Smart Landscaping

If you are like me your front yard is likely a large expanse of grass.  You didn’t pick it to be this way, but your stuck with grass just about everywhere.  I personally hate grass since I only actually use a small amount of area as a play space for the kids and the rest is basically just a endless amount of watering, mowing and chemical application to keep the damn stuff alive.

So I’ve decided to end my suffering and get rid of every damn blade of grass in my front yard.  Yet to keep the costs low and my sanity in tact, this will be done over a number of years.  Right now this year’s project is getting the design done and getting some trees planted.  Since I don’t want to spend a small fortune to just get rid of my lawn, I’m going to do this the smart way and keep my costs as low as reasonable.  Yet I also fully accept the fact that while lawn is cheap to put in and expensive to keep up, just about everything else is the opposite: expensive to put in and cheap to keep up.

First up is saving on the design.  I’m rather lucky that my mother happens to have a talent for landscaping design.  So I invited her over and had a discussion between her, my wife and me.  From there she is going to outline a draft design, which we will fine tune and most importantly, get those trees in the ground this year.  The reason I want a few trees is two fold: first to have something to shade my south facing living room which can get fairly hot in the summer and to also have something to shade the patio I want to put out front.

Then I will also do some research this year on plants I want to put in the costs associated with them and other landscaping materials.  I also want to work in some eatable plants into the design, so at least I can get something useful out of my front yard rather than the endless watering and cutting of my lawn that I currently do.

So have you ever gone lawn free in part of your yard?  If so, how much did it cost?  If not, would you ever consider getting rid of your lawn?

17 thoughts on “Smart Landscaping”

  1. My neighbor across from me has gone lawn-free; with a combination of gravel, large rocks and concrete sculptures. It really looks quite sharp, and he’s aside from the upfront cost of the gravel (some colored, some not) it is clearly going to save him tons.

    I might consider it someday, but as long as I have young children I’ll probably keep the grass.

  2. Nope, never gone lawn-free on purpose. Sometimes it’s hard to get the grass to grow. So what are you putting in instead? I’ve seen “desert” or rock yards in front of some houses, but frankly they look bad, at least the one’s I’ve seen. We don’t do anything to our lawn, just mow when we see the dandelions start to pop. It doesn’t look great, but doesn’t look horrible either.

  3. The previous owner mowed the entire 1.7 acres of property. I did that for a year, but I’ve realized it’s a waste of time and gas. This year I’ll cut down on my mowing and let the rest turn into field.

  4. My parents got rid of their front lawn almost entirely, and they love it. They have some rocks, lots of plants, and some flower bushes that get huge in the summer. My mom has to trim them constantly. They get those little red chips in the summer and fill in the garden with them.

    They also eliminated most of the grass in the backyard, too. Backyard looks better because it has more trees, there’s the patio, etc.

    I think if it’s done correctly, it can look pretty sharp.

  5. Why not instead try to over-seed with a product like Eco-Lawn. I haven’t seen it personally, but I’ve been meaning to try it for a long time. It’s a blend of deep root fescue grasses that need barely any maintenance at all.

    Plus you don’t really need to do anything with a lawn if it’s fairly healthy. Throw some compost out there in the spring, and mow high are pretty much the only things you need to do. Maybe try some corn gluten meal if you have weed problems that come from seeds… but don’t put it down if you are trying to plant anything.

  6. I’ve been giving this some serious consideration as I hate cutting grass and pulling up Dandelions!!! One house a block over had his done prefessionally and it looks awesome. Sorta like a river bed with islands of bushes and shrubbery (little Monty Python) 😉

    I’d like to follow your planning and progress thru the stages.


  7. One of the nicest “lawns” I’ve ever seen had no grass. At least, no traditional green lawn grass. It was covered in smooth river rocks, had a small ornamental tree and some native/decorative tall grasses as accents.
    I would do my own lawn that way if we weren’t toying with the idea of moving closer to work. Watering/moving a lawn is a total waste of time, money, and effort. Plus it looks boring, like everyone else’s.

  8. Unless you have some cheap source…. Trees bushes and landscaping supplies are very expensive… I would be surprised if over the next few years the TIME and MONEY spent on re-landscaping was less that the time and money spent on simply maintaining your lawn…

  9. I had read somewhere a long time ago that green lawns where just a marketing campaign by CIL to help sell fertilizer after WWII.


  10. Disclosure: I am a grass freak. My lawn looks like a golf course and I like it that way. It takes a lot of effort and $ but it is my hobby.

    As for lawn free. I wouldn’t discount the ongoing cost and labour for any type of landscaping made of carbon (except maybe coal). Sure, you may redistribute labour into fewer but larger intervals. And costs may shift, but I am not certain that over a couple of decades you would be significantly ahead in expense.

    Personally I hate weeding. Thick lush grass keeps my weeding to a minimum. No matter how good your undelay (even concrete!) you will get weeds in a rock or mulch bed. Mulch needs to be replaced. Gardens tended. Trees trimmed. Bushes replaced. Plants winterized. Leaves collected. Critters evacuated.

    I’d be interested in a true detailed account of $ and labour over the long term.

  11. We replaced our front “lawn” with a brick pathway and lots of perrenials and shrubs in spring of 2005. It’s on the north side of a 2-story house, so 1/3 is in perpetual shade.

    Former owners had a maple tree that sucked out all the water and nutrients, so the grass wasn’t pretty… ripped out the tree & its roots, laid the pathway, and we were on our way!

    Some of our original design has been muddled as my wife has gone overboard on trellises for clematis, but it serves us well. Daffodils, then tulips in the spring. Lilac now and an ever-changing pallet of day lilies holds our interest throughout the summer. Yes, weeding is still needed.

  12. I clicked on your link Shaun… didn’t like what he did with his yard at all, but I like the idea of no grass. I think we will probably go with river rocks of differing sizes, and some drought-resistant bushes/plants.

  13. I’d love to see the before/after pictures as I am thinking of doing the same. Our lawn is a lot of work and I just don’t see the benefit.

  14. We bought our house 15 years ago and never used pesticide. Our philosophy is that ‘weeds’ are the strongest native plants and are here before we are, and we should learn to co-exist with them. Some ‘weeds’ actually have beautiful flowers. But if you are stuck with the idea of weed free lawn, then the best bet is to shop for drought and diease resistant native perennials, shrubs and trees. Also, remember to go to a reputable nursery centre where you can ask a lot of questions and where there is guarantee on the plants. It might be a bit more expensive but the little extra investment goes a long way.

  15. Thanks for the feedback everyone. To clear up a few points: yes I can post before and after pictures as we move along on the project. I don’t plan on doing all gravel, but rather a mix of patio, paths, beds of native plants. To reduce some costs I’m going to be borrowing some plants from my parents cabin which has lots of options of options to borrow from. In fact my Iris by my front window are all from there.


  16. There are many groundcovers that require little or no maintenance once established. A lawn or substitute groundcover is refreshing and soothing to the eyes. It is definitely more kid-friendly. Rocks are durable but hot and unforgiving. I would chose a mulched path over gravel. Speaking from experience, perennial borders require a fair bit of maintenance. Mowing is faster and easier than weeding (most people mow their lawns too frequently anyway). I think a good balance of lawn and flower beds is ideal.

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