Garden Lifestyle

Replacing Some Suburban Front Lawn

It's no secret that suburbia is known for it's cookie-cutter foundation plantings and grand expansions of perfectly coiffed grass.

Here's a well-utilized piece of suburban real estate.
Photo/Illustration: Chris McLaughlin

I was a little concerned about how the neighbors would take it when I told them I was planning on extending my garden to the front yard by removing *gasp* part of the lawn. It’s no secret that suburbia is known for it’s cookie-cutter foundation plantings and grand expansions of perfectly coiffed grass. Although, I have seen some fabulous yard make-overs where they’ve used plants that have made me almost slam into the car in front of me. But, I digress.

While traditional suburban dwellers may wonder if I’ve taken up drinking when I begin removing the turf, gardening puritans will wonder why I’m not replacing the entire lawn instead of just part of it. This is nothing new for me. I’ve stood with one foot in each camp my whole life, so bring it on.

My answer would be that I have a young child and a grand-daughter that love running across soft grass kicking balls and spreading out picnics. I loved feeling the grass between my bare toes as a kid (still do). Call me nostalgic. But to be honest, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having a lawn – extra water or not – if you’re actually using it. But when I took a good look at our situation, we certainly aren’t using all of the grass we have planted in our yards.

When a suburban gardener realizes that they’re about to get yet another piece of land to design and plant, it’s like Christmas. Only better. We break out 5 – 100 books, search the web, and Twitter other gardening folk to get as many ideas as possible lest we plant anything but the perfect crops or perennials. This is the cliff I’m standing on this winter; my yard will look a bit different come next spring.

So, I find myself slipping my ideas into the casual conversations I have with my neighbors. It’s hard to tell what they truly think of the idea, but I’ll probably be able to get a sense of the mood once I start covering up some lawn. Will they take me off their email lists or embrace the new look and replace some lawn of their own?

Anyway, what’s family for if not to beat your own ideas into them and try to convince them to jump on your bandwagon? I don’t know if it’s working on my own family yet, but I know they’re listening. My sister-in-law, Cindy -Lou-Who, was driving around our little town the other day and spotted something so cool I could spit. Someone had planted a pumpkin patch in the small space in their front yard. A gorgeous pumpkin patch.

The leaves are huge and the pumpkins look seriously fake – someone loves their garden. My sister-in-law called me over there to get a picture and I noticed that the gardener had placed cardboard under the fruit to protect them until harvest. God bless ’em. My fingers are crossed that as many people as possible see this front yard garden and consider adopting the idea for themselves (I know my sister-in-law is). If you’re planning on doing this yourself and you’re wondering how to get some neighbors on board, I just happen to have a list of great reasons handy.

Good Reasons to Replace Some Lawn in the Front Yard

  • Lower your water bill. These giant carpets of lawn soak in a tremendous amount of water to look their best. Once established, shrubs and perennials need much less.
  • Save your back. Perennials and shrubs require less maintenance than lawn.
  • Raise the value of your home. Updating the front yard adds curb appeal. We all know curb appeal brings some nice dollars to the house value.
  • Create habitats native wildlife habitats are created by shrinking the lawn and replacing it with plants. Wildlife use shrubs, perennials and annuals for food and shelter. They also bring in the flying flowers – the butterflies.
  • Using interesting and beautiful plants adds substance and depth to a home that lawns just can’t pull off. Don’t forget the lovely view outside of your own windows.
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