By Misty Pratt –
The North American lawn is a bright and lush landscape, which can offer home owners a place for recreation and respite. Many summer afternoons have been spent on lawns, kicking around a soccer ball or hosting a picnic. However, as with any monoculture, the lawn is susceptible to invasive weeds and pests and requires a significant effort to maintain the desired look. Many hours can be dedicated to seeding, fertilizing, weeding, spraying products, and mowing.
Home owners are now turning to more sustainable options for their front yard landscape. “It’s a growing trend that people want to remove the grass area, because it’s so difficult to maintain without weeds taking over,” says Richard Bown, owner of Urban Turf Landscape Solutions in Westboro.
Richard has worked with many clients to remove grass and create perennial garden beds with wooden plant material as garden architecture. “It creates a topography in terms of the terrain,” says Richard. Instead of a flat landscape, the designer builds different heights with plant material and adds colour, contrast and texture. Other options that could replace the lawn include ground cover such as moss, periwinkle and creeping thyme, or raised vegetable beds.
Westboro resident Kathie Paddock removed her front lawn after dealing with poor soil conditions and stubborn weeds. “Our family never used it for play since it was always in the baking sun and close to the road,” says Kathie. Given her love of gardening, Kathie was excited to have a blank canvas to work with and filled the space with perennial plants.
The biggest cost upfront is the design and installation, but Richard argues that in the long run, low-maintenance gardens require much less time and money than lawns. “The gardens can develop and become better, while the lawn deteriorates over time,” says Richard.
Pruning is needed for some plants, as well as the yearly cost of topping up mulch to ward off invasive weeds. Instead of the hard labour needed to run the lawn mower in the summer heat, residents can putter around the garden with a glass of wine in hand. Kathie also enjoys meeting all the neighbours who stop to chat while she’s working in the front yard.
The fall is the perfect time to begin planning for the following spring and summer. Richard encourages clients to take photos of the front lawn now, so that they can see what’s currently in the garden and what could be reused to create the new space. Urban Turf do many of their consultations in the fall and provide clients with a sketch for their landscape plans.
For those who still want a bit of grass for their young children or pets, Richard points out that not all the lawn needs to be removed. “A lot of people do still want a little bit of lawn area, and for larger lots, you could certainly diminish two-thirds of your lawn and develop it into garden.”
As for Kathie, she has no regrets about removing all the grass in the front of her home. Her large and shady backyard is perfect for playing catch or chasing the dog around. “When the neighbourhood lawns were parched and yellow this summer, I had a riot of colours in front of my house!” she says.
By shifting to a low-maintenance garden front yards can be turned into beautiful landscapes – with not a weed in sight.