Should You Take Out All (or Some) of Your Lawn?

comments (9) May 8th, 2011

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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Consider taking out a little (or a lot) of lawn to make room for a garden.
Photo by Door to River under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

Consider taking out a little (or a lot) of lawn to make room for a garden.

Photo by Door to River under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.


The truth is that it depends. The answer isn't nearly as important as asking yourself the question. Because that's the point. We're so used to that green carpet in front of our homes (and usually in back) that it's taken for granted that it "should" be part of our landscapes. You shouldn't be bullied into ripping out your lawn, but you should be asking yourself what you're getting out of it. Especially if you're looking for some extra gardening space.

Just ask yourself, "Do I use this lawn?" If you coach soccer, the answer may be a resounding yes. But many of us will wonder why we're giving up all of this prime garden real estate for something we never set foot on -- unless it's to mow or fertilize. 

There are actually some pretty great reasons to swap out your sod. First of all, lawns are attention hogs. They demand plenty of water, fertilizer, and mowing. Power mowers are noisy, and put bad stuff into the air. Of course, most people actually pay to have those precious grass clippings hauled away -- which is blasphemy in my book. These simple things tell the story about the money we put out to keep our lawns happy.

Perhaps you like the look of a lawn -- and this actually makes sense. Lawns can make an area look and feel cooler than they are, which is a nice (and sometimes necessary) effect. And after you dump all that money into them, they truly turn green and "green" is exactly the right color for a garden, right?

You're absolutely right, nature brings us lovely shades of green, and there's nothing like the feel of cool grass on our bare feet -- except that there is. Have you ever walked on woolly thyme or Bronze Dutch clover? meadow grasses and flowers will also give the garden a refreshing feel and bring in the butterflies, too.

Have you ever heard of an eco-lawn? An eco-lawn is a blend of selected fescue grasses that are drought-tolerant and beautiful even when they're left un-mowed. This special grass has the added benefit of growing well in the shade, too.

The truth is that there are many ornamental grasses and ground covers that can offer much of the same attributes that turf does -- and more. The only exception that I can think of would be heavy traffic. Most groundcovers aren't going to hold up under cleats. If you really like (or use) your lawn, that's great. You can keep it or maybe just keep some of it. In any case, you should know that there choices other than lawn in the landscape.

Have any of you swapped out your sod? What did you put in its place?


posted in: garden space, removing lawn, replace lawn

Comments (9)

joshefhalw writes: I'm certainly very happy to read this blog site posts which carries plenty of helpful data, thanks for providing such information.
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Posted: 1:44 am on May 25th
joshefhalw writes: I do not miss it at all. I am also adding some herb beds and a "salad" bed as well.blog site
Posted: 1:43 am on May 25th
Sarasmith53 writes: I like having both. I love having a big well organized vegetable garden but I would miss not having the fields and lawns to mow. It looks so pretty to gaze out at a freshly mowed bright green lawn. Plus it smells good and my labradors can run and run all day long on lawns. Yes it does take time and fertilizers to keep it looking good and a well maintained sit-on lawn tractor helps for the hours it takes a week.
Posted: 1:12 am on May 30th
Imshelliee writes: I bought my house a little over three years ago and spent almost a full year agonizing over what to do with the new area yard. I had dreams of various English garden type plants and a lush green lawn. Unfortunately, my so cal weather wasn't favorable for my wish of delicate bulbs and wonderful hydrangea. Along the sides and front area of my lawn are large garden beds with dying mix-matched plants. We decided to grow our first tomato there years ago and have since changed all of the areas into a wonderful thriving vegetable garden of (13) tomato plants, onions, peppers, cucumbers, squash, luffa, and herbs. Last year on a whim, my husband planted pumpkins in our grass area (we were going to replace it with new sod) and WOW! Now our house is the place the neighbors stop for fresh tomatoes (I have a few "pick your own" out front and their kids for our pumpkin patch. Changing to this kind of garden is the best thing I've ever done gardening. :)
Posted: 2:53 pm on May 28th
Mary14889 writes: Yes, I, too, am expanding my vegetable garden, reclaiming some of the grassy yard that I have been mowing. So there will be less to mow and more to eat! I'm also planting fruit trees in the lawn that I am having to mow around, but hopefully that will be worth it in time. Wish I had done it years ago!
Posted: 10:29 pm on May 27th
Lauren2566 writes: Most of our 1/2 acre property is front yard, so I happily chose that spot to create a vegetable garden a few years ago. I have 4 12 x 12 squares broken up into 3 raised beds each, and I do my best to make it look appealing to passers-by. It has welcomed comment and visitors, and even become a little bit of a community gathering space as neighbors come over to help themselves to basil or a ripe tomato. We have forgone any maintenance on the lawn, and even seeded white clover to encourage bees and considered adding more squares and a fence along the street to enclose the yard a little more.
one weed has been pervasive on the lawn, and is creeping into the vegetable beds, so I will have to address that issue soon. I hope we can continue to add more native spaces to the yard to encourage more wildlife. We have lots of birds that gather on the wires when I pull out my hoe (I throw grubs, beetles, mealworms and larvae in a upside-down frisbee, and the bluebirds swoop down to feed as I garden), and we have TONS of butterflies, hummingbirds and toads.
Check out Smaller American Lawns Today (SALT) at the Connecticut College Arboretum.
Posted: 7:27 am on May 26th
Cookermama writes: Living in the southwest desert, water is a precious commodity. While we have not experienced "water rationing", it could happen. When/if it does, the grass will go in favor of maintaining the edible landscaping. That said, we do have a very small patch of grass that receives minimal water. It is more for aesthetics and cooling than anything. The remainder of our tiny yard (15x48!) is devoted to those plants, herbs and vegetables that gain height as opposed to spreading out in our limited space. I loved the comments from dikoehler - we'd love to be able to extend our edible planting to the front yard, but, the HOA tightly controls what can and cannot be planted - must to selected from a of approved desert plants.
Posted: 10:10 am on May 25th
dikoehler writes: I have taken our over half of the lawn this year and will take the rest out next year. It never grew well and now the flower/vegetable beds are attracting neighbors to stop by and look and visit plus giving us great enjoyment that the grass never did. we'll put in a little Texas gamma as it looks like waves. The ultimate this year is the purple cabbage that is heading.
Posted: 8:48 am on May 25th
betsyc19 writes: Yes I have taken lawn space for raised bed lasagna gardens and pathways and this year will add berry plots and start a small orchard with 2 apples, 2 cherries and 2 pear trees. I do not miss it at all. I am also adding some herb beds and a "salad" bed as well. One more addition for flowers and bushel basket potatoes. I love to see my yard being productive instead of simply using up resources. It is beautiful to look at, delicious to eat, a super place for all of my kitchen composting and a source of great pride. I cannot wait to "lose" more lawn this year! My vegetable gardens enhance my property and have created a lot of curiosity and a domino effect in the area. There will be more gardens in the neighborhood this year.
Posted: 6:27 pm on May 8th
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