Want to transition to a chemical-free lawn? Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design is here to help. Her Atlanta landscape architecture firm specializes in “outdoor living areas that are beautiful, artistic, functional, eco friendly and sustainable.” This Q&A originally ran in the Summer 2014 edition of the Dirt, our member newsletter.
1. Try a ‘Faux lawn,’ or ground cover that emulates a lawn
The concept here is that you plant something very low growing to replace the image of a lawn. Something evergreen is best. This concept tends to blend the best with neighbors who have traditional lawns. In the shade, mondo grass is awesome. There are regular, dwarf, and miniature versions. The regular variety can even be mowed if desired, to provide a more walkable surface. Either can tolerate light to moderate traffic from kids and dogs once established. If that’s not a concern, consider native ground covers such as “Green & Gold” Chrysoganum or heuchera. If more height is acceptable, Hellebores is lovely as well as large drifts of evergreen fern such as Autumn Fern. In very shady rear lawns, we’ve even encouraged what we call “eco lawns.” They are a blend of naturally developing moss, violets, and low-growing wildflowers.
2. Forget about a ‘faux lawn’—just landscape!
If there’s no need or desire to blend with the neighborhood, then just landscape the entire space. Integrate shrubs, perennials, and ground covers to fill the whole area. This is an opportunity to diversify your plant selection. You can introduce more natives, more flowers, and invite birds, butterflies, pollinators, and beneficial insects while providing you with four seasons of color and interest.
3. Go wild.
In neighborhoods where anything is acceptable or in a rural setting, consider planting the entire area with wildflower seed. This will result in an intriguing cottage style garden that will be a real boost for bees and pollinators. This is a very inexpensive choice.