General Discussion:

Lawnless Yards


Messages posted to thread:

From:Date:Zone:
Brian @ P&P Plnats21-Jul-01 10:10 PM EST 3   
Betty22-Jul-01 11:19 AM EST 5a   
Brian @ P&P Plants22-Jul-01 04:24 PM EST 3   
Marianne27-Jul-01 06:33 PM EST 3   
Brian @ P&P Plants28-Jul-01 01:57 AM EST 3   
Northern Gardener29-Jul-01 03:02 AM EST 3   
betty s31-Jul-01 10:38 AM EST 3   
JoanneS31-Jul-01 01:16 PM EST 3a   
Marianne31-Jul-01 06:11 PM EST 3   
jacques06-Aug-01 05:09 PM EST 5a   
Marianne07-Aug-01 12:39 PM EST 3   
Susan07-Aug-01 03:58 PM EST 6a   
jacques08-Aug-01 06:24 PM EST 5a   
Susan09-Aug-01 09:04 AM EST 6a   
Susan09-Aug-01 09:22 AM EST 6a   
Betty09-Aug-01 02:32 PM EST 5a   
jacques14-Aug-01 07:56 PM EST 5a   
Betty15-Aug-01 12:17 AM EST 5a   


Subject: Lawnless Yards
From: Brian @ P&P Plnats
Zone: 3
Date: 21-Jul-01 10:10 PM EST

Today, Saturday, July 21, on CBC Saturday Report, there was an article on making your lawns into Flowerbeds & Gardens. In the item, it shows how in one community it is catching on. I haven't checked the CBC website to see if it is there, it should be. It might be on tonights news @ 10:00. I have converted much of my lawn & Garden to mainly Native Plants and hope within the next 2 years to complete it. If anyone is interested in coming by and seeing what I have done, please contact me.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Betty
Zone: 5a
Date: 22-Jul-01 11:19 AM EST

Brian, I am interested in knowing more on this. I have a large weedy back lawn (at one time was a field) that I wish to turn into wild flowers. It is my next big project and I have been thinking about it for a long time. What would be the best way to start? 1) Plowing up the ground or 2)smothering it. I keep thinking that digging it will just promote all the weed seeds to sprout, but smothering it will be a massive undertaking. By smothering I would lay newspapers and top with soil. What to plant is not the problem, I know what wild flowers I will be using. It is getting the ground ready that I am unsure of. What method did you use to convert your lawn? I have used both methods for making flower beds but they were on a much smaller scale than this area. I find both methods have worked for me, but can not decide which to use for the large area.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Brian @ P&P Plants
Zone: 3
Date: 22-Jul-01 04:24 PM EST

Betty; Wen you talk of your back yard, hiw many square feet is it? What is it's topography and sun exposure. Are there any trees on it or bordering it? The more information you can provide will help me in helping you. If it is a City Lot, 50 x 120, is there about 1/2 of it in your back yard? You could start now by applying a herbicide (Roundup) to kill off any grasses, forbs and anything else. After about 2 weeks you can Rototill up the soil and prepare it for Fall planting of transplants & seed. Please send me an E-mail @ haniford@telusplanet.net.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Marianne
Zone: 3
Date: 27-Jul-01 06:33 PM EST

Hi Brian - two years ago I decided my ratty front yard would look better in flowers so to kill the grass, I collected large cardboard boxes, opened them flat and placed them on top of the grass, soaked them, placed soil on top, kept the Round-up happening the first year then last year I started digging and placing my flowers from my friends creating my "Friendship Garden" I keep newspaper/grass clipping on fairly thick and I hardly ever find a weed. I finally have earthworms, something I never had before, eating the decomposing cardboard. The Garden Club was out two weeks ago and I'm sure some of them will be making larger flower gardens in their front yards now. I used to garden only for me - in the back yard. Thats when I took a really good look at my front yard, said "yuk" and planted flowers there for my neighbour to see.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Brian @ P&P Plants
Zone: 3
Date: 28-Jul-01 01:57 AM EST

Marianne; I've got to see your place. From what you have told, you have put alot of work into it. How's your rainfall? We have had 6+ inces since May 1st. Everything is growing well with the rain, including the weeds. I'm creating a new strawberry bed, taking them out of the vegetable garden. Any ideas on how to incorporate them into my flowerbeds and rockgardens? What's up for the next Garden Tour & what day?


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Northern Gardener
Zone: 3
Date: 29-Jul-01 03:02 AM EST

Brian: Why not incorporate your strawberries as part of a border edge in the flowerbeds? Low growing & easy to get to for harvesting. Can also visualize them covering a corner/tip or two of a geometric bed. Rock gardens: love the idea....can see them already sending their runners cascading up & over some of the rocks. Just remember they like rather rich, well-drained humous soil. NG


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: betty s
Zone: 3
Date: 31-Jul-01 10:38 AM EST

Marianne - I want to do this - no grass- how much soil did you put on - 3-4 inches or more? I tried this with newspaper for a bed in the back yard but did not layer enough because still got grass coming through and am still weeding, don't want to use Roundup because I have other flowers all around. Anyway, hopefully my plans will work out. Betty S


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: JoanneS
Zone: 3a
Date: 31-Jul-01 01:16 PM EST

A few of my neighbours have successfully done this; one of whom was a winner in one of the categories for the Edmonton Hort. Society gardening contest. When done well, it looks spectacular, and is so much more interesting to walk through than just plain grass. Many evenings various neighbours gather to wander through and see what's in bloom. It's a great bonding experience. I will do the same to my front yard when my kids are a bit older.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Marianne
Zone: 3
Date: 31-Jul-01 06:11 PM EST

Betty - you could use tons of layers of newspaper instead of cardboard for starters. I used 6 to 8 inches of soil then topped with grass mulch as I cut the grass (from the back yard)


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: jacques
Zone: 5a
Date: 06-Aug-01 05:09 PM EST

Hi! I hope that this exchange continues to get new ideas. I bought a 6-acre property last year and mowing the 2 cleared acres is exhausting. So far, I've noticed that a layer of pine needles quickly kills any weeds or grass. Then, all I have to do is work the soil and replant. I've also experimented with clover instead of grass. It's greener, withstands drought and doesn't require much mowing. I have both full-sun and shaded to convert back to natural, so please keep those suggestions coming! -- Thanks!


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Marianne
Zone: 3
Date: 07-Aug-01 12:39 PM EST

Jacques - you may want to keep and eye on your new plants due to the pine needles will turn your soil acidic. Not all plants like this condition.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 07-Aug-01 03:58 PM EST

Jacques: Maybe you should do what a friend of mine did with her horse pasture after she sold her horse. She's turning it into a woodland garden. She 'cleaned out' a local nursery's stock of shrubs and trees at the end of season sale a year or two ago and used them to plant the pasture. Keep in mind a woodland has four layers - a canopy layer (trees like Ash ans Oak are good because their roots are less of a problem re competing witth other things you my want to plant. Maple is bad (thirsty, shallow roots...) and walnut is a no-no as it puts juglone in the soil which kills other plants.) Then there is the understory trees - trees which can grow under the canopy trees. Native Downy Serviceberry is a nice one and Japanese Maple is another good one. The third layer is shrubs and there is a lot of choice here. If you have pines, Rhododendrons and Azaleas do well under them. Variegated Dogwood does an excellent job of lighting up under the trees. False Spirea takes a fair bit of shade and has nice ferny foliage. Autumn Magic Chokeberry is good for fall color and berries for birds. And there are nany more.....The final layer is herbaceous perennials and there's lots of choice here too. If you have bunchberries already on your property, encourage them to spread - the flowers are pretty in the spring and the berries add color in the fall. Ferns are good too. Phlox stolonifera (a creeping phlox) takes shade easily. (Keep in mind that this would be a shady garden once the trees msture...) It is important to plan for paths before you plant. Start with the trees and shrubs and leave the low stuff until the shade from the trees and shrubs start smothering the grass. If you're lucky like my friend, maybe you have a pond too so you can plant water-loving things.

Plan for sunny glades too by leaving some areas without trees so plants that need sun can grow there. Only the paths would need mowing until the 'forest' shade takes over.

I think something like this is the only practical way to deal with a larger piece of property. It is essentially what would happen naturally with an abandoned pasture but, by making it happen the way you want, you get to plan for effects you want, introduce a wider range of plants, and ensure it meets your recreational/access/garden needs and desires. I envy you (and my friend); I've been working on creating a small woodland garden under my mature White Pines on the back end of my 1/4 acre lot. It's going well but I'd dearly love to have your 2 acres to play with!


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: jacques
Zone: 5a
Date: 08-Aug-01 06:24 PM EST

1st -- Thank you, Marianne. You're absolutely right, and the pine needle option wouldn't work for most of what I have in mind. I really appreciate the reminder/warning.

2nd -- Susan, thank you!!! Wow, you outdid yourself! I have cut and paste your reply for reference as we think and re-think this huge project over the colder months, and the next few years. How big is this project? We bought the house last summer. We actually own 6 acres of which approx. 2 are "clear." The land is pure sand, there was no vegetable garden until this year, and most of it is full-sun although there are patches of mostly poplar, maple and pine. We've already transplanted ferns, trilliums and various trees from "our forest", but the rest is at the planning stage, really. It's difficult not to get discouraged... I also never really gave much thought to the various levels that you refer to. Thank you.

This is a obviously a multi-year project. Wanna help?

:-) jacques


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 09-Aug-01 09:04 AM EST

I love my mini-woodland garden. I'm finding it much more interesting than my few sunny borders - there's very little unshaded areas in my garden here. It is a long term project though. This is my second year (we moved here in the fall of 1999...) In years 1 I didn't plant enough shrubs so I just had the teall pines , a few shrubs ans a lots of perennials that looked a bit lost relative to hte trees. The shrubs make a big difference in making things look more natural. I have a few understorey trees that have occurred naturally under the care of the previous owner and I've got a small Japanese Maple. Flowering times are still amproblem as things hVE LARGELY GONE '


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 09-Aug-01 09:22 AM EST

OOPs.. lets try that again...

Jacques: I love my mini-woodland garden. I'm finding it much more interesting than my few sunny borders - there's very little unshaded areas in my garden here. It is a long term project though. This is my second year (we moved here in the fall of 1999...) At first, I was discouraged at the thought of so much shade and the trees but a little research quickly focussed me on woodland gardening. In years 1 I didn't plant enough shrubs so I just had the tall pines , a few shrubs and a lots of perennials that looked a bit lost relative to the trees. The shrubs make a big difference in making things look more natural. I have a few understorey trees that have occurred naturally under the care of the previous owner and I've got a small Japanese Maple. Flowering times are still a problem as things have largely gone'quiet' at the moment except for hydrangeas. The heat and drought are obviously having an effect. I fugure it'll be another 3 years before things really look the way I'd like them to... (By the way, acidic soil is not really a problem - most woodland plants either need it or tolerate it. White Pines are the best sort as it is easy to 'limb up' the trees without harming them and they cast less dense shade than other evergeens. They have a lot of roots near the surface but it doesn't seem to seriosly impede gardening. I hope that is the kind of pines you have. )

There is an excellent, fairly inexpensive book (~$20) 'Made for the Shade' by Judy Glattstein that I'd strongly recommend you get if the concept interests you.(Chapters/Indigo have it and I'm sure it would be available thorugh any good bookstore. Published by Barron's in 1998). I refer to it constantly and sent a copy to my friend when she started converting her pasture. She finds it useful too.

I think once you try this form of gardening, you'll get hooked fast! You could start on a small area next to any existing treed area and expand as the mood strikes...


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Betty
Zone: 5a
Date: 09-Aug-01 02:32 PM EST

I have been "playing" with my 2 acres for the past 6 years, but only on weekends. Since I retired and moved here this spring, I have had more time to get things going. My biggest drawback was lack of mature trees and at my age, I kept thinking that I did not want to invest money into something I would never see mature. I soon decided that I would take the gamble and my dream is of a woodland garden. I have about 3/4 acre of blueberries that are reverting back to woodland. I was surprised at how the many different types of trees appeared out of nowhere, and how fast they are growing. I have decided to go with the newspaper and cover with soil to get my wild flower garden started on the back lawn. Susan, your garden sounds wonderful, and Jacques, let me give you a hint. Never look at the area left to do, look at what you already have accomplished. 6 years ago, all I had was lawn, blueberries, a pile of rocks, and zillions of chokecherry bushes and weeds. Today I still have a pile of rocks; but they are now in rock walls, pathways, and a patio. I have numerous garden beds, shrubs, a few trees, a pond, a lovely hedge, the very early start of a woodland garden and oh yes, 1 chokecherry bush, very few weeds, but still too much d... lawn.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: jacques
Zone: 5a
Date: 14-Aug-01 07:56 PM EST

susan and betty":

thank you for your encouraging words and advice, and 'sorry for my slow response -- i went away for a few days, including a visit to the montreal botannical gardens. oops!

actually, the montreal gardens brought about both awe and inspiration. ("if i had a million dollars...") in the meantime, we've started to cast votes on what we should fight for on our property, and what could/should be left up to mother nature. this year's drought has really started to take its toll. if anything, this situation is teaching us a few good lessons about water conservation and the advantages of natural gardening as well as perennials, although they too are showing signs of stress. even the lilacs are drying up!

susan, i will look for the book -- thank you! -- and yes, this place abounds with white pines.

betty, if you have too many rocks and are situated in the same 5a (ottawa) area, please let me know. here, it's all sand so we're always scouting for rocks.

cheers! /j.


Subject: RE: Lawnless Yards
From: Betty
Zone: 5a
Date: 15-Aug-01 12:17 AM EST

Sorry Jacques, my 5a is in Nova Scotia, otherwise I would love to share. I was to the Montreal Gardens a few years back, and although it was in October and a bitter cold day, I loved it. Country Living Gardener has a feature on Les Jardins de Metis ( Redford Gardens ) in the Gaspe that I feel I have got to visit. It was "created from a remote chunk of wilderness" 40 acres and took 30 years. Now she had money to spend on it but the ideas one could get from visiting would be free. I had heard of it before but I really liked the picture of the blue poppies in this article. I was trying to find a web site on it and the best one I found had the pictures in black and white. Have fun with your property and keep us posted.


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