If you live in Atlanta you are sadly all too familiar with summer water rationing and increased water rates. You can find information on how and why eliminating lawn area can help both the environment and your pocket book here.
Before we begin, be aware that some city or county ordinances and many HOA’s have restrictions in place. You may like the idea of converting your lawn into a meadow garden of wildflowers but if you are dealing with codes that require lawns to be kept mown no higher than six inches you can’t use that solution. Some areas may have ordinances that dictate that a certain percentage of your property must have green landscaping. That prevents you from turning a large area into a rock garden or mulched area devoid of plantings. Hopefully there will be changes to such restrictions in the near future as food and water shortages escalate.
But you may not be ready for a large-scale change anyway. Your time and/or budget won’t allow it. Maybe you have considered just leaving the lawn to its own devices no matter how thin or brown or weedy it becomes. There are alternatives. Start small if that is all you can do. Even small steps can save your pocketbook and the environment.
The easiest way to begin is to enlarge existing beds. If you have shrubbery against the front, back or sides of your house, just bring the edge of the bed out a couple feet. You can mulch to prevent weeds and be done. You can dig out the sod or lay plastic, newspaper, or cardboard over the area and kill existing grass and weeds(newspaper or cardboard are more eco-friendly, will decompose and enrich the soil). Then spread mulch over the top. With luck you can get free mulch, either from tree leaves or pine straw on your own property or wood chips from a tree removal service. Just keep in mind that pine straw and oak leaves add acidity and that woodchips rob the soil of nitrogen so you may need a bit of soil amendment to compensate.
If you can afford it and want eye-appeal you could plant the new area with plants appropriate for the sun and drainage conditions of the area. Low growing, creeping evergreens, native, drought resistant perennials or ground covers would all serve the purpose. You can readily find suggestions and information on these with a little bit of Google searching.
The same system holds true if you have any “islands” of pine trees or landscaped areas in the yard. Just take the perimeter of the beds out a foot or two. You can continue to bring the edges of beds out further and further as time and money allow. Every square foot of lawn you remove means less water, fertilizer, weed killer and mowing. If you can plant, just remember that even drought resistant plants will need extra water until established. The best way to accomplish that with minimum waste of water and investment is by hand watering with a watering can. If that is the method you will use don’t be overly ambitious and cost yourself dozens of trips with the watering can!
Ideally, if you can replant you will consider planting something edible. Herbs and some vegetable plants can be both attractive and productive when worked into, in front of, or around existing landscape beds. Consider planting edibles instead of flowers, or at least plant edible flowers. Nasturtiums and Borage are examples of edible flowers. It’s not too late to plant greens or lettuce here in the Atlanta metro area and they make an attractive border for shrub or flowerbeds. Again, information can be readily found with a bit of research on the Internet.
See the video to the left for suggestions and ideas on edible landscaping.
Herbs can be both attractive and really help to save on the grocery bill, as they tend to be quite expensive to buy. Perennial plants will be lower maintenance and will produce for years be they evergreen or other shrubs, herbs or flowers. Try to concentrate on native and drought resistant varieties whenever possible. They will grow the best and require the least maintenance. Annual edibles will be a bit more of an investment and likely require a little more maintenance but will help a lot on the grocery bill.
You will be surprised to find how just a few edible plants worked into existing landscape can produce a worthwhile amount of food.
If you can invest a bit more time and money you might want to actually put a vegetable plot in the middle of lawn area. You can start as small or large as time or money allows. You can also make such a plot visually appealing and place it in your front yard. Most areas have no ordinance against doing so. Apparently there was no thought such an ordinance would be ever be needed! There is a growing movement for front yard vegetable gardens to replace lawn. You can forestall any objections from neighbors by sharing some of the bounty. Even if you have a grouchy neighbor who complains to authorities, if there is no existing ordinance that prevents it, the authorities can’t do anything.
Don’t be discouraged if you have some failures. Even the most experienced gardeners have some failures. Sometimes you can do everything right and yet weather or other conditions make for a bad year. Some years certain plant diseases or pests will run rampant and win the battle. You may make a mistake or two, especially if you are an inexperienced gardener. Just take it in stride, learn and move on and continue getting rid of that lawn, one step at a time and one plant at a time.
Thank you for reading and please share with your friends. Your comments are always welcome. If you would like more tips, information or how-to concerning Going Green on a Budget please click the Subscribe button. It is free and anonymous. You can contact me at: [email protected]