I want to get rid of the grass.

dainaadeleApril 24, 2007

Howdy! I am hoping someone here can help. Between the drought issues and our business demanding more and more time, I am wanting to get rid of the grass out front of our house. It is such a little place to mow, but it grows fast and we are often gone 2 weeks at a time. But, (there is always a 'but') my husband can't "see" what I am talking about. He loves the neat green expanse the grass gives. Can anyone post some pictures of their grass-less fronts? I currently have an image of ivy/pachysandra with a new curving walkway, lamp post, and a couple of lower maintenance perennials, but I need ideas also. Everyone else on our block has grass fronts/few trees, so what I do needs to remain understated and our house faces north and we are have rather long winters, so year round color is also a need. If I can show my hubby your success stories, maybe he'll be convinced. Thanks!

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Addendum: I realize that 'no lawn' does not mean 'no maintenance', but it does mean we can go through longer periods of time between jobs. And with lower water needs, we won't come home to a half overgrown / half crisp lawn in the middle of August.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 3:00PM
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You could hire a kid, landscaper, or fireman to mow the lawn and water it once a week when you are gone.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 5:40PM
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Oh dear, I wish I had a picture for you but I don't. I can, however, provide some suggestions if that's okay? Here goes: You have a lovely white home which would lend a nice backdrop for stand out simple plantings. Personally, I would plant evergreen shrubs, be it yew or boxwoods to outline the front yard, grown up to 2.5' - 3' high, depending on the size of the house of course. Near the sidewalk, just where the ground dips down, I'd plant smaller shrubs such as spireas mirroring both sides of the steps for consistency or contrasting colored shrubs such as the dark evergreen color with the light boxwood color. I'd break down the front concrete path leading up to the front door altogether. Within the enclosure, I'd make a full circle outlined with bricks and put compacted gravel in the center, picture a bullseye now, the bullseye of that circle would be another space to plant (consistently) more spirea around a pretty birdbath or not so big fountain. I'd create the path from the circle to the front door of gravel as well and I'd create another path connected from the circle to the drive way. Forget the winding paths, make your front yard look elegant (like an English castle entrance) if possible. If you chose a fountain for the center "bullseye", a stone or concrete one would look nice with several tiers to plant potato vines and ivy on the base tier so that it cascades down. On the 2nd tier, depending on the size of course, plant red colored flowers, small ones so that the color could contrast the house. This would be a pretty focal point from within the house as well. Another nice contrast would be to paint the top trim of the house the same color as the front door. That would help define the style of the home as well. Aesthetically, it needs a little more definition. Back to the "bones" (shrubs, structures, outlines of the yard)... Within the enclosure and outside of the brick outlined circle, make several planting beds and only plant those plants that inspire you or make your life easier ;). Personally, I'd measure out the graveled circle to be nearly 3/4 of the front yard. As for the steps, are those covered with a dark carpet or painted? I'd suggest keeping that consistent with the type of fountain or birdbath you get, in other words, to have it look like concrete or stone. And I'd expand the steps to the left (when standing at the front door facing the sidewalk) to either put a chair or a planter with a evergreen (Xmas tree shape-like) just to add a little more flair. Maybe some nice planters boxes wrapping around the porch and side windows, with cascading plants and red ones like the ones in the fountain. Consistency is key. It might be a bit much depending on the size of the planters boxes as it all has to "work" well together. Last suggestion, YOU COULD JUST DO AWAY WITH THE GRASS AND REPLACE IT WITH A GROUNDCOVER, but if you're getting full sun, make sure you get the right groundcover that will withstand the...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 2:01AM
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saypoint(6b CT)

Planting beds and gravel, left unattended for a couple of weeks at a time, are going to be full of weeds. I agree with laag, pay someone $20 or $30 to mow it, and put out the sprinkler once a week if it doesn't rain.

If you're determined to replace it, a dense groundcover would work, but it could take a couple years or more for it to get thick enough to keep weeds from germinating. In the meantime, you'll need to weed it and water it, or you'll come home to dead groundcover instead of brown lawn.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 8:52AM
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... not to mention marital bliss.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 5:49PM
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Trust me, I am trying to preserve marital bliss. If there was no grass, I would not have to keep nagging him about how the grass need to be cut again. (He may love that green carpet, but he is way too busy to keep it up properly. He grew up in a neighborhood where few had manicured lawns, let alone kept their grass cut, so thinks it is okay to let it go for a couple of weeks, but our home here is in a neighborhood where folks are a bit more picky over what goes on next door. And of course it is me that gets the teasing comments about how I need to "get my husband to mow the lawn".) The other option is to do it myself, but I hate to mow, but I don't mind pulling weeds. On top of that, our annual rainfall is 25 inches in good years and with our sandy soil, what does fall, does not hang around long. I was hoping that ground covers and some shrubs with deeper root systems would require less frequent watering and be the kind of gardening that I enjoy doing.

Talking it over with my husband, he is willing, but can't envision it, and while I could push it, I would much rather have him see the goal before I make him spend time and money on this project. I was hoping to find some pictures somewhere of ground covers being used in larger areas than the traditional drip line bed under a tree. Therein lies my problem. Oh well.

Homerunriot: Thanks for the ideas. I had not thought too much of keeping it formal, so much of what you read these days concentrates on curved assymetry.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 8:05PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

Below is a link to a thread with lots of different thoughts on grass-less front lawns.

"ivy/pachysandra with a new curving walkway, lamp post, and a couple of lower maintenance perennials"

I have to admit that I cannot "see" what you are talking about either. Shrubs and hardscape can yield a lower maintenance landscape but I would be afraid that ground covers and perennials would just create a much higher maintenance landscape. Do you feel like you could take the leap from a foundation planting with a few shrubs and perennials to a full front yard garden? Maybe you could expand your foundation beds to 12' deep and start from there.

- Brent

Here is a link that might be useful: Lawns (or lack there of)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 10:45PM
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The gentleman who put my round patio and short curved path from back stoop to patio, is more of a landscaper than patio builder (did a great job, but his love is landscaping) and his front and back yard have hardly any grass growing. In his long back yard you can't even see any grass altho' up on a small hill there is a little. He uses bark, mulch and has a few trees and shrubs and a few flowering plants that are no-maintenance, too and it looks so nice!!! He has a birdbath here, and a statue there, 2-3 lightly colored birdhouses on wood posts with a feeder nearby, 2 pots of pansies on both sides somewhere along a short cobblestone-type path to his patio and another statue. His front yard is small so he put a few daylillies here and there among the mulch and 2 Adirondeck chairs with a very little round wrought-iron table in between and it looks very nice. Maybe you could put a combo wood/wrought iron bench with a birdbath or something near in among mulch and not as many plants as he has...(just an idea).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 1:50AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Quite frankly, I don't understand why you don't mow it yourself. I'm 62, hate to mow, but am single and I mow weekly a lawn that is at least 30 times the size of yours. It takes 1 1/2 hours. Come on. Your lawn can't take more than 15 minutes, even if there is more out back.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 6:17AM
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Perhaps a compromise of sorts. You can expand your front beds considerably with "lower" maintenance shrubs and ground cover that would require a good chuck of work a few times a year but can be left on their own for a good period of time as well. And then leave a nice little patch of the healthy lawn you have and use a good old-fashioned non-power push mower once a week or so. The quiet non-power mower is actually pleasant to use if you only have a small patch and you keep the mower blades sharp.

A thought.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 8:11AM
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You wanted pics so here is part of my front yard as of yesturday. Not a spec of grass except for some evergreen ornamentals that need maintenance consisting of cutting back once a year.

You're taking some heat for wanting to get rid of your lawn and I must say your yard does look nice. That said I must commend you for being concerned about the large amount of water a lawns use. Lawns use more water than almost anything else you could plant and do take a lot of maintence to keep looking good.

I like your ideas for your front yard and think it will look nice. Being from a different zone and in a more "rustic" neighborhood I can get away with a messier yard than you can and of course have a different plant selection but it is possible to have a low maintenance, low water use yard that looks good and has no lawn.

Wishing you good luck with your plans, Maria

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 10:22AM
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I had a 'grassless' yard, both front and back, in my previous home and have to agree with the others that time and effort will not disappear by having no grass.
Because water was a premium in our area and the gophers and groundsquirrels destroyed my new sod in 2 years, I went with something similar to mohavemaria's yard.........just different plants.

Drip line had to be put in so the young shrubs would survive the summers and even tho the area was covered with mulch I had to spend spring and late summer weeding. Shrubs had to be pruned and shaped and there was always 'clean-up' from dying flowers and leaves.

I'd say go for it if you're willing to put in a sprinkler system and if you both enjoyed gardening.
Otherwise, take all the money you'd spend in the transformation and pay someone to come in every 1-2 weeks thru the summer to cut the grass.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 11:48AM
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Yowza! This is hysterical! I have no idea there were so many grass lovers out there! That beautiful lush green you see in the picture is due to an unusual 3" of rain this week. By mid summer, weeks go by without rain. Many folks run their sprinklers every night around here to keep the stuff looking green.

Just in case everyone thinks I am way too lazy to mow, ya'll need to know that we have 200' of long skinny terraced yard in the back so mowing also means pulling the mower up and down to each level. My personal goal was to keep the grass (and mower) on the lowest and largest expanse for kids to play on and landscape the rest away. The top level in the back is already in the process of being turned in to a patio/perennial garden (every year I expand the beds a couple of feet as I divide my plants). I have grown up gardening, so I am not cluless. I just want to transfer what I am doing in the back to the front, but every time I try to do this in my head, I seem to lean towards the informal cottagy look, which I do not want for the front. AAARRGGGHH!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 1:36PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

OK, so you're determined. I think you were getting suggestions to stay with the lawn, not because there are grass-lovers here, but because people often have no idea how much work the lawn-less yard is going to be.

I also mow my own lawn, always have, currently one acre, the previous house was two acres.

If your difficult lawn is in the back, why not start there? Just wondering.

Ground covers interspersed with mulched areas filled with shrubs and perennials are a nice alternative. Check your library to see if they have the book linked below. Also, do a search for "front yard gardens" to find articles and other books on the topic.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front Yard Gardens

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 5:28PM
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I was a grass lover, when my house was new and before I had kids. Grass is the cheapest was to landscape a large area, and my house was new. Then I had the time for mowing and fretting over clover and chickweed. Pushing the noisy 60 lb mower was a labor of "love". After awhile I wanted more than grass, and I needed to devote my time to raising kdis instead of grass blades.

The way my house is sited, I don't have a front yard, just a driveway with two side-yards. I installed vinca minor in my two front sideyards. It took about two years for it to really flourish. With mulching (red-dyed wood chips of course) the weeding was kept down. For some reason an hour of weeding sure beats 20-minutes of mowing.

Just last year in a spurt of environmental consciousness I bought a manual reel mower. The reel mower is so quiet and easy to push and carry around. No gas, no oil, no partially combusted hydrocarbons. If I knew about reel mowers a few years ago, I probably would have kept all of my lawn and never have gotten into gardening.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 6:56PM
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Saypoint: Thank you, I ordered the book. Don't know why it didn't come up when I was googleing for info.

Isabella: Do you have any pictures you could share? It sounds like you are now where I want to be. You put my mowing vs. weed pulling sentiments well. I grew up with those reel mowers. They are nice. But the mower is my husband's responisbilty, so he gets to pick the mower. This whole thing is a process of making his load less, and me not having to mow. ; )

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 9:24AM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

The "Taunton Front Yard Idea Book" is also a good book on the topic. I got a more practical ideas out of that one than the Liz Primeau one, but they are both worth reading.

Over the next few years I plan on reducing the amount of lawn in my front yard. One thing that helps in my case is a medium sized maple in my front yard. In some ways the maple limits what I can do, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The maple also provides some context for the rest of the yard.

In your case you have basically a clean slate to work with. The books might give you some ideas to work from. Look at the front yard gardens that you like and pay attention to what elements are in place to provide structure or definition to the garden.

- Brent

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 11:00AM
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lorrainebecker(z6 CT)

I have no pictures for you, but I grew up next door to a house that had a half acre no grass front yard. The owners, when they were getting on in years had a landscaper come and put in periwinkle, ivy, pachysandra, and some low maintenance shrubs. They had a lot of shade in their yard. It took a few years to get really filled in, but they lived there until they were in their nineties and said it was the best thing they'd ever done. Once established, they really didn't maintain the front yard at all.

And then we had the joy of watching the next owners trying to get all that pachysandra out. :)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 12:58PM
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Next to grass, vinca minor is probably the next most derided planting, but I like its very simple nature and habit. It is a great living mulch for other shrubs that don't have surficial rootings and a great overplanting for hyacinths, which I have blooming now. This picture is in late fall. Hope this helps with your decision.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 6:12PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

And if you want to see a sea of pachysandra, here's mine.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 7:09PM
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