Just Say NO ~ 5 Ways To Break Up With Your Lawn

It’s Valentine’s Day, that one day of the year that we’re told we must express our undying love for another with some over-the-top and often over-priced gesture. Or be viewed as a total failure by, well, the entire greeting card and floral industry for a start.

For me, Valentine’s Day ranks up there on the list of forced holidays just below New Year’s Eve. I kind of hate doing something just because I’m told to. I think it dates back to all those years spent in catholic school, but that’s fodder for a completely different blog post!

A Valentine’s Day Treat

So when I was invited by Evelyn Hadden, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Beautiful No-Mow Yardsand one of the founders of the Lawn Reform Coalition, to join a Valentine’s Day blog tour to celebrate the publication of Beautiful No-Mow Yards, I jumped at the opportunity to help raise awareness of the many alternatives to a I’ll-grow-this-because-everyone else-does lawn, especially for gardeners here in Connecticut, where the lawn alternative trend is just gaining steam.

Having a big lawn is like staying in a doomed relationship just so someone sends you roses on Valentine’s Day. You might feel good for a little while, but deep down, you know you can do better.

It’s easy to breakup with your lawn. Here are five simple ideas to get you started.

Acid Reflux

Here in New England, many of us have soil that is naturally very acidic, a condition traditional lawn grass does not like.

Instead of fighting the soil and adding all sorts of amendments to try to neutralize all that acid, embrace it.

In shady spots, moss will begin to take over and in no time you can have a serene, tranquil moss-covered garden, like this…

Moss Garden in Stamford, CT

Spread the Love

Too often, when we think about covering an unused portion of our property, especially an area that fronts the road, we automatically think lawn.

For those of us who live in snow country, where road salt and mounds of snow from passing plows can pile up for months at a time, it can be difficult to find a lawn alternative that is a true road warrior.

A colorful lawn alternative for a tough site is leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). Admittedly not the most compelling of common names, leadwort is a tough as nails spreading ground cover that is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun – partial shade and is deer resistant, a big plus for gardeners battling deer. And just look how lovely it looks with the stone wall as a backdrop…

 Ceratostigma plumbaginoides in Connecticut

Make It About You

Instead of a wide expanse of lawn, why not create a quiet, cozy place in your garden where you can get away from it all and enjoy some me time.

An out-of-the-way corner is an ideal place to showcase a collection of plants, like these hosta. Add a place to sit & relax, grab a good book (perhaps Beautiful No-Mow Yards) and you’re all set.

Hammock for two, anyone?

Hammock and hostas

Throw a Party

Pollinator Power candy heart

There are lots of great reasons to just break up with your lawn, but one of the best ones is to make more room for wildlife habitat in your garden.

Creating even a small bed or border filled with plants native to your area will put out the welcome mat for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly these pollinators, and lots of other ‘good bugs’, will be having a party in your garden. Don’t forget to include some regionally appropriate larval host plants, like these bright orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which are perfect for New England gardens.

Pollinator garden

Get Sneaky

What happens when you and your valentine don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the need for a lawn alternative? I’d suggest getting sneaky — it’s worked for me for years!

Probably the easiest, and least conspicuous way to reduce the amount of lawn in your garden is to widen all your existing beds and borders.  Making them even a few feet wider can update your landscape almost instantly since many older homes have very narrow foundation beds. That extra 2 or 3 feet gives you more room for another layer of plants, perhaps a flowering native ground cover.

And when you’re installing a new pathway or walkway think w-i-d-e. Conventional garden design wisdom suggests that primary walkways, like the one leading to your front door, be about 5′ wide. You can easily add another foot or two, giving your guests ample room to walk side by side and you’ll be reducing your lawn.

Better yet, widen your borders and add a pathway right next to them so you can stroll through your garden admiring your handiwork.

From Beautiful No-Mow Yards ©Evelyn Hadden

More Beautiful No-Mow Yards

cover Image of Beautiful No-Mow Yards by Evelyn Hadden

Eveyln’s book, Beautiful No-Mow Yards, will be hitting book shelves any day now.

It’s packed full of inspiring photos and easy to implement advice on how to get rid of some, or all, of your lawn.

With ideas for shade gardens, rain gardens, edible gardens and even natural play spaces for your kids, there something to inspire every gardener to break up with their lawn, regardless of where you live.

If you simply can’t wait to get your own copy of Beautiful No-Mow Yards, check out this video trailer Evelyn created to offer some inspiration right now.

More Anti-Valentine’s Day, You-Can-Do-Better-Than-A -Lawn Ideas

This post is one of a group of Valentine’s Day Tributes to Lawn Alternatives by different garden writers. I invite you to explore the topic of lawn alternatives further:

Landscapes That Love Us Back by Evelyn Hadden of Lawn Reform Coalition

A Love Letter to Wildlife by Carole Sevilla Brown of Ecosystem Gardening

♥  An Anti-Valentine to the Lawn by Susan Harris of Garden Rant

♥  Dear Lawn, I’m Breaking Up With You by Heather Holm of Restoring the Landscape With Native Plants

♥  Book Review: Beautiful No-Mow Yards by Susan Morrison of Blue Plant Garden

♥  Love Letters to Lawns by Saxon Holt of Gardening Gone Wild

Valentine’s Day:  A Round-Up on the Timber Press blog

30 thoughts on “Just Say NO ~ 5 Ways To Break Up With Your Lawn

  1. Creative post! I am in the last category, slowly expanding narrow beds, adding a few more, and bringing the edges of borders out into the lawn by several feet. It looks nicer. We will always have some turf lawn, and my husband insists on it as an open frame for the front of the house, but bit by bit it is being reduced everywhere else!

    • Laurrie, We’ll always have some lawn, too.Let’s face it, here in CT most homeowners want some lawn but most of us have way too much. I think it’s a better balance that we need to achieve, rather than eliminating lawn all together.

  2. Moss Rocks! Debbie, you need to be manufacturing these heart candies.

    Thank you for your clever strategies for reducing lawn. I agree that a lot of it IS about us… our comfort outdoors, our precious quiet moments, our re-connection with the rest of nature and the solace it provides. Great post!

  3. Pingback: Lawn Reduction Creates Wildlife Habitat

  4. Great post, Debbie! I love your New England take on this topic — you are right that your region has been less inclined to take out lawn than those of us in water-challenged regions. But you show how to do it and make it fun to boot. Love those candy hearts that sum up your message!

    • Pam, I think the primary reason we’re slow to embrace the lawn alternative trend here in CT is because we don’t have too. Water restrictions are not the norm here and until we are forced to really conserve water, most homeowners just continue with the status quo. Perhaps the message needs to be different in order to really get people’s attention.

  5. I’ve been sneaking for years… I like to THINK I’m sneaky, but my husband calls me on it every spring; fortunately, he thinks it’s funny. He’s one of those suburbanites that actually likes lawns but has reluctantly agreed not to waste water on it or use chemicals of any kind ever. I do have one area I don’t know what to do with – our front yard is our septic field and the tiles are barely covered with turf. I know I have to be careful what I put on a septic field – any suggestions for that?

    • Michele, Planting over septic tanks/fields can be difficult. We had a new septic tank installed last year and the only spot it could go into was in the middle of my perennial bed. I now have very shallow rooted perennials growing over the tank since it’s not buried too deep and then have flagstone over th two entry points for pumping. There are birdbaths on the flagstone so I don’t get tempted to plant there, too. I’d suggest calling your local Cooperative Extnesive and see if they have a list of approved plants for septic fields…it may be that a no-mow type lawn grass will be your best bet, but who knows.

  6. Debbie, I just love those candy hearts you created! You’re so creative that way :) I have been patiently encouraging the moss to grow in some areas of my garden. It’s so soft and beautiful, and even feels good on bare feet. And of course, throwing a party to welcome wildlife into our gardens is the best reason of all! A garden full of butterflies, birds, and other critters is just the most wonderful reason to garden.

  7. I’m with Susan, Debbie – I want some Pollinator Power candy hearts!
    Thanks for a great post and some inspiring ideas. Love the encouragement to think about lawn in a new way.

  8. An amusing and informative post that brought a smile on this forced holiday. I’m with you … I ignore Valentine’s Day and am slowly, but consistantly, reducing the size of the lawn. In my yard moss can spread where ever it chooses.

  9. I am a novice gardener…moss..I have about half of the front yard in moss already…not on purpose, but hadn’t thought of it as a natural alternative. I want to have as little traditional lawn as possible in in western NY yard.

    • Michelle, If you already have an area wih 1/2 moss and 1/2 lawn then your garden is trying to tell you something.:) I’d suggest fostering the moss by removing small sections of grass and letting the moss take over. In no time, you’ll have more moss and no grass. Good luck.

  10. Very relevant here on the Canadian West Coast (Vancouver) as we also have naturally acidic soil and now also have a turf pest forcing lawn alternatives. I’ll be replacing mine this year with a wildflower mix. I am also a great lover of moss. Thanks for sharing!

    • Stevie, I’ve been considering a widflower mix for a portion of my garden, too,but I haveb’t found one yet that will be good for both sun & shade. I’m too lazy to sow several different mixes i nthe same area. And I want the long strip to still have a cohesive look.

  11. Pingback: What Can You Do to Replace Your Lawn?

  12. Pingback: Valentine’s Day: a round-up — Timber Press Talks

  13. Debbie,
    Some great no-mow examples. I love how you organized this post. I especially think people need to let their hair down and show off their stuff by the roadside. Wouldn’t our drives be better?

  14. Pingback: Landscapes That Love Us Back | Lawn Reform Coalition

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