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Kitchen Gardening

Should You Take Out All (or Some) of Your Lawn?

The truth is that it depends.

Consider taking out a little (or a lot) of lawn to make room for a garden. Photo by Door to River under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

The truth is that it depends. The answer isn’t nearly as important as asking yourself the question. Because that’s the point. We’re so used to that green carpet in front of our homes (and usually in back) that it’s taken for granted that it “should” be part of our landscapes. You shouldn’t be bullied into ripping out your lawn, but you should be asking yourself what you’re getting out of it. Especially if you’re looking for some extra gardening space.

Just ask yourself, “Do I use this lawn?” If you coach soccer, the answer may be a resounding yes. But many of us will wonder why we’re giving up all of this prime garden real estate for something we never set foot on — unless it’s to mow or fertilize. 

There are actually some pretty great reasons to swap out your sod. First of all, lawns are attention hogs. They demand plenty of water, fertilizer, and mowing. Power mowers are noisy, and put bad stuff into the air. Of course, most people actually pay to have those precious grass clippings hauled away — which is blasphemy in my book. These simple things tell the story about the money we put out to keep our lawns happy.

Perhaps you like the look of a lawn — and this actually makes sense. Lawns can make an area look and feel cooler than they are, which is a nice (and sometimes necessary) effect. And after you dump all that money into them, they truly turn green and “green” is exactly the right color for a garden, right?

You’re absolutely right, nature brings us lovely shades of green, and there’s nothing like the feel of cool grass on our bare feet — except that there is. Have you ever walked on woolly thyme or Bronze Dutch clover? meadow grasses and flowers will also give the garden a refreshing feel and bring in the butterflies, too.

Have you ever heard of an eco-lawn? An eco-lawn is a blend of selected fescue grasses that are drought-tolerant and beautiful even when they’re left un-mowed. This special grass has the added benefit of growing well in the shade, too.

The truth is that there are many ornamental grasses and ground covers that can offer much of the same attributes that turf does — and more. The only exception that I can think of would be heavy traffic. Most groundcovers aren’t going to hold up under cleats. If you really like (or use) your lawn, that’s great. You can keep it or maybe just keep some of it. In any case, you should know that there choices other than lawn in the landscape.

Have any of you swapped out your sod? What did you put in its place?

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