It’s tempting. Get rid of the front yard grass and transform the landscape into a garden of boulders, trees, perennials and mulch.
You are not alone. This spring and summer, more than ever before, I have had a record number of folks ask me for advice in turning the front lawn into a friendly, no-grass landscape. Some want a pollinator-friendly native landscape. Others want a low-maintenance ornamental garden. One had no sun in the backyard, so I designed and built a series of raised veggie gardens in the front yard.
Those looking for ideas on what a no-grass front yard might look lik, should go for a bike ride in Bright’s Grove, particularly on Kathleen, Brown, Kaymar, and Lakeview streets. These landscapes cover the gamut from newly sterile to comfortably established.
Gardeners ready to take the plunge would be wise to consult a landscape architect or designer and start with a plan. Determine what your end goal might look like and do the research. The internet is also a good source of stimulating ideas.
If you want to remain friendly with your neighbours, you will want to discuss your plans with them and install edging along the property lines. The easiest and most cost-effective edging is the black plastic edging. For a more attractive and permanent solution, use brick or stone edging.
When planning for plants, I start with the anchors or bones. A few big trees or large conifers are obvious choices, but you could also use an arbour or other structure.
Plan for a mix of deciduous and coniferous plant material to give both winter and summer interest. Be sure to check the growth rate and ultimate size of your choices.
Perennials will provide colour and seasonal interest. I recommend planting in clusters or drifts for maximum impact. Spring flowering perennials are exciting additions to the garden, while most summer flowering favourites are taller and longer lasting. The options for perennials are endless, and you can opt for themes such as contemporary, cut flowers, fragrance, bird, butterfly and hummingbird gardens.
Use your imagination to make your garden interesting. Adding boulders will give the landscape a sense of permanence or stability. If there is adequate space, consider a meandering dry creek bed with an optional bridge. Boulders can also be used as retaining walls to change elevations or give the illusion of upper and lower gardens.
Going native is a wise and growing trend. Native plants are often hardier and more environmentally friendly than ornamental plants. And contrary to what some might believe, using native wildflowers need not lead to a wild and disorganized garden. Native plants are growing in popularity and are becoming increasingly easy to find.
Mulch will be your friend, because a garden that is void of grass can quickly be overtaken by nasty weeds. I usually recommend a shredded wood mulch in neutral colour. Put down a two to three-inch layer in order to maximize weed control and moisture retention.
For a low maintenance garden, put weed barrier landscape fabric under the mulch. I often recommend using a stone aggregate mulch over weed barrier fabric near the road, and use less expensive wood mulch nearer the house.
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