Shrink the lawn?

The picture below shows the view from our front porch. The whole neighborhood is pretty much the same. The predominant vegetation is lawn. It’s very park-like and certainly not unattractive.

Our parklike neighborhood

As a family with four kids, our front and back lawns have gotten a lot of use:

There’s football.

Lawn football

Handstands are popular.

Handstands on the lawn

And then there’s the rare but always exciting worm contest …

So why get rid of any of the grass?

1. All that lawn is a hassle to mow.

Lawnmowing fun

2. A big chunk of the lawn never gets used.

3. Turfgrass doesn’t attract butterflies or birds (beyond robins hunting for worms and flocks of grackles in the fall).

Reducing water consumption and use of chemicals are additional reasons often given for shrinking a lawn. These reasons aren’t as relevant for us. We have a well for our outside water and aren’t very vigilant about watering the lawn anyway. We’ve applied weed-n-feed perhaps 6 or 8 times in the 19 years we’ve lived here, and I’ve managed to get a handle on the dandelions by using the Weed Hound consistently for the past 3 or 4 years.

Shrinking the lawn also supposedly saves time and energy because less mowing and raking is needed, but the lawn has to be replaced with something. Unless it’s being swapped out for paving, my guess is that at least as much time and energy is required to maintain the new plantings as were needed to maintain the lawn. Establishing the new plantings is a big job, too, calling for planning and hard work, so it isn’t surprising that many people (myself included) just keep on a-mowin’.

Let’s go back to reason #3 above. This is the big one for me. Over time, I plan both to switch out non-native plants for natives and to increase the amount of the yard given over to plantings. This is the current (fairly nebulous) plan for the front yard:

Front yard plan

How long will this take? Good question. We’re currently working on projects in the back and side yards, so I see the bed nearer to the house as Phase 2  or 3 and the bed by the street as Phase 3 or 4, which could take … No, I won’t even speculate how many years might pass before the areas marked in orange are replanted. There’s sod to remove, research to do, plants to propagate or buy, current beds to maintain and improve, and long winters to wait through. I’ll keep you posted!

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