I do not want to mow lawn ...

solo_voyagerSeptember 3, 2011

I have spent most of the last 30 years living out of a pack, a cardboard box, a paper bag and a storage unit. I graduated to a condo for a short while and am now contemplating a piece of dirt. The only problem is that the idea of maintaining a lawn really rubs my fur in the wrong direction. I am contemplating landscaping the yard with local native and cultivars of local native plants. Things like: blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, etc with plantings of local wildflowers, stomping out every blade of grass in the process.

I'm thinking of gravel and stone paths to access the different areas. It won't be a large plot probably less than a 1/4 acre with an 800 sqft house on it.

So, why am I here rambling on about this?

Where can I find ideas on putting something like this together?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
feijoas(New Zealand)

I'm often struck by how important a perfect lawn is to many Americans.
You might find permaculture's up your alley if you're not into artificial ferts/biocides and like a more 'natural' look.
I buried my front lawn under tree mulch a couple of years ago and planted a mix of hardy perennial and self-seeding plants.
Out the back I encourage nearly anything that's not grass in my little ecosystem. It's certainly not to everyone's taste, but I think it's beautiful and everyone that sees it is on my 'turf' and likely to share my taste, or at least get where I'm coming from!
Making my front garden attractive to your average observer while fitting in with my ethics and aesthetics is important to me.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 3:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yes a great looking lawn is very important to keep up with the neighbors and not be the ugly duckling on the block. It's part of the conformity required of a suburbanite, but if you're ready to break out, then don't let avoidance of one chore create more chores for you.

Mowing (doesn't have to be just grass..) is an easy and a quick way to maintain a very large area compared to weeding and pruning.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 7:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

How feasible this is going to be is going to depend a lot on where you are. In a reasonably arid area, it would probably work. Here, it would be an enormous amount of work without regular use of herbicide.

Do a lot of research into the climax ecosystem of where you are, and the transition states that get there. How comfortable are you with that in your backyard? How much work is it going to take to have your vision predominate over nature? Because what you are talking about sounds very 'gardenlike' to me.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Lawns are actually less work (to my mind) than planting beds...but I won't use herbicides. And if it's green, I mow it. (No monoculture lawn for me!) I also let my lawn go dormant in the summer. I don't water my lawn. I DO water my planting beds if it doesn't rain an inch a week...(I've got major money invested in my Japanese maples and my shrubs...I'm keeping them alive!)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

What mjsee said. Another dry, dormant lawn here in all-too-often drought-stricken NC! In fact, my lawn is quite low maintenance. I pull the many varieties of seedling trees and try to get as many weeds as I can. I happen to like clover, violets, crocuses, and suchlike in my grass, so there's no spreading or spraying of broadleaf weedkillers.

Stone and gravel aren't immune to weeds. But weeds in gravel or between stones are more difficult to remove.

Lawn is an easy way to have low-maintenance paths between beds. Just be sure the lawn paths are wide enough for the mower, and any curves and corners can be negotiated by the mower.

So if your quarter acre is already lawn, don't cover it all immediately. Do a bit at a time, so you aren't suddenly dealing with a quarter of an acre of brand-new garden all at once. (I made four new beds this spring -- two of which had to be combed for Bermuda grass -- and slightly expanded another. I'm also growing some veggies. Oh, and I planted half a dozen new trees. But the veggies were planted late, and an older bed has suffered from neglect.)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 12:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi folks,
I'm sorry.
I did not mean to stir anything up here.
But, I think I chose the wrong forum to post my inquiry on.
I had "landscape" on the brain as I searched.
My objection is not with playing in the dirt and equivalent activities.
I have since found my local native plant society, the state plant materials center, the local botanical garden and the Garden Web Native Forum where I probably should have posted this.

I appreciate your time and efforts to answer my question.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Saying "stomping out every blade of grass in the process." was a bit excessive.
The state plant materials center grows some really nice looking local bunch grasses that I can see being included in my vision.
Thanks again folks.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

From what I read in the OP, this quarter acre and 800 sq. ft. house are both in the "hoping for" stage.

If it ends up being new construction in a suburban development, chances are any future lawn/garden will be an expanse of bad dirt thinly covering over all the construction debris the crews were too lazy to cart away (a typical practice in the DC suburbs which just growed - like Topsy). If you'real lucky, you'll get sod or some hydroseeding or the chance to tell them you don't want either one. If a previously owned urban property, you'll have the previous owner's landscaping to deal with.

I'm a lawn person - always have been. It's what I'm familiar with and I like the way lawn showcases the house, hardscape, gardens, etc. In fairness, though, I pay to have it mowed and trimmed on a regular schedule. I don't obcess or water or get annoyed when it goes dormant.

I hope you find what you're looking for. But in the meantime, study up on natives for your zone to see if this is the way to go.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 2:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

solo, I forgot to mention that you might be interested in GW's Potager forum:

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 2:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Where can I find ideas on putting something like this together?"

This is the place to be for that... don't let our sharing of experience about extra maintenance from going lawnless discourage you from hanging around.

The type of plant material is not the first consideration in a design until you identify the goals/needs (other than those stated about going native... like views, screening, etc.)that need to be addressed.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 6:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Good catch by Duluth, that this is still in the contemplating stages. I too would wait and see what you have before you start making firm decisions about what you want and what you don't. In particular about what you don't.

But even once you have your plot, in landscaping, as in almost anything else, it is usually best to proceed on the basis of what you DO want to achieve, rather than by process of elimination. It is best to have an objective, not only a constraint. You would not, for example, go grocery shopping by writing a list of what you do not want to buy. You may find that a little open space to sit in that doesn't ruthlessly reflect light and heat but rather is a bit moist and cool is just the ticket in a south-facing area.

In landscaping there is an additional decision-maker involved - the site.

Just by way of a few examples, the site may have contraindications to some of the things you ideally want to do, or conditions that allow for only a certain type of native plant that you may not like, or that may be a threat to neighbouring properties. Or the site may preclude the use of the native plants you really want to use. Shade vs sun, drainage or soil type, and existing treescape and paving will all have an influence. Oh, and tolerance for snow cleaning needs and road salt.

Then there are the native plants themselves. There is sometimes a reason why they are not commonly used in home gardens. There certainly are reasons in the case of many of the PNW native plants. For example, salal, a single plant of which has been conjectured to cover the entire province I live in (just kidding, but the point is, this thing spreads better than bamboo). Some of the bulbs and ground covers are fussy as all get-out - I've just purchased what I think is my 14th pot of Cornus canadensis - it WILL not establish for me.

I'm undecided as to whether it would be a good thing to link to the thread by Woodswalker88 with the same theme a while back - search for it if you're interested. S/he came to the forum with the same basic beginning, and while it turned out she had a plan, it sure didn't sound like that at the beginning. From the homework you're doing, I think you'll have one too by the time you have a site.

I think what I'm trying to say is, by all means plan a grassless garden. But as you plan, don't rule out grass so entirely that you refuse to use it where it really would be the best thing.

Like I did! I eradicated all my grass a long time ago - 20 years ago. We ended up putting a little bit of lawn back in the back yard, because we had about as much paving stones as we wanted (or our bones could handle laying), and I am contemplating the shortcomings of all other kinds of open space surface that I've tried in the front yard. For example, the area I was working in today seems to have become the block cat toilet. THAT doesn't happen on grass :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 11:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here is a great link about one man's success.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/easy-yard-no-mowing-00400000054168/page6.html

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 11:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

When I was contemplating buying a house, I sat in my city apartment and made a wish-list of what I wanted to do -- and all the things I wanted to grow. I wanted fruit trees: which types, how many trees, what size of trees -- and how much room that would require (don't forget which types need additional trees for pollination). Then the berries: which types, how many of each, how much space. Then the veggies. Compost area. Garden shed.

Add space for the house, the driveway, the front walk, the back walk. Plantings around the house, along the road. A patio, with its own plantings. Shade trees around the house and part of the patio. Trees and shrubs around the edges, for privacy. (But make sure the veggie garden's not shaded!)

I began a Microsoft Paint diagram. Made lines for graph paper: each square 5', and I kept each square a single color. Chose different colors for different things: house, garage, driveway, lawn, shade trees, orchard trees, veggie garden, compost, shed. Filled in the colors. It wasn't important at this stage to know how things would be laid out so much as how much room it would all require.

That told me how much land I needed -- and that told the realtor which houses I could be interested in. I know he'd never had a client like me before....

To karinl's list of site considerations, I'll add: a septic system on which nothing much can be grown except grass; land adjacent to a road which is the city's/county's/state's to dig up or pave at their whim -- or to dictate what you can or can't plant; underground water or gas lines; land in the shadow of someone else's trees; land which slopes just enough to make it difficult to do anything there without terracing.... All of this means you'll need more land than you think.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 12:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bahia(SF Bay Area)

In my view, stating a basic outline of what one doesn't want their garden to be is just as valid as the opposite. The expressed preference here doesn't seem a good fit with a suburban new home location,not to mention that 800 SF homes sounds more like a cabin in the woods, not a very common size house in the suburbs. An all native garden can be just as rewarding to some as any other style, nut has never appealed to me as one I'd want for my own. Too many interesting plants from all around the world that intrigue me to want to include in my own vision of a garden to be that exclusive. I prefer to use/select plants that appeal to me and will grow well in my area, and may also link me to places I've been to or lived in around the world. It is important to me that my garden be unique to me, and like no one else's. It's a nice side benefit that others like it and want me to help create their own personal Eden...

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 4:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

... so that I didn't just disappear after beginning this thread.
I didn't think I'd stir things up this much.
But then, it's not a bad thing to do.
Yes, I am on a search for the place I want to do this with.
The "vision" existed long before the search began.
The search is being conducted with the "vision" in mind.
I have not yet made my decision.
Although, it is beginning to narrow down.
The one I'm favoring right now has a few problems, some of which do affect my "vision".
It has a fair number of beautiful large old birch trees leaving most of the lot heavily shaded.
Good sweet blue berries like a bit more sun than they would get there.
But, the "vision" can be adapted to the conditions.
And, it is conceivable that some of the trees could go adapting the conditions to the "vision".
All portions of the quest are fluid right now.

Yes, I am looking at older buildings in older neighborhoods that were developed in the '50s and '60s.
You have to keep in mind that I am in Anchorage, AK. Developments from those eras are ancient.
The streets are paved but, no sidewalks, no covenants, and people are more tolerant of idiosyncrasies.
It is my cabin in the woods with the conveniences of an urban setting.
It's the areas developed in the '80s and later where people are more worried about every place in the neighborhood looking as if it were a rubber stamp of the place next door.
For me, it's too much like living in a condo again.
I'm off again.
I will check back.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 7:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
catkim(San Diego 10/24)

LOL "You have to keep in mind that I am in Anchorage AK." Zing! I don't think anyone could have guessed that from your first post. Interesting how we tend to respond from the cocoon of immediate personal experience when missing a crucial piece of information. Only a few could gather this is not a typical suburban USA kind of vision. Thanks, that was fun.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 11:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

You post on here...you are gonna get opinions.And things WILL stir. It's what this board, at its best, does. Not sure how I missed Anchorage, Alaska! ;^) Given that, and mature beech trees...lawnless you shall be! (And blueberries will grow with less-than-full sun here in North Carolina...not sure about Alaska.)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 12:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Blueberries are happier here if they don't have full sun.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 12:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good for you, solo voyager. Are you an old hippie too?

I have owned three small residential cabins in the Canadian shield over the years, each part of a small enclave of between 10 - 20 neighbours. All were built on natural limestone shelving in a pristine, unharvested forest. I never "landscaped" any of the properties -
just cut a minimal perimeter around the home to reduce mosquitoes and damaging deadfall, then delimbed the lower branches so that I could see the lake. There were already paths through the brush created by the abundant local wildlife which I cleared a little bit more and leveled out with rock taken from nearby. It wasn't totally wild though. I've always created luxurious hanging baskets and hay racks around the house and at my last place, I built a raised bed garden for vegetables and cut flowers. I tried though to impact my land in a respectful way, mindful that I truly was only a steward. I would never create a more beautiful landscape than was already there...

Many of my neighbours did not subscribe to that philosophy. They chopped down trees, hauled in truckload after truckload of fill, planted grass and tulips, actually asphalted the driveways. They might just as well have stayed in town. Would have been cheaper on gas too.

I have reluctantly moved to a small town, southern suburbia where I now have a "proper" lawn and garden. I can once again indulge in my passion for design. But I have still retained some of the wilderness spirit. I have planted a veritable forest in my backyard, I only grow native perennials in the flower beds, I never water the grass in summer drought and when it snows, I am just as likely to clear a path in the driveway by driving back and forth in the truck instead of breaking out the snowblower. And I choose still to continue to work in isolated, fly-in communities for weeks at a time, spending more time away than at home. I am a real rebel here in this Mennonite world. :)

So yeah, voyager, I'm with you. Who ever really wants to mow lawn?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 2:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

missingtheobvious---blueberries are happier if they don't get full sun here in NC. AK? Not familiar enough with the zone to voice an opinion! (And I hope I never am. TOO FAR NORTH.) ;^)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've been researching lawn alternatives for a totally opposite zone than AK, so no suggestions on plant material.

However, a greener way of having grass is to use a reel mower... no emissions (except from the operator), no loud noise, and minimal environmental impact.

No tune ups, gas storage, or danger of injury, and more excercise than a riding mower.

Lot's of people talk the-green talk but don't walk the talk.... with their gas-powered mower, bottled water, and SUVs, so good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 3:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
pinusresinosa(MN Z4)

I hope the OP comes back to check on this thread.

Have you thought about "low mow" turf?

Info: http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h325lawn-lowmaint.html

Product: http://www.prairienursery.com/store/index.php?cPath=11&main_page=index

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 4:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

I have a reel mower...it does require an annual tune-up of sorts. I get it sharpened. ;^) It works very well in my front yard where the "lawn" is mostly grass. Not so much in my weedier backyard...periodically we have to bust out the gas powered mulching mower.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 4:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Your comments tend to stimulate and help organize my thinking on this project, even if they seem to have no connection with where I'm headed. It is hard to directly address any particular post because of the flood of thought each one stimulates.
I considered a piece of raw land and then putting up a 900 +/- sqft abode. I have spent a great amount of time living and working in the bush. I do not want to park there permanently. It is not as Idylic as many people seem to think. If you opt for one of the villages it gets even more complicated. If it is convenient to the city and its amenities, it usually has too many restrictions or is a parcel with too many problems for realistic consideration. With other factors figured in also, it seems that I'm being directed to locate in one of Anchorage's older neighborhoods.
I envision it as a reclamation project, returning it to something like its original condition, EXCEPT in a more park like setting. I enjoy the fall colors of the blue berry brush, high bush cranberry, Canadian Dogwood, Bear Berry, etc., as well as the summer succession of ferns and wild flowers. I am aware that the vision is much grander than reality will allow. But, nothing ventured nothing gained.

My area is a modified marine climate. Summer days are long. Around here, they reach 19 to 19-1/2 hrs. at summer solstice. The sun is not intense though. And, many days are lost to overcast. I find that the sweetest blue berries are the ones that get the most sun. The story may be different in the interior, say around Fairbanks, where the days are even longer, warmer and with less overcast.
After I threw the last of my kids out of the door, I swore that I'd never own a vehicle with room for more than 2 people, a lawn mower or a snow shovel. So far, I have kept that promise and intend to continue doing so. Plus, I am activly busy with things I'd rather be doing than mowing lawn in the summer: getting outdoors, out of town and out of sight of anyone else. I have other priorities.

I guess I've ranted enough for now.
I've been down with a cold this weekend, so I've had time on my hands to kill. I'm healing up and life will be getting busier beginning tomorrow.

I'll try to get back at least one more time. But, I feel the nudging of things that need to be done will eventually take precedence.
For those that might like to look. My photo album:
Take care folks.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 11:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Clickable link to solo_voyager's photo album:


    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 11:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)


You should take a look at Rick Darke's books. I find his aesthetic beautiful...and I think it might give you direction on a wooded lot. I've linked a page below. I own The American Woodland Garden...thinking I need to buy The Wild Garden as well...

Here is a link that might be useful: Rick Darke books

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 8:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

You are in good company, not wanting to mow. The type of landscape you envision is called permaculture. Some research into it might be enlightening and encouraging.

My 2 fav books on this subject:

The Lawn; A History of an American Obsession by Virginia Scott Jenkins.

Redesigning the American Lawn; A Search for Environmental Harmony by Bormann, Balmori, Geballe.

Hopefully both are available at your library.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will take a long look at permaculture.
Take care all.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 11:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The place I have been looking at turns out to need some extensive repairs. I'm now looking at a 203k mortgage. We'll see how it turns out.
The more I look into permaculture the more it seems to apply to my plans.
I've just made an addition to my online photo album for those interested.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mike's Photo Album

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 3:52PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Need landscaping ideas for new home please
Hello everyone. We moved into our new build in November....
On Site Calculations - Area
If you do construction as well as design, sooner or...
Help with small retaining wall
I am starting to landscape my yard and am having trouble...
Need ideas to hide foundation...
Not sure why the picture is upside down... Anyway,...
Front yard design help
Looking to finally put some plants in the front yard....
Matt Johnston
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™