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How to reduce the size of your lawn
to remove a lawn or lawn section
to replace the lawn with
for reducing lawn size
of 'screening' shrubs
Related pages: Lawn
Natural Lawn Care Drip
benefits of reducing lawn size
your lawn to a mixed landscape can save water and energy, while reducing yard
the need for fertilizers and herbicides.
reduced water consumption
- according to the EPA, 30 to 60% of urban fresh water is used to water lawns
each year. Turf requires two to three times the water of a sustainable mixed
• saves time and energy
on lawn maintenance
• less yard waste to be
composted or taken to a landfill - a 2000 sq ft lawn produces 600-800 pounds
of clippings per summer on average
• reduction in use of herbicides,
pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
• reduction in air and noise pollution
caused by gas mowers -
lawns cover 20 million acres of residential land in the US, and lawnmowers
account for 5% of the air pollution. A 3.5 hp lawnmower pollutes as much in
one hour as an automobile driving 350 miles.
• enhanced biodiversity
- varied plantings offer shelter and feeding opportunities for wildlife
• increased property values
- attractive, low-maintenance landscaping adds value to the home
What about the costs involved?
If you hire a professional to design the landscape and install the plantings,
it can be expensive to replace lawn areas. However, you can do the work yourself
and use native species of plantings at little cost.
how to remove a lawn or lawn section
methods are the easiest. If you want the job done now, renting a rototiller
or sod cutter may be necessary.
sheeting - easiest,
but looks unsightly and takes about 6 months. Simply spread a sheet of black
plastic over the area of lawn to be removed and weight the edges with rocks.
The grass will wither and the roots will dry up. Once the process is complete,
turn the top 12" of soil and break up clumps using a hoe. However, this
method will kill many beneficial micro-organisms and worms in the soil; soil
amendments will need to be added if the area is to be replanted in ground
cover, shrubs or flowers.
- easy, but takes 4 - 6 months. This method requires large amounts of compostable
material. Basically, the existing lawn is covered with layers of organic material
that will break down and, in the process, soften and kill the grass itself.
Some suggest breaking up the sod layer first but others do not. Water
the sheet from time to time to promote rapid breakdown of materials.
layer 1 - nitrogen material, e.g. grass clippings (3
- 4") or organic nitrogen fertilizer
layer 2 - weed barrier, such as cardboard or newspaper (only black
layer 3 - weed-free mulch (3 - 4"), such as fall leaves, sawdust, manure,
finished compost, seaweed, shredded garden trimmings, wood chips, or straw
(be sure to use clean straw, not hay, as hay contains seeds).
Once the process is completed, shrubs or trees can be planted directly
through the layers.
sod cutting - for small areas of lawn,
the top layer of sod can be sliced off using a spade; larger areas will need
a sod cutter, which is usually available at tool rental shops. The sod which
has been removed can be stacked and covered with a sheet of black plastic;
in about 6 months the grass and roots will break down leaving you with valuable
soil for the garden, compost or shrub and flower beds.
rototilling - this method requires
at least three treatments; the first tilling should be deep, with compost
and lime added before tilling. After several weeks, repeat but with very shallow
tilling to remove new weeds. Repeat this process in another week to get any
what to replace the lawn with
good place to start is with foundation plantings. They can be expanded in
width and include ground covers, xeriscape plantings, perennial flower beds,
and tiered shrub plantings. Soil depth of 12 - 18" is best for larger
These are plants which
spread across the ground but do not grow tall, so no cutting is required.
Areas planted in groundcover need little to no maintenance. Ground covers
are usually chosen for texture, density and how well they spread and choke
out the weeds. They enhance the soil by acting as a mulch, and some groundcovers
- many varieties are available,
including flowering groundcovers which offer color and add emphasis to the
- although groundcovers are usually perennials and evergreens,
annuals make excellent groundcovers as well, but do require more work each
- during the first year, new plantings of groundcover will require weeding
and mulching, but once established,
little care is needed.
- groundcovers usually need an edge barrier to
- not as durable as grass for high traffic areas.
- your garden center can recommend local groundcover
varieties and their characteristics.
- visit Eartheasy's page for more
information about the use of ground covers.
The most common method for reducing lawn size is to replace the turf with
beds of perennial shrubs, often bordered with flowers. Shrubs can be expensive,
but using local varieties can be very inexpensive (or free), and local species
will be easiest to grow and encounter fewer disease problems. Local species
also provide food, in many cases, for local wildlife species. Deciduous shrubs:
- give seasonal color and texture to the landscape.
- have few serious insect or disease problems.
- tolerate difficult growing conditions better
than most ornamentals.
- many grow rapidly and may require some yearly
pruning. Pruning is done just after the shrub flowers,
regardless of the time of year.
- tiered plantings
may allow passive cooling in summer while
letting in light in winter.
- visit Eartheasy's page
for more information
about planting with shrubs.
The term 'xeriscape' refers to drought-tolerant
developed for areas with severe water restrictions, this method of landscaping
is becoming widely popular because water conservation has become more of an
issue for homeowners in many parts of the country. Xeriscapes do not have
a single look - almost any landscaping style can be achieved. Visit
Eartheasy's page on Xeriscaping to learn
more about how this method can benefit your landscape.
mulches, such as bark chips and gravel, can be used to replace lawn under
trees and areas not to be planted in shrubs.
(Mulches which biodegrade quickly, such as leaves, sawdust, seaweed, grass
clippings are not suited for this purpose.) Mulches such as bark chips and
- require landscaping cloth to be placed on the
bare soil; the mulch is then added on top.
- may require some weeding. Weeds can sprout
from small pockets of soil which accumulate on the mulch. If the weed root
goes through the groundcloth, be sure to water the weed before pulling. This
makes it easier to pull and reduces the damage to the groundcloth. Some people
use hot water to killl weeds which poke through gravel mulch, however this
should not be done if tree roots are directly below the groundcloth.
tips for reducing lawn size:
a yard plan. Reducing the lawn size may seem like a large
task, but the changes can be made gradually over several seasons. By drawing
up a yard plan, changes can be made by priority and as time and resources
- Choose least functional lawn areas to replace.
Look for areas of lawn which are least used, and those which are hardest to
mow (e.g. corners of the yard, beneath trees with low branches).
- Check what lies beneath. Before
digging, check for location of utilities. Call
local utility company if not sure.
native. Use native trees, shrubs and ground covers or native
grasses and wildflowers that are already well-adapted to the environment in
your region. They will require less fertilizer, fewer (or no) pesticides,
less watering and less maintenance. Birds and wildlife will benefit from the
berries and seeds of native plants. Non-nativespecies can be interspersed
to add variety and color.
- Mulch annually. Shrubs and flower bads should be mulched at least once year
with a biodegradable mulch such as leaves, fish compost, grass clippings,
Consider lawn shape. By replacing
corners with curves, minimizing 'islands', even a small reduction in lawn
size can save a large amount of lawn mowing time. more
- Slopes may need terracing. Removing
lawn turf from a sloped area may cause erosion during rains; sloped areas
may need to be terraced to minimize erosion.
- Plant using multiple layers or mixed borders. Trees,
shrubs and flowers can be planted
in layers which successively shade each other, requiring less water. Plantings
should be closely spaced to discourage weeds from sprouting.
landscaping using deciduous shrubs.
You can graduate the height of shrub/flower beds, with tallest plantings closest
to the south and east side of the house. The shading offered by tall plantings
can help with passive cooling of the home, reducing the cost and impact of cooling
Many varieties of 'screening' shrubs are available, with some examples of popular
varieties listed below:
of tall 'screening' deciduous shrubs
Forsythia - 8'
Hibiscus syriacus - 12'
Purple smoke bush - 15'
beard) - 8 - 12'
Arrowwood Viburnum- 12- 15'
- many varieties; easy to grow in most soil; prefer direct sun; require annual
- a large shrub that flowers in August, at a time when few other shrubs
are in bloom.
- will grow in any soil and any location in the garden. Insects and
disease are of little concern.
- very easy to grow; adapts to a wide range of soil types and light conditions.
- grows in sun or shade, adaptable to any soil; a rapid grower with good,
glossy red fall color.
Tall 'screening' deciduous
shrubs which require a trellis for support
Mockorange - 7'
Common Lilac - 9'
Fragrant Honeysuckle - 6'
- many varieties, ranging from 4' - 7'; no serious insect or disease problems.
best known and most commonly planted of all the flowering shrubs; annual pruning
- easy to grow, requiring no special
soil or other conditions; also used as a hedge;little pruning is required.
Related pages: Lawn Alternatives
Natural Lawn Care
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.. . . . . . ...eartheasy