The first few years I spent digging out soil for new beds, learning how to amend, learning more about landscape design and finding out about all the new plants I could grow here in the South. I was born and raised a zone 5/6 gal, so zone 7/8 was a whole new ballgame for me!! Kids in the neighborhood enjoyed helping measure out new beds, and grow simple annual seeds to be planted. However, I had a vision in my minds eye, and a small bed here and there wasn’t cutting it.
So as soon as we had some money, I hired a friend of a friend to come and till the lawn up, amend and get started on the “real” garden! In my vision, there was no lawn. I could not see the value of a lawn for us. We didn’t like to mow, and we hated to spend money watering the weedy patch. Something far more colorful was in order, full of bright smashes of orange, purple, chartreuse and fuchsia. We smashed walkways and mixed the concrete in with stone, made new pathways, some low raised beds and threw in loads of soil amendments to the clay. I had help choosing and installing some small trees, and then, over the years went to town planting, moving and re-planting a selection of small shrubs and abundant flowers. It was work, but fun work. NO MOW work!
Then we bought the property next to us. It was larger, and a lot of mowing. I started by covering much of the soil with week bock and layering mulch on top of that. It sure saved money tilling. Then I built raised bed boxes for a veggie garden – right smack in the front yard! Slowly, little by little I kept planting and planning to eat up all the grass. Then the tornado blew through!
Funny how a little wind can change all your plans. With all the shade gone, we were able to expand the front yard vegetable garden to completely take up one half of that yard. This summer and fall we are hoping to begin work on the rest of the side yard, and two back yards to remove all the grass and weedy vegetation that needs constant mowing, and plant it with native, food and wildlife plants. An acre of my dream in the heart of the city!
My dreams of a lawn-free garden have not just garnered me the home of my dreams, but also many friends, jobs, and a valued volunteer position – connections to my community I might otherwise never have had. Over the last 10 years I have seen more and more of my neighbors tear out their lawns and plant the gardens of their dream, creating a beautiful tapestry in our community and making it a unique place to dream, and to garden.
My neighbors across the street loved to garden with trees. They've moved on to a bigger lot, but their creation is a testement to trying to shove so much in so little space. It has become an oasis of small trees!
Michelle is a gardening friend who has just begun her no mowing adventure. This
year she ripped out all her grass and planted perennials and made a pea gravel path. After the drought we've been having here in Atlanta, a
now mow lawn is actually easier to maintain than having to worry about grass or, as the case may be, dead grass. Native, drought tollerant plants can really help.
My full-yard gardens take some care, mainly in spring and fall. However because I love planting, they are a joy to me. Layers of mulch and newspaper are wonderful weedblocks so there is little weeding to do. The veggie garden is wonderful because we save so much money on fresh organic vegetables all summer long. Rain barrels help us save even more money - I rarely have to use water from the hose! With a little effort, and a change of mindset, you to can contemplate a no-mow oasis for your dream home.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published June 21, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)