Lawn-free living.

We eliminated another patch of our backyard lawn this weekend with an extension to our brick patio and a new bed dug in for tomatoes and flowers alongside it. Next weekend we’re planting the shade garden alongside the house, and that small patch of turf will meet it’s end as well under a layer of cardboard and mulch. That leaves a tiny strip running the length of our yard that separates the berry patch from the raised veggie garden and most of that turned into mud during our studio construction in February. We’ve decided that instead of replanting it with heavily fertilized lawn re-starter, we’re going to go with some Easy Care Lawn Cover from West Coast seeds that includes a mix of low-maintenance ground cover plantings such as daisy, rye, clover and white yarrow (which we already have in abundance in our yard).

While the latest work of the weekend is not yet at the state I want to share pictures of (it’s dismal and wet here, and although the new patio is in, everything around it is a muddy mess) you can see pictures of our fall-time lawn eradication project here.

It wasn’t like lawn eradication was my plan when we moved into this house a year ago. Not really. But as you can see from the photo-set above, it wasn’t like there was much in the way of landscaping going on in the backyard (nor the frontyard, but that is a project for another year). Not only that, but I have a serious interest in all kinds of plantings: food, flowers, perennials, herbs  – and a pretty small backyard! While I confined myself to gardening the edges last summer, I realized quickly that our family pretty much confines itself to the patio space when lounging outside and otherwise the lawn serves as little more than a bathroom for our dog. Which I think is true of many houses which have a usable deck or patio, the lawn is little more than a focal point around which planted beds are arranged since it is easier and more comfortable to set up table and chairs on a level surface that connects to the house in some way.

It became obvious in any case that in order to get the growing space I craved for my many gardening goals the lawn was going to have to go under one piece at a time. We’ve thus far used both the method of covering up (newspaper, cardboard, landscape fabric, mulch) and the dig method for the smaller bed areas where we are going to be planting right into the ground. I would highly recommend the cover-up method if you are putting in raised beds or if you are able to go with compost layers, etc. in order to create a new layer of topsoil for planting in. Much easier on the back and you won’t be fighting pesky grass roots forever as the layers on top will kill the turf underneath.

I had never really thought about the environmental toll of lawns before, mostly because I have never been big into watering or fertilizing or “greening” lawns at the houses where I have lived. Not to mention my whole refusal to mow. But I guess most people aren’t like that and there are some quite shocking statistics on the environmental and financial costs of lawns out there (such as the 10,000 gallons of water every 1000 square feet of lawn takes to keep up every summer). With the arrival of Chafer Beetle in  Vancouver, lawn care experts are recommending even more fertilizing, watering and pesticide spraying to keep the grubs under control…. which just seems nonsensical to me. Why lawn at all? Is it really the easiest ground cover to take care of (as my father avows) given watering restrictions, chafer beetle, dandelion seed blowing around and all the other issues that might arise?

I suppose if you’re just looking for basic soil erosion control and you don’t care if it browns during the hot months, then you’re got a pretty low-maintenance yard for those who want that. But for the true gardeners out there – it seems criminal to give up so much potential food, flower and native plant growing space over what is essentially a status symbol from days gone by.

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