No more mowing! No more lawn chemicals! A turf-free lawn brings all kinds of benefits to humans as well as to birds and pollinators. And a yard without turfgrass takes a sustainable approach to gardening, especially in dry climates, where water is scarce and at a premium.
There are many advantages to going turf free. Don’t think of it as a yard with no lawn; think of it as a haven for birds, bees, and other creatures as well as a landscape with texture, color, and shape. Especially in water-thirsty dry climates, a no-mow yard is a boon. Test your soil before planting, and add organic matter, such as compost, to enhance the soil structure.
It’s a good idea to choose tough native or easy-care non-native plants that flourish in similar conditions without supplemental water. Local pollinators evolved with native plants, so growing natives helps promote your ecosystem. Choose plants that are resistant to diseases and pests so you can grow them without toxic chemicals that kill not only the nasty bugs but bees and butterflies. Mulch to cut down on weeds and retain soil moisture.
How to do it
You can design a turf-free yard in many ways. This Maine garden uses matrix planting. Choose several plants that like the same growing conditions but peak at different times, and plant thickly so weeds can’t grow through the spaces. Offer extra care for the first year or two. For constant bloom, tuck a few annuals among your perennials. Pay attention to your yard’s light conditions, and plant accordingly.
Fill a hanging basket with a vining plant that can be encouraged to roam wherever it wants, creating a natural form.
Tough, easy-care grasses in a variety of shapes and heights and with different flowering times are valuable tools in creating a nature-inspired planting scheme. They also create a sense of graceful movement in the garden when there’s a breeze. Choose grasses that are hardy in your area.
Replace lawn with sections of permeable paving, such as bricks, sand, gravel, or mulch, and add a seating area. No one will miss the turf, and the area will look like a well-designed element.
Drifts of perennials make good anchors for erosion prevention on hillsides. Place stepping-stones inside big beds to facilitate weeding and deadheading.
Add a bit of whimsy to your garden, such as the fairies here, set among miniature hostas and petite plants. If children visit, move the figures around regularly to make the hunt for them more fun.
You want easy? You want hardy? Check out the plant palette that’s often used in your region.
These beauties may be on a list to beautify your no-mow yard.
PHLOX (Phlox paniculata)
Especially when planting perennials close together, choose a phlox variety that’s disease and mildew resistant. Resistance or susceptibility to mildew infection is both regional and seasonal.
MORNING GLORY (Ipomoea purpurea)
Vines grow up to 15 feet long each year, and the flowers rampantly reseed. Don’t choose morning glories in Arizona, where they’re banned for their invasiveness.
CHINA ASTER (Callistephus chinensis)
China asters are heat- and drought-resistant annuals that grow in full sun to partial shade. They come in a variety of colors, some with double petals like this one.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN (Rudbeckia)
This tough summer-blooming native comes in a variety of species and cultivated forms, both annual and perennial. They are deer and drought resistant.
DOUBLE WHITE CONEFLOWER (Echinacea)
Coneflowers now come in many colors, including pink, purple, yellow, orange, and white. Double-flowered coneflowers bloom in a wide range of shapes.
LOBELIA (Lobelia speciosa ‘Fan Blue’)
This newer lobelia variety has violet-blue flowers that bloom early in the season on compact, upright stems. Hummingbirds and butterflies love it.
Perennial only in warm climates, lantana is worth planting every year. It flowers from summer through fall, needs very little water, and is a butterfly and hummingbird magnet.
CUSHION SPURGE (Euphorbia)
Euphorbias constitute a very large plant family, so there’s probably one that fits your needs. Some grow in mounds that look tidy even after their flowers are gone.
Liatris’s claims to fame are its pencil-thin flower spikes, which provide strong architectural interest in a garden, and the delicate tufts of grass-like foliage at the base.
CONEFLOWER (Echinacea purpurea)
Easy-care and tough purple coneflowers should be a mainstay in many natural landscape designs. The dried seed heads feed birds but can aggressively self-sow.
Dahlias rebloom when deadheaded from summer through fall. In many areas of the country, they must be planted as annuals or dug up and stored indoors for winter.
HELIOPSIS (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Also called false sunflower, heliopsis is a tough, clump-forming perennial producing vibrant yellow blooms in summer. Keep it deadheaded for repeat flowers
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