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John O'

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Boston Globe May 21, 2009

Tired of mowing? Go grass-free.

 

Replace lawns with perennials or other plants

 

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Ever wish you could lessen, minimize, or totally eliminate your lawn so you wouldn't have to spend so much time behind the lawn mower? Some homeowners are doing just that. Perennial gardens, veggies, ground covers, and even carpets of low-growing plants and moss are appearing around homes where once grass dominated.

 

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Jennifer Wry and Cheryl Raiche of Roslindale describe their former lawn as being "an ugly mess" thanks to grub damage. When they tilled the front yard to start a new lawn from scratch, they asked themselves, why not just put in a perennial flower garden instead?

 

Six years later, variegated irises, peonies, balloon flower, lavender, and other perennials grace their home's front yard. Annuals are added to the mix as the seasons change for pops of color here and there. Low-growing plants such as creeping thyme and oregano spread to fill gaps during the summer, and two types of mulch - pine and cocoa - blanket what the creepers do not. The only grass is of the ornamental type, requiring just one trim each year.

 

The garden certainly isn't maintenance free, and the initial investment in the perennials wasn't cheap, Wry said. But the plants grow and some multiply over time, so what was one clump of irises is now two and will be three. At this point, the work is about mulching, pruning, and watering. "It's a different kind of maintenance than a grass yard," Wry said. "It's a labor of love, community, and artistic expression, and much more satisfying than a lawn."

 

More people are curious about alternatives to grass lawns, according to Frances Hopkins, president of Under a Foot Plant Co., which owns the Stepables brand of low-growing perennials. Lawn alternatives that incorporate perennials attract beneficial insects and are generally environmentally friendly. And owners don't need a lawn mower.

 

"It's a different philosophy than having green grass," Hopkins said. "What you chose has everything to do with what you're going to use your space for. What are you doing in it, and what do you need out of it?"

 

Pachysandra and periwinkle are common ground covers that grow happily under trees, on slopes, and in other hard-to-care-for areas of the yard. Using these and other ground covers for an even greater yard area is an option for yards that don't get much use. Some low-growing ground covers, such as creeping thymes, mints, and stonecrops, can tolerate moderate foot traffic and can be planted between stone pavers. For some moist and shady expanses that already have mossy invaders, a moss-carpeted yard may be an obvious alternative.

 

Besides traditional and low-growing perennials, there are other alternatives for homeowners looking to rethink their lawns. Xeriscapes, or low-water-use landscapes, incorporate drought-tolerant and desert plants into a yard with gravel and stone. Your local garden center or nursery can help you choose plants that will thrive under these conditions. An even drier grass alternative is a "dry river," or a river bed created with stones.

 

So what happens to grass-free yards during the winter? Pachysandra, periwinkle, mosses, and some of the low-growing perennials will stay lean and green throughout the winter, but some lawn substitutes will leave the yard sans greenery when they drop their foliage. That doesn't necessarily leave the yard boring, however. Many perennials produce flowers, seed pods, and branches that look beautiful draped in winter's snow and ice. And come spring, they'll be back filling in for the lawn.dingbat_story_end_icon.gif

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Glad folks are starting to wake up......smile.gif

 

Unfortunately, in some towns (not mine, as least that I know) doing that is against "code" in some areas....rolleyes.gif.....have read more than one story where folks tried to replace thier lawn with wildflowers, and the neighbors and "town fathers" took issue with it....shakehead.gif

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My two sections of front lawns have been converted solely to flower beds by my wife ~ she enjoys that and so do the neighbors & their dogs

80% of the backyard is lawn for Frisbee & such for the kids

20% vegetable garden

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View PostUm, somehow I don't think the "Seaside Heights, NJ" motif would go over so well in the semi-rural community of Foxborough.....tongue.gifwink.gif

 

Isn't foxborough stadium using those fake grass too?

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539w.jpg

 

Looks good to me! Grass is a pain in my !@#. I get absolutely no sun on my front lawn (ha ha, too small to be considered a lawn), so this is a great alternative.

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View Post539w.jpg

 

Looks good to me! Grass is a pain in my !@#. I get absolutely no sun on my front lawn (ha ha, too small to be considered a lawn), so this is a great alternative.

 

How do you play wiffleball on that? headscratch.gif

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View PostPerenial beds need a lot of weeding and upkeep. Even with the mowing, grass is easier.

 

she is a Stay at Home Mom. It pleases her & I don't have to mow it.

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View Post539w.jpg

 

Looks good to me! Grass is a pain in my !@#. I get absolutely no sun on my front lawn (ha ha, too small to be considered a lawn), so this is a great alternative.

 

 

We went grassless 4 years ago, lots of shrubs, bushes small trees and plantings, lotsa good mulch, live in an urban area anyway, so not a big deal - actually looks a lot better.

 

Wiffleball? ALWAYS sidewalk to sidewalk, the cityslicker way.

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View PostWe went grassless 4 years ago, lots of shrubs, bushes small trees and plantings, lotsa good mulch, live in an urban area anyway, so not a big deal - actually looks a lot better.

 

Wiffleball? ALWAYS sidewalk to sidewalk, the cityslicker way.

Yeah, grass is too much of a pain here in good old Dot. The houses are too close together (at least in my neighborhood) and we're on the wrong side of the street for good afternoon /and evening sun. Gonna give the perennial garden a try, hitting Lambert's and Eagle Farms for some plants tomorrow. If that doesn't work out, this is next......

 

525

 

Might even paint it up like a street hockey rink for the kids.

cwm27.gifcwm27.gif

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