Less Lawn, Better World
September 9, 2007 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Here are some ways to shrink your unnatural water- and gas-guzzling lawn and plant something that is beautiful and requires no water usage, no mowing, and is more likely to attract more interesting wildlife. With this much lawn in the U.S., and incessant water shortages, and other water issues and wars in our present and looming in the future, why not go native? Naturally, there are objections, since local ordinances often don't allow for natural prairie lawns, and the neighborhood stick-up-butt committees are quick to remove things they consider eyesores. What is your lawn worth to you?
posted by taursir (64 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
We planted the "ecolawn" mentioned here early this spring.
It's not quite as wild as some of the lawns linked in the post, being mostly grass and clover, with some yarrow and daisies mixed in.
It seems to be doing quite well, not nearly as brown as the conventional lawn in the backyard.
We've so far had nothing but compliments on it.
posted by madajb at 11:09 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Southern Nevada Water Authority offers rebates for property owners who remove thirsty grass lawns with more native landscape. Seems developers in Las Vegas have gone into hyper-apeshit mode and have been rapidly installing cookie cutter suburbs with artificial lakes. All of the enormous casino/hotels on the LV strip, including the famous waterfalls use something like 3% of the water that these new suburbs use on their lawns and lakes.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:11 PM on September 9, 2007


Most of our yard that could be lawn is tasty, tasty food.
posted by padraigin at 11:18 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


favorited for "stick-up-butt committees"
posted by subaruwrx at 11:20 PM on September 9, 2007


Honestly, though, my parents live in LA and were the first in their neighborhood to go mostly green. They use solar panels, recycle and have a water-less lawn that feels just like real grass.

The money they save on water alone will pay for the lawn in 8-10 years.
posted by subaruwrx at 11:22 PM on September 9, 2007


You know, if we just got rid of suburbs... this problem would be solved.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 11:33 PM on September 9, 2007


If "we" just got rid of suburbs all those surbanites would clog the cities and spark off another plague or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:34 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


escape to xeriscape.
posted by bruce at 11:45 PM on September 9, 2007


A cool post, thank you!

I've been following the minor xeriscape controversy (recap: "Your native, drought-tolerant yard offends me, so I have gotten the City involved!") on Talking Plants. Call me a hippie, but it blows my mind that anyone would think that saving water isn't a good plan.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:46 PM on September 9, 2007


I hear you, thehmsbeagle. It's funny the trouble people are willing to go to to maintain their lawn, or gas-guzzling Hummer. I don't get it.
posted by taursir at 12:13 AM on September 10, 2007


Yeah. I simply never understood the aesthetic of house after house with identical, perfectly kept lawns. I've lived in older suburbs, where every house had their own unique, varying garden, and it was great. I've been in newer suburbs with house upon house having great expanses of lawn, as per the local ordinances, and I sometimes got lost finding the house I was after.

Why do people think it's attractive? Don't they get sick of the watering? Don't they get sick of constantly having to repair the lawn...weed it, fertilize it, aerate it, mow it, trim the edges, KEEP OFF MY LAWN! What's the attraction, and given that it's so ugly, why is it so closely associated with keeping your house price high? There goes the neighborhood!

I'm currently renting a house where the garden, unfortunately, consists of nothing but lawn. And so, we are required to rigorously look after that lawn. All the neighbours just have the discarded tropical jungle that's common around here. A mass of palms and ferns and mango trees. I'd much prefer to have the jungle, personally.

Just plant some fucking trees, already. Native? Even better. They give you privacy. They give you shade. They look after themselves if you pick the right species. And as padraigin above says, your front yard can even feed you, if you let it.
posted by Jimbob at 12:16 AM on September 10, 2007


Don't they get sick of the watering?

I have automatic sprinklers that come on at 4:00 AM.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:21 AM on September 10, 2007


If suburban lawns were allowed to grow wild, it would be great for wildlife (no poisonous herbicides and pesticides, lots of native plants for food and shelter) and I might even start to like the suburbs, but suburban people are afraid of wildlife. For example, a commenter on that Talking Plants link asks, "I think the gramma grass is beautiful, but I have a question... what about snakes?" And people are afraid of bees, too, and pretty much anything else that isn't a dog or a cat. Some don't even like birds in trees, because birds might crap on their beloved cars. A sad bunch that can't deal with the city and can't deal with the country.
posted by pracowity at 12:43 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


wide lawns = narrow minds
posted by Avenger at 1:07 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


The winner: You could switch your turf from being a grass to using ultra dwarf mondo grass.

The positives are that you never have to mow your lawn, thus stopping the #1 polluter, lawnmowers. Your grass will be deep emerald green, forever, even in winter. Ultra Dwarf Mondo grass can grow in full sun to shade, is salt tolerant, heavily drought resistant, and you'll never have to worry about edging or maintaining your lawn.
posted by torpark at 1:15 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can we convert the golf courses and all public grassed space too please.

kthanksbye
posted by asok at 2:07 AM on September 10, 2007


At least you guys have lawns! Ours is a mess of dying plants and weeds. Hello,"permanent dry".
posted by liquorice at 2:36 AM on September 10, 2007


My house came with a lawn. We pay some guys to mow it every two weeks to keep it tidy, but we never water or fertilize. The lawn can live or die on its own merits.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:52 AM on September 10, 2007



Lawns are great. Why weren't they a "problem" a generation ago?

Anyone mention population growth as being the cause?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:54 AM on September 10, 2007


Don't they get sick of the watering?

I've never watered a lawn in my life, that's what rain is for. A garden, I'll water occasionally but grass never. But then we don't exactly have water shortages here; it seems to rain about 365 days a year here (actually only 153). And since I just have a little city lot, we mow it with a victorian push mower, works great.
posted by octothorpe at 3:55 AM on September 10, 2007


I've never watered a lawn in my life, that's what rain is for.

Well, that's the point, isn't it? Some places it rains a lot. Go plant a lawn.

Other places, like where I live, it rains 5 months a year and does not rain at all the other 7 months. My lawn grows 3 inches a week in the rainy season (I've measured it) while now, in the dry season, I have the sprinkler on it somewhere every day to keep it alive. Luckly, we get so much rain when it does rain, that wasting water on a lawn is a viable option.

And other places...really water-scarce places, in desert / Mediterranean climates, there's really not enough water for a lawn at all if you're being reasonable about things. A little bit of rain to keep it growing in the winter, but you can't really afford to waste water on it in the summer.
posted by Jimbob at 4:43 AM on September 10, 2007


My current lawn already requires no water usage (beyond rainfall, that is). And I am very (very very) open to any plan that would reduce the amount of time I spend pushing a mower around.

But could someone explain why I want my children's play area filled with "wildlife" that is going to bite or sting them? That is, if the toddler-sized (and smaller) ones can even navigate it in the first place.
posted by DU at 4:47 AM on September 10, 2007




Lawns are great. Why weren't they a "problem" a generation ago?

When there is no water shortage, people don't look for stupid ways in which people waste water. When and where there is a water shortage -- thanks mainly to population growth and overbuilding and putting people in the middle of the damned desert -- people look for ways to cut water use.

Which leads to lawns, which are a big waste of time and water (etc.) just for the sake of creating a neat green carpet that looks just like everyone else's neat green carpet. And of course lawns don't become neat green carpets without weedkillers and fertilizers to enforce the suburban monoculture (biological, aesthetic, and social), and weedkillers and fertilizers get into the runoff and are consumed by bugs and fish and everything that eats them. So lawns are a good thing to start with when you want to save water (and solve other problems at the same time).

Sprawl is a related thing that everyone complains about now. Every house lot cut into the woods or fields means a chunk of diversified land turned into a one-species lawn that wastes water.

But could someone explain why I want my children's play area filled with "wildlife" that is going to bite or sting them?

You don't have to have badgers in your sandbox. (Though I wish.) Depending on where you live, you might have a nice rolling swath of lovely, soft, flowering clover and other plants with plenty of visiting butterflies and ladybirds and grasshoppers and bumblebees and frogs and toads and lizards and hedgehogs and robins and chickadees and bats and magpies and doves and so on. That's not going to off a healthy sprog, it's going to delight it.
posted by pracowity at 5:45 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe this should be an askme, but this seems like an appropriate thread:

When I moved into my house, its lawns existing condition plus my own inherent laziness quickly led to a severe and ugly weed and unmowedness problem. Thinking that my new neighbors were going to hate me, and knowing that nothing was going to change if that required me actually mowing the lawn on a regular basis, I signed up for a landscaping service and a fertilizer/pesticide/etc. service.

Cut forward to today: My lawn is beautiful. Yeah, yeah, I know, all you people in this thread would say it's ugly - gimme a break. You're like the people who say that butter is disgusting. Butter is not disgusting - butter is awesome. What butter does to you is disgusting.

Anyway, that minor rant aside, in the intervening years, I have become less and less concerned with my neighbors hating me, and have often thought about trying to set up a low maintenance and more natural replacement for my lawn. Maybe something like clover and wildflowers, and some small flowering trees, especially fruit trees.

So now, my questions:

How do I go about making the switch? It's not going to happen if it relies upon my physical labor. Are there landscaping services that specialize in (or at least do) this sort of thing, "full switch"? I know from experience that if I just sit back and let it grow, the results are going to be less than spectacular.

And what about all the deweeding pesticide that's been deposited into my lawn over the past several years? Should I just cut that service off (when I'm ready to make the switch), and then switch? Or should I wait a year (or two, or ten) for it all to decompose before trying to replace the grass? And how long will it be before it's safe to eat an apple from a tree in my yard?
posted by Flunkie at 6:12 AM on September 10, 2007


We foolishly bought a house with a homeowners association and talk about stick-up-butt committees. They had the audacity to send out a letter recommending the use of pesticides and over-watering to maintain a neighborhood worthy of their uptightedness. The letter was promptly recycled.

The neighbor who waters his lawn every single day won an award for the nicest lawn. This was back during the drought when all of the area lakes were closed because they were to low. Go figure.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 6:12 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I live a very wet area and the only impediment to a lawn is getting enough sunlight. Nevertheless, I am planning to keep a modest lawn and use the rest of my land for some more interesting landscaping. This article talks about some of the additional non-lawn options.
posted by shothotbot at 6:21 AM on September 10, 2007


The winner: You could switch your turf from being a grass to using ultra dwarf mondo grass.

I've actually planted two small patches of dwarf mondo grass in my yard. I think they're slowly spreading, but this is the problem I have with dwarf mondo grass and some of these other lawn alternatives:

Froogle

I don't even want to calculate what it would cost to convert my entire 1/4 acre lawn. Is there a feasible, affordable way to do this?

In the meantime, I'm considering trying this blend of fescues recommended for the east coast:

Ecolawn
posted by srt19170 at 6:29 AM on September 10, 2007


And how long will it be before it's safe to eat an apple from a tree in my yard?
To be clear, I imagine that the answer to this question might depend upon how I make the switch. For example, perhaps:
  1. If I stop the pesticide service, and wait a year, the pesticide will all have washed away, at which time I could plant an apple tree, and eat its first apples;
  2. If I stop the service and immediately plant an apple tree, it will suck up a bunch of pesticide, which it will deposit into its apples for the next ten years.
I am open to whatever possibility gets me edible apples the soonest.
posted by Flunkie at 6:35 AM on September 10, 2007


The neighbor who waters his lawn every single day won an award for the nicest lawn. This was back during the drought when all of the area lakes were closed because they were to low. Go figure.

My pet theory about all of these uptight neighbourhood associations and things like the relatively recent explosion in home-and-garden porn is: as long as people can point to their green, green lawns and lush gardens, they can go on believing the environment is just fine.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:52 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


How do I go about making the switch?

Work locally:

1. Learn the local rules and stay within them (lest the government force you to tear up all your work and reinstall grass).

2. Contact local branches of wildlife groups. Find the local experts/fanatics who will be able to show you examples of what you can get away with. Make sure what they recommend stays within the rules -- some folk are willing to take chances that you might not want to take with your own time and money.

3. Contact local gardening centers and landscapers recommended by the local wildlife people. They'll know what works best in your area and be able to give you an estimate. Tell them you want minimal maintenance, year-round diverse nature, and no potential legal hassle from any pinhead living near you.

4. Plant local species if you can.

And no matter what you do to your lawn, think about surrounding all or part of it with a high hedge and fence (if it's affordable and legal). What your neighbors can't see won't bother them, the birds will love your hedge, and you'll never have to look at your neighbors and their lawns again.
posted by pracowity at 7:05 AM on September 10, 2007


My sprinkler system broke in the Spring, and I just figured out the problem is with the controller, not a physical blockage. But trying to hand water this summer in Orem, Utah was no treat, and the lawn looks pretty beat up. Switching to a lower-water lawn presents problems, however, even though it's probably the Right Thing to Do.

1. Xerixcaping costs money, and it still requires watering, which requires a sprinkler system.

2. Fescue, such as sheep fescue, will die rather than go dormant if it is too neglected, even though it requires less water. Fescue is also not as soft on my kids' feet.

3. An eighty-year old woman was roughed up and arrested for not watering her lawn in our city. I kid you not.

4. You have to convince your spouse/partner.

We are going to take it a step at a time, and just replace the flower beds with something lower maintenance, then gradually start putting in trees, shrubs and plants that don't crave too much water until our overall front lawn is reduced. Our backyard, however, is also the kids' playground, so we will probably keep turf of some type.

We have one patch of sod that always looks crappier than everything else. We got it for free from some landscaping friends. When we went on vacation our exchange student watered it for like an hour a day and when we returned it looked wonderful, but it was shocking to see how much that particular patch needed to look healthy.

Southwest seed have been really friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.
posted by craniac at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2007


1. Xerixcaping costs money, and it still requires watering, which requires a sprinkler system.

We've got a drip irrigation system, and it works just fine. The water goes directly into the ground around the plants, and not into the air, or onto the leaves. Most of our garden is native, or non-invasive non-native plants, plus a box for growing veggies.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2007


This is excellent. I just bought my first house, and it has 1/3 acre of grass that just kinda freaks me out when I look at it. I've done a permaculture consult already, and this gives me many more ideas. Thanks!
posted by moonbird at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2007


I already eat apples from my own yard. Well, the ones that don't have worm holes.
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2007


Ditto to octothorpe. Not every lawn is wasteful. Plenty of areas have enough rainfall for a "regular" lawn to grow fine by itself. I've never watered my lawn-or done anything else to it beside take out weeds with a spade-and it looks fine.

And I use a reel mower.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2007


For all the people citing kid's play area as the reason for grass, what are the alternatives? There has to be a nice ground cover that is better than grass for that.
posted by agregoli at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2007


Dirt, for example, works very well to support the feet of playing children.

Over the summer, on a trip, some friends and I were traveling in the vicinity of Lake Mead out west, which is the big lake behind Hoover Dam. Huge desert, everywhere. Dirt and scrub. Then we pass through a town and there's verdant green lawns everywhere. Finally, we got to where we staying, on the lake itself, and eat dinner at a hotel restaurant. The hotel used to be on the shore of the lake. Now it was a good quarter mile away.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:05 AM on September 10, 2007


All you've got to do for a mini-prairie in Kentucky is quit mowing and weeding. By late Spring the place is yard was of wildflowers.
posted by davy at 10:24 AM on September 10, 2007


If playing surfaces are what they're after, the subdivisions should just pave their front yards! I have a concrete patio out back, and for a while there my back yard was Kid Central because that was the best spot for balls and scooters and chalk drawing. The older kids opt for ball games in the street.

Grass gets ignored here, unless the grass is covered with 1)climbable trees or 2)snow.
posted by pernoctalian at 10:28 AM on September 10, 2007


Actually, after a year or so the Kentucky forest would come back. It'd start with stinkweed.
posted by davy at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2007


thehmsbeagle writes "Call me a hippie, but it blows my mind that anyone would think that saving water isn't a good plan."

They don't think the (treated to drinking standards) water is being wasted.

pracowity writes "If suburban lawns were allowed to grow wild, it would be great for wildlife (no poisonous herbicides and pesticides, lots of native plants for food and shelter) and I might even start to like the suburbs, but suburban people are afraid of wildlife."

Yep. People don't like wildlife in their life: "They said it attracted raccoons, lowered property values and swallowed children's tennis balls. One neighbour pointed disgustedly at a raccoon carcass partly hidden under a tree beside Ms. Dale's house.

"That's not a garden," said the man, who did not want to be named.

Added his son: "It's a forest!" "


Add GOML rant on why the tennis balls are in the yard in the first place.

pracowity writes "Learn the local rules and stay within them (lest the government force you to tear up all your work and reinstall grass)."

Ironically the city here has a huge push on promoting Xeriscaping but specifically disallows the two ground plants that grow naturally in our 11" of rain annually environment (sagebrush and bunch grass). And whenever they develop a new boulevard or meridian/traffic island they plant grass and install sprinklers. They never return it to bunch grass and sagebrush. Total policy -- action disconnect.
posted by Mitheral at 10:45 AM on September 10, 2007


I respect reel mowers, but was never able to get either of the ones I borrowed to do a good job cutting the lawn. And I had trouble getting the edges since the blades don't extend past the wheels at all.

I got an electric mower (the kind with a long power cord) and love it. It's quiet. Lightweight. Doesn't smell. It stops and starts as easy as flicking a switch. It cuts well. Needs little maintenance.

It was a lot cheaper than a gas mower. It doesn't pollute the neighborhood and I suspect it uses less energy and produces less pollution overall.
posted by straight at 11:12 AM on September 10, 2007


I should add that while I'm sympathetic towards the woman in the Globe and Mail story linked to in the FPP, and absolutely love the idea of natural lawns/gardens and wildlife living in my front/back yards, I'd have gone to the trouble of removing the dead raccoon if I were her. I wouldn't raise a peep if my neighbours had grass or weeds or whatever taller than I am, but dead animals stink. A lot.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:48 AM on September 10, 2007


agregoli writes "For all the people citing kid's play area as the reason for grass, what are the alternatives? There has to be a nice ground cover that is better than grass for that."

Most of the good solutions are capital intensive.
posted by Mitheral at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2007


Dirt, for example, works very well to support the feet of playing children.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim


"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"
posted by Dead French Royalty


And dirt is attractive. Really, that comment makes you sound like some snarky college hipster posting from a Starbucks, ready to hop on your faux retro cruiser on the way to the library to read a little Wendell Berry.

Our first home didn't have a lawn, as it was a new development. You wouldn't believe the amount of dirt that would make its way into the house. And straight gravel is an eyesore.

One thing I've learned since buying a home in suburbia is that even though many of the solutions people have chosen (kentucky bluegrass in the desert) don't make sense environmentally, they make some sense at some level.

The problem with suggesting Xeriscaping (and I write this as someone who is moving in that direction) and any number of environmental solutions is that they often don't address the needs, or perceived needs that led to the the original problem. That, and many "solutions" often don't work for families with multiple children on a limited budget. I love Wendell Berry, by the way, but there's no way I'm going to start my own organic farm, and you probably aren't either. So it might be useful to look at real solutions.

If you have 50 bucks until your next check and your kids need shoes/lunch/whatever, putting in $2,000 of native plants and a complex irrigation system that will require additional maintenance isn't going to happen.

As I come across affordable alternatives I will post them in this thread.

/done venting.
posted by craniac at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is "ultra dwarf mondo grass" the same type of thing that they've been selling for years in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics?

I remember an ad that used to run, usually on the last page before the back cover, for some sort of quick-spreading, never-mow, low-water groundcover product, that was sold in "plugs" that you planted in your lawn. Supposedly then you just let it spread and it would overtake everything else.

I was always intrigued by that, except that I didn't want to introduce some killer-kudzu-grass into the neighborhood.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:45 PM on September 10, 2007


And dirt is attractive. Really, that comment makes you sound like some snarky college hipster posting from a Starbucks, ready to hop on your faux retro cruiser on the way to the library to read a little Wendell Berry.

I probably would never have a dirt front lawn, depending on the area (e.g. if it rains a lot it's a very bad idea), but the point is that kids don't really need a well-manicured surface to run around on - and really, once you have an ultra-well-manicured lawn, you don't want those kids messing it up. (Organized sports are somewhat an exception, but you don't have a football field on your front lawn.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:05 PM on September 10, 2007


I remember an ad that used to run, usually on the last page before the back cover, for some sort of quick-spreading, never-mow, low-water groundcover product, that was sold in "plugs" that you planted in your lawn. Supposedly then you just let it spread and it would overtake everything else.

This is how I got my nickname at work of "Dream Crusher". The dudes I work with were all "OMG, Will Solve All Lawn Issues" and I was all "yeah, right, sorry, never going to work."

It didn't. But it was like, some kind of Mega Super Zoysia or Magic Bermuda or some crap that they were trying, so maybe yours is different.

I always thought Mondo (monkeygrass) grew in little clumps, though, making it not ideal for lawns in the first place.
posted by mckenney at 1:12 PM on September 10, 2007


I couldn’t imagine having a lawn in an arid region.
Us folks in the Great Lakes area get enough rain, but I still see people watering their lawns. I drive by corporate HQs and other show sites with rich rolling lawns that sprinkle while it’s raining. Drives me nuts. I have yet to water my lawn. The roots must be a mile deep by now. I’ve got nice prairie grasses around the house and I pull weeds by hand. Been trying to get my town to let me put rain barrels in for irrigation(there are high-tech barrels which block mosquitos), bit of a fight right now tho.
The problem isn’t the people in the burbs, most of us just want to raise our kids away from you idiots, it’s the group think mentality out here.
I actually had someone ask me why, since I make good money, I’d want to conserve water and avoid using pesticides.
It’s as though I had to legitimize going to the gym: “Say, Smed, couldn’t you just hire someone to lift those weights?”
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2007


I probably would never have a dirt front lawn, depending on the area (e.g. if it rains a lot it's a very bad idea), but the point is that kids don't really need a well-manicured surface to run around on - and really, once you have an ultra-well-manicured lawn, you don't want those kids messing it up. (Organized sports are somewhat an exception, but you don't have a football field on your front lawn.)

No, you're right, and I was overreacting. It's difficult, however, to find a drought-resistant turf that will also work with bare feet and not wear easily. Those are probably impossible criteria.
posted by craniac at 2:03 PM on September 10, 2007


Heck, we just planted some pumpkin vines on the edge of the garden and promptly neglected them. There were only three but we let them run wild. At the end of the season they've got roughly a quarter of the yard enveloped. I'm half seriously considering doing the whole yard in pumpkin next year and just beating back a small space for the dogs to use as a latrine.

We've also pulled the remnants of the hostas after the rabbits mowed them down and replanted with wildflowers around the house. Looks a lot nicer IMO and the maintenance level approaches nil. We like that kind of ROI. Drives the neighbors bats though.

Good stuff in the links. Thanks for the bookmarks.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:10 PM on September 10, 2007


It's funny the trouble people are willing to go to to maintain their lawn, or gas-guzzling Hummer. I don't get it.

And not only that, but how offended they are that I don't want to live like that.

flunkie: we switched (inadvertantly because we were ignorant, not to mention lazy) from a gorgeous monoculture fertilized lawn to what is now a meandering garden with paths and "rooms" and vegetables. This took about 20 years. Here's what happens.

Your lawn is chemically dependent. It will go through withdrawal. I don't know how to make it NOT do this, but if you just stop fertilizing, the first year it will be fine. The second year it will start to die. By the third year you'll think the blight has hit, except you are the only one affected. It took, I am not kidding, seven years for our lawn to recover and a friend who's a landscaper told me that's typical when you have your lawn go cold turkey.

Then what we did was seed with a good sun-shade mixture, never watered, never fertilized, so that what grows there now is a mix of typical suburban grass (altho this house is in an urban area), clover, crab grass, creeping charlie and other weeds. I pull the broadleafs by hand, although frankly I don't get many.

This "lawn" is perpetually green, never needs watering even in drought, and we only mow 3-4 times each summer (full disclosure-- this is partly laziness and a high tolerance for mess). I also did a lot of the lawn-free stuff the post is about-- put in flower beds, patios, trees and paths, and planted the entire front yard in pachysandra and euonymous. I have to give the front yard a "haircut" twice a year or it looks shaggy, but again, no mowing, no watering. (Front and back together are about 2000 sq ft.)

By the way DU, my kids liked it a LOT better with all the flower beds, biting things, vegetable garden, wildlife and hideyholes than they did the lawn.
posted by nax at 3:19 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nax: I would love to see photos of your yard.
posted by craniac at 3:34 PM on September 10, 2007


I replaced my suburban lawn with a vegetable garden a few years ago. I never watered my lawn before, but I do water my vegetables, so I'm not saving anything waterwise. I'm getting use out of that space now however. The lawn was just wasted space.

I worried about what the neighbors would think at first, but nobody had a problem with it. Most people really like it. I get lots of positive comments from people who pass by.

I read a recent study done at UCLA on how typical Los Angeles area families use the outdoor spaces around their homes. For the most part, people don't use them, despite spending lots of $$$ to maintain and outfit them with fancy amenities. This study found that kids, if they went outside at all, prefered paved areas to play in over lawns.
posted by spudsilo at 4:27 PM on September 10, 2007


To the questions about mondo grass:

The species and cultivar is Ophiopogon japonicus nana

It is a liriope, related to a lily, which is very slow growing due to its genes. Dwarf plants are often slow growing. It starts as plugs, but it grows to fill in within a few seasons. If you planted your plugs 2 inches apart, in 2 years it would look like this: http://www.nzhouseandgarden.co.nz/Gallery/lge11367.jpg

The problem is the slow growth habit. Are you willing to have you super perfect lawn take a little while to grow? Perhaps I should develop a method to spray on protocorms of dwarf mondo, so that people could have it in 3 months instead.
posted by torpark at 5:29 PM on September 10, 2007


Ultra-manicured, chemically maintained, cookie-cutter lawns are awesome!

Yes, they're probably wasteful. But don't act like these lawns don't look and feel really nice. I can't imagine walking on anything more pleasant than a healthy, green lawn.

And personally, I'll take a neighborhood of identical, pristine frontyards, over a neighborhood of uniquely crappy and ugly frontyards. Thanks HOA!
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 8:04 PM on September 10, 2007


And you know what else? I bet I could get perfectly clean by taking a 5 minute shower. But I routinely take 15 or even 20 minute showers-- just cuz I feel like it!

Take that Metafilter!
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 8:10 PM on September 10, 2007


Wayman Tisdale writes "And personally, I'll take a neighborhood of identical, pristine frontyards, over a neighborhood of uniquely crappy and ugly frontyards. Thanks HOA!"

Talk about your false dilemmas. Crappy homogeneous vanilla blandness on one end and crappy ugly heterogeneous excitement on the other end. Too bad there couldn't possibly be a middle of the road. A yard that say was nicely landscaped in the border areas yet still had patches of well trimmed turf for wrestling and playing tag. Yards that allowed for selective watering when needed for climate appropriate plantings instead of no watering on one hand and semi daily 4 hour soakings on the other. Sure would be nice if such a yard was possible without running afoul of restrictive HOAs and zoning control that punish the slightest deviance from the collective group think.
posted by Mitheral at 9:04 PM on September 10, 2007


But I routinely take 15 or even 20 minute showers-- just cuz I feel like it!

Something to tell the grand children!
posted by asok at 2:43 AM on September 11, 2007


I like the idea of a moss lawn - it takes forever to get one going, unfortunately.
posted by 2shay at 6:33 AM on September 11, 2007


My mother always wanted to just pave the damn thing and paint it green.
posted by nax at 4:49 PM on September 11, 2007


Hit post too fast. Craniac-- working on getting my bro-in-law to put some pix on his flickr account. Check back in a few days. I never turn down an opportunity to brag.
posted by nax at 4:50 PM on September 11, 2007


The American lawn is an environmental atrocity, really. A legacy from times long gone, when having a lawn was an outward sign of wealth. Lawns are bad for trees, they are water sinks, and they thrive on pesticides. Unfortunately, they are also very much a part of the suburban postcard of a house with a lawn and a white picket fence. I don't see that changing anytime soon, unless there is a drought.
posted by lamarguerite at 9:52 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


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