Posted by competentgirl in Sustainable Living on 2013-05-08 06:11:00 UTC and edited at 2020-02-10 02:50:02 UTCPermalink
I'm buying a house with a big lawn and basically no other plantings. I'm not a fan of lawns and am looking for ideas for killing the grass and something to replace it. The newspaper and mulch method is not a good option as if anything there is too much soil (ie the house is too close to the ground and the yard is a bit higher than the sidewalk).
I want to replace it with something more permeable than sod, that doesn't require mowing or watering during our summer 'drought' (it can die off like grass does if it comes back when it starts raining), and that can stand up to my dog walking all over it. Eventually I plan to add some garden beds and plantings (service berry and elderberry are high on my list) and I may eventually use it for goat forage but in the meantime I want something simple. I'm thinking clover might be a good option. A meadow is probably not (I think it would be taller than is allowed for fire safety and neighborhood standards.)
Any ideas would be welcome.
You might look for a mix of forbs suited to your climate -- a lot of small flowering plants can be good groundcover. Or heck, maybe just seed in a lot of clover?
I think this might be where you want to consult a landscaper, maybe one who specializes in eco-friendly layouts?
I guess my question is... why replace it? Does the area you live in have expectations for lawn maintenance that you wouldn't be able to meet? Or could you just let it run a bit wild? I agree that planting clover would be lovely, but you'd have to rip up all the lawn first, otherwise you'll wind up with clover+grass mix and it'll still get shaggy and need maintenance in much the way that just grass would. If you're going to do all the work of ripping up/killing off the grass, then why not build your garden beds?
Assuming you're not going to get in trouble with your neighbourhood association or anything like that, my suggestion would be to chuck around seeds for some kind of green mulch (clover, or some sort of "green manure" mix, bonus points if it has flowers in it since they look nice) and just let it run a little wild. Mow/cut it down every so often (but not in a perfect lawn maintenance kind of way, just in a triffid control way) and leave the clippings where they fall, where they'll build up organic mass and generally improve the soil for your future garden beds.
When it comes time to build the garden, have you considered terracing? From what you say it sounds like the lawn comes right up to the house. You could turn over the sod for a metre or so around the house, and pile it, upside down, further away from the house. Make a little retaining wall with cinderblocks or old railway sleepers or whatever comes easily to hand. Put down gravel or woodchips or similar as a pathway around the house itself. You'll have slightly lowered the area around the house, slightly raised the area a little further off, and made a start on your raised beds.
Also if I were in your situation I'd put in a couple of fruit trees now ... the green mulch would be good for them, and you can plant vegies around them as and when you feel ready. But then, I have all sorts of fruit tree fantasies, so the idea of having a big lawn that I could mess up sounds like heaven to me.
I don't mow, because it sets off my allergies and it is expensive to hire someone reliable to do it for you. Pretty much every city around here has requirements about keeping the grass or whatever to a reasonable length - probably because it is a fire hazard if you don't; I don't know what the exact requirements in Eugene are, but when I lived in Portland, I regularly got nasty letters from the city about my need to mow more often. Beyond all this, grass of the type used for lawns at least is horribly impermeable (concrete actually compares favorably) and results in lots more water going into the drainage system in ways that cause problems rather than soaking into the earth and then making it's way to creeks and streams.
I have a lot of work to do on the house, so I don't want to put the effort into garden beds yet, because I won't have time to garden. Plus the things I would have time for, I want to put in beds right next to the house and I'm getting a new foundation and re-siding this summer, so next to the house is out. And I still don't have access to plant, so it's looking like I might not have time to harvest anyway.
Until a few years ago, I would have planted a bunch of fruit trees, but I'm now allergic to all the tree fruit that grows well around here. :-( I hope to plant serviceberry and elderberry this year, and blueberries and other cane berries next (some of the house fixing will interfere with where I want to put the later two.)
I also despise grass lawns, and I'm working on converting to a low-maintenance native mix: Fleur de Lawn. If you are doing this, I really recommend thatching out the existing lawn. That will remove some of the height problem as well as giving you a clean slate.
I'm looking to do the same for my front yard. It's uphill of the house (unlike totally-flat back yard) so I don't want to drag the lawnmower up there. I found a list of native groundcovers for my area (Maryland). At Home Depot they said just use a grass killer before ripping the grass out. I thought that'd be like salting the earth where you can't plant after, but the bottles all say you can replant within a few days.
Black plastic to cover and kill (or if you get lots of sun clear plastic to solarize) I can recommend Dichondra repens (Kidney Weed), you can plant from seed, but it may die off in drought, but it will come back and re-colonise bare ground Perhaps you may also wish to consider using "bark" to reduce "lawn" space.. something like large pieces of cedar will last a long time and keep the insects/termites at bay
Don't know if you're still looking for ideas, but my local independent plant nursery (as opposed to Home Depot) has a "stepables" section. It's all plants that you can walk all over and they don't grow tall enough to need mowing. Apparently there's a website: http://www.stepables.com/ I picked up blue star creeper and county park creeper. Checking their site might give you ideas for plant varieties.
hi i am gradually removing lawn and planting vegie gardens and trees. it takes a while to get the grass out, an ongoing battle here so far. under the clothesline i cant grow tall things so i have planted some yarrow which is growing ok. was thinking of putting in a mix of low growing herbs but they have to cope ok with frost and 40C heat. because your garden is high i think i would dig it into higher areas and lower areas. it might depend if you get a lot of rainfall or have a lot of heat.? how are you going with it?