have grass in your new planting area.
Plant lower-growing perennials in front of your existing shrubs and larger herbaceous perennials to add color and interest. Spread a 2-3″ layer of organic mulch over the new planting area to conserve soil moisture, stop new weeds from emerging, and get your new plants off to a great start.
If you have trees in your lawn, create beds around them. These don’t need to be flower beds – simple mulch will work well and provide a low maintenance area around each tree. Extend beds out to the drip line of the tree and mulch the circle. Just remember not to place the mulch right next to the trunk (no mulch volcanoes, please!).
And if you have an area in your garden where grass just won’t grow, why not plant a lawn alternative that will take some foot traffic and still function like a lawn. For sunny areas, try Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and for shadier areas try Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalid). There’s even a whole line of tough, low-growing plants under the brand name Stepables.
Once you’ve started to shrink your lawn, I bet you’ll shrink it even more next year!
And now over to you – How much lawn do you have? Would you consider reducing it? Let us know in the comments below.