Monday, September 5, 2011

Goodbye Grass, Part One.....


As I peer out the window I can’t help but glare at the large green space occupying our front yard. Yes, our lawn. While most of it is green all I can think about is how much “green” it costs. I am so ready to be rid of this green monster.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency , 30 to 60 percent of urban fresh water is used for watering lawns (hot areas use more), $5,250,000,000 is spent on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers, 67,000,000 pounds of synthetic pesticides are used, $25,000,000,000 is spent for the lawn care industry and $700,000,000 is spent for pesticides for U.S. lawns on an annual basis. Yikes.

Watering, fertilizing, mowing, edging, aerating, we’ve shelled out serious bucks to keep our patches green. But the lawn often just sits there waiting to be mowed, edged, etc. It’s the most high maintenance yard fixture ever included by man.
So we decided it has to go. Yes, all of it.

Step one, develop a garden plan. While I love flowers I wanted our yard to be multi-functional. Fruit trees and veggie beds will also be part of the front yard. While in some cities this is controversial, I think if someone can look like they are having a large garage sale everyday, people should be able to grow tomatoes in their front yard. There, I said it. Anyway, no one will really see our beds because in the tradition of companion planting and cottage gardening they will be nestled among helpful flowers and herbs.

We’ve made some sketches and planned out specific areas for various plantings. The border will be made up of a white picket fence, roses, perennials and a few annuals. This will create a soft perimeter, lessen street noise (take that noisy neighbors!) and give us some privacy for when we’re bending over in the garden. From there we’ve designed “garden rooms” or theme areas for the yard; a future play area for kiddos, a lovely sitting area from which to watch the kiddos, multiple veggie beds, fruit trees and of course more roses.

The whole purpose is to develop a design that fits you and your family. If you can’t go without a lawn, then maybe just reduce it and/or put in a veggie garden for the kids. If you’re older and want a low maintenance yard, find a drought resistant ground cover and pair it with evergreen shrubs. Again, don’t feel like a lawn is your only option because it’s not. For what we shell out each month in maintenance, we could completely transform our yards into Edens over a period of time.

Step two for removing lawns is probably what scares most people out of doing it, removing the lawn. For those lucky enough to have sod they can rent a sod cutter. But for those of us who have dreaded Bermuda and Crab Grass stuck in layers of hard pan it’s a challenge (a.k.a. nightmare). Using Round-up and any other weed killers will not save you and it is not a good idea if you plan to plant in the area anytime soon, especially food. The sad truth is when it comes to Bermuda or Crab Grass is you have to dig it out. I know, yikes! While we will reduce a nice chunk of the lawn by expanding our driveway, our plan is to get out there after it rains and dig out a little at a time. We’ll section off certain areas and if we can afford it, hire a landscaping company to help us out. Soon the grass will be gone (yay!).

Step three: If you’re adding landscaping elements like rock or concrete pathways it’s best to do it now. It’s also time to amend the soil. We plan on bringing in garden soil and have also planned to put a stealthy compost pile near the fence. After the soil is loose and full of nutrients, it’s time to plant. Do it one section at a time. It will take a little bit for everything to fill in, but that’s where annuals in packs, cheap flower seeds, clearance plants, and birthday gift cards to nurseries come in handy. Before you know it you’ll no longer be slave to the green monster.

We’ll talk about what to plant if you’re want an edible front yard in a few weeks. Until then, maybe you and your lawn should have a heart to heart. It might be time to tell the grass goodbye.

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