Posted on April 09, 2013
With temperatures expected to reach just shy of eighty for the second day in our beautiful Maryland, we can finally be sure that spring is here. Now is the time to loosen up the garden, apply compost and soil amendments, pick out plants and seeds, and have at some serious landscape maintenance and spring garden projects. You might only want to add some plants or move some beds around, but those desiring a more dramatic change to the yard might choose to add a water garden or water feature, build a greenhouse, start a rock garden, kill the lawn, design a nightscape—
Wait. Kill the lawn?
In increasing numbers, gardeners and homeowners are choosing to abandon the traditional turf lawn for affordable, low-maintenance ground covers. The process starts with destroying the grass.
Take a deep breath.
Turf lawns have long been a symbol of prosperity in the United States, so it isn’t surprising that some might be shocked at the idea of ripping out the grass. Though the only greenery featured in the front yards of most early homes in this country was found in the family garden, those with the money to travel to Europe soon found themselves wanting to see a little bit more. Large and wealthy European estates with their rolling green lawns inspired Americans to recreate the same effect in their own yards, and between the Victorians of the mid-1800s and the suburbanites of the 1950s, the lawn became a required element of the modern home. Well, it used to be.
Due to the economic troubles of recent and rising environmental concerns, many have decided that getting rid of the grass just makes sense. According to the EPA, 30% of the 26 billion gallons of water used daily in the United States (that’s about 7.8 billion gallons) goes toward lawn and landscape irrigation (EPA.gov). When most Americans are trying to stretch the pennies, that water bill is no laughing matter. Add to that the cost of maintenance, fertilizers, and pesticides, and you have a rather expensive and time-consuming landscape. Turf lawns may also be contributing to some significant environmental damage. The treatments used by many to keep their lawns green and healthy could be running off into natural water. These nutrients can cause massive algae blooms that severely affect water ecosystems. The exhaust from motorized mowing and trimming tools associated with lawn maintenance contains carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that have been linked with air pollution and illness.
Replacing the lawn with non-traditional ground cover can greatly reduce the amount of water necessary to keep your yard green. Ground cover plants require minimal fertilizers and pesticides to stay healthy, and in many cases, they will not exceed a few inches—this eliminates the need to mow. Less pollution, less energy, less cost—what isn’t there to like? The most exciting part is the new textures, colors, and shapes these ground covers can help you achieve in your landscape. There are mosses and very tiny creeping plants that can replace turf, giving your lawn a brightness and manicured style that your neighbors won’t quite be able to put their finger on from far away. Slightly taller creeping flowers and foliage can be used as a natural and fluid edging material to bridge the gap between taller plants in beds and short turf replacement plants. Ground covers can be worked into beds and under shrubs to act as natural mulch and give your beds a fuller and wilder look. Use ground covers in conjunction with rocks, logs, and craggy terrain elements to create an impressive cascading garden, especially where grass typically doesn’t do well. Ground covers can do much more than replace the grass if you are willing to work a variety of them into your landscape and gardens. What you will end up with is a landscape that looks more involved, but actually, requires much less attention than a turf lawn in the long run.
Ground cover plants come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and can suit either sunny or shady areas. Here are some popular options:
Lily of the valley
Ideally, you should select native ground cover plants or plants that are suited to the rainfall in your area so that you need to water them little if at all. When you have selected your plants and are certain about how and where you’d like to place them, you will need to kill the grass. Rather than use herbicides to do this, you can dig or till the grass up or cover the area with a tarp, newspaper, or mulch to kill it slowly. This process may be very difficult or take a long time depending on whether you’re taking out an entire lawn or just sections. When the grass is gone, you will need to amend the soil and make improvements the same as you would when installing a new bed or preparing for new plantings. Follow the recommended care instructions for the plants that you are installing to plant them and water them. Ground cover plants may look sparse at first, but they will all spread relatively quickly. Be certain to feed them every year like your other plants, and be sure that you are keeping traffic through them low if they don’t tolerate being walked on. As the plants become established, you will have to trim them every so often to keep them looking neat and under control.
At MasterGardening.com, we are all about sustainability for the environment and for your wallet. If you would like to read more about Earth-conscious and money-saving gardening techniques, check out our article, Eco-Friendly Gardening.
Native Plants “Plant native” is an oft-repeated phrase in the world of ecologically friendly gardening, but not without reason. Greenhouses, catalogs, and the internet give gardeners the ability to find plants from all over the world to put in their landscape, provided they can survive the climate. There are hybrid and hardy varieties of warmer weather [...]
So, you have filled all of your flowerbeds, pruned and manicured your trees and shrubs beautifully, and have more beans and corn and tomatoes and berries than you can give away. What’s next? If you are itching for a new and rewarding gardening project, you should get out your shovel and try your hand at [...]
Corpse Flower At up to three feet in diameter, Raffelesia arnoldii holds the title for largest single bloom on Earth. This monstrous flower hails from Sumatra and Borneo, and its size isn’t all that’s weird about it. These giant flowers are red, fleshy, and speckled, and feature a huge cup in the center that can hold [...]
You might have a birdhouse or two in your yard, but have you considered including real estate for different kinds of garden helpers? Bats and ladybugs can boost your outdoor enjoyment by controlling pests that irritate you and destroy your plants. Bees and butterflies assist plants with pollination and add to the aesthetics of your [...]
Just in time for fall planting MasterGardening.com, a leader in gardening supplies and decor, announced this week the release of their newly expanded line of garden bulbs. Available for only a limited time, order the highest quality flower bulbs for the garden delivered straight to your door now through November. Fall is the perfect time to [...]
Now that your spring gardens are planted, why not add that extra touch to make it a special and personal space. A lovely arbor frames a garden path nicely and gives climbing roses the support they need to reach for the sky. Container gardening is made easy with the stylish and functional addition of a [...]
Summer is just around the corner and that means it is time for visits to the pool, beach and lakes. Every woman wants to look and feel her best during swimsuit season and a study released this week from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has just made losing weight even more appealing. According to [...]
One of the hottest trends in gardening is to combine ornamentals and edibles in one garden space and container gardening makes that easier than ever. When gardening in a small space it is important to look for plants that are compact in size, will give you a large yield, and look great. Here are the top 5 [...]
Don’t forget to do something good for the earth today. Plant a tree, start a garden or just spend time communing with nature. We would like to make your Earth Day a little greener. Today only, save 20% on all products atMastergardening.com! Enter the coupon code EARTH at checkout to receive this discount. This is the perfect way to get everything you [...]