Garden Designers Roundtable – Lawn Alternatives!

A wave of change is moving through the world of horticulture, a wave that intends to wash away the great lawn culture of

An Organic Lawn

the past 60 years. Tired of boring monocultures, faced with restrictions on water use, and more sensitive to environmental impact, landowners and managers are reimagining their yards, and their views on lawns are changing. Its Garden Designers Roundtable time again on the Blue Heron Landscapes blog, and this month we’re talking ‘Lawn Alternatives’.

I’m not anti-lawn, at least in regions of the world where it’s practical and sustainable, but I would like to propose that you consider an alternative thought process when considering your existing lawn or before establishing a new one. Instead of just grading your property, spreading grass seed, and buying into the whole premise that to be an upstanding neighbor, you need to have a lush green manicured lawn, consider the following questions and approach the design of your property and the inclusion of a lawn, in a more thoughtful manner.

Ask yourself the following:

Is it appropriate?

Here in the northeastern United States, drought is not an issue, but in arid regions of the country, the lack of water makes installing a lawn not only impractical, but irresponsible as well. Each year we hear of farmers out west having to bring water in for their crops from farther and farther away. Reservoir levels are dropping, rivers and streams are reduced to unhealthy levels for migratory fish and ground water is harder to find. Honestly, is having a patch of green really more important than any of these issues?

Is it proportionate?

Ok, so you are in an area of the country where water shortages are not an issue, good for you, you can have a lawn. Does the amount of lawn you desire however, match the amount of lawn you need? How large an area do your children need to play? How much of your property actually receives enough sunlight for a lawn to grow? Are there deed restrictions as to the uses of your property? Do you simply enjoy having a small patch of grass to walk barefoot in or have a picnic on? These may seem silly, but you’d consider some of the very same questions when purchasing the house, a car, or even new suit. So why wouldn’t you subject something you will be spending many hours each year with, to the same criteria?

Does it work with the design?

This is the most overlooked consideration when designing a property. Most often the lawn is considered separate from the garden. Why? They both are living planted environments, and they usually reside within the same boundaries. Lawn is not just a part of your yard it’s an important element in the design of your landscape, and of your garden. Where appropriate, an expanse of lawn can tie a garden together providing a resting space for the eyes or pathway or border for your creation. Lawn space is defining, engaging, and accessible, as long as it’s creatively used and proportionate with the design.

Will it be worth the effort?

This is a question for the ages. One person’s relaxation is another person’s afternoon of hell behind a mower. Once you’ve decided that having a lawn is appropriate for your region, proportionate with your needs, and is in harmony with your design, you’ll need to decide if you want to take on the task of maintaining it. It’s a question that can only be answered from within.

Leaf Pile Day 2002

For the record, I love having a lawn. I love the feel when walking on it barefoot, the smell of freshly mown grass, dew in the early morning, and I even enjoy raking in the spring and cleaning up leaves in the fall (especially when their dry enough to pile up and jump in!). What I grow increasingly tired of is large patches of singularity without the beauty found in a perennial border, or the weak growth under the shade of a mature tree, or unused areas of productive space, that could be planted with veggies. The classic yards from our youth have changed dramatically but with a little thought, and after answering a few questions, maybe we can recreate come of the magic, and in the process, give this planet a well deserved break!

I would love to hear your answers to these questions and your feelings about lawns, please leave share a comment below, then follow the links below and see what thoughts our other bloggers have on ‘Lawn Alternatives’.

Susan Harris : Garden Rant : Takoma Park, MD

Susan Harris : Gardener Susan’s Blog : Takoma Park, MD

Billy Goodnick : Cool Green Gardens : Santa Barbara, CA

Evelyn Hadden : Lawn Reform.Org : Saint Paul, MN

Saxon Holt : Gardening Gone Wild : Novato, CA

Ginny Stibolt : Florida Native Plant Society : Green Cove Springs, FL

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden, Life, Home : Atlanta, GA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT