Dear Lawn, I'm Breaking Up With You

For Valentine's Day, I'm celebrating Less Lawn and the upcoming release of Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives by local Minnesota author, Evelyn Hadden.

This book will inspire you to break up (literally) with your lawn and find more loving, peaceful, no-mow landscapes that reflect natural landscapes.

Many of the 50 landscapes featured in Evelyn's book are of Minnesota gardens - many of which are comprised of mostly or all native plants.

Q & A With Author Evelyn Hadden

Where and how does one begin converting their lawn in their yard to no-mow alternatives?
Photo Credit Evelyn J. Hadden
I suggest starting in places where you only go to mow, converting lawn that you don't use into a more rewarding (or just less demanding) landscape. Here are a couple of examples.

SLOPE GARDENS: Mowing steep slopes can be unwieldy or even dangerous, and turfgrass doesn't stop runoff. Instead, plant perennials that grow taller and physically intercept runoff, slowing it down so more of it will soak into your property instead of pooling on the path below or running into the storm drains.

Making a path along the base of your Slope Garden offers a great view of the plants without stooping. It's a nice way to showcase smaller gems and nodding flowers where they can be more easily appreciated. 

Photo Credit Evelyn J. Hadden
TREE ISLANDS: Most trees don't like to grow in lawn (and lawns don't much like growing under trees). If you have a tree in the middle of your lawn, make an island around it and plant ground-layer plants that naturally grow under trees.

Let fallen leaves accumulate in the island bed; they do the jobs of both mulch and fertilizer! They protect the tree's root zone from drying out, erosion, and compaction, and they will decompose into food for the tree.

Design away work and waste by adding island beds so that you can rake leaves off the lawn directly into those beds. No more bagging and hauling away your leaves, then buying and hauling in fertilizer and/or mulch.

What are some of the ways you can engage neighbors once you've started reducing your lawn?
Photo Credit Evelyn J. Hadden
Make sure the neighbors see you enjoying your garden. Why not invite them over to enjoy it with you? Give them a tour and tell them how it's changed your life for the better.

Toss some specifics into your conversation. Did you know that hospital patients heal faster when they have a view of a garden? Employees are more productive too. Plants filter pollutants out of the air and enrich it with oxygen, making it healthier for us to breathe. You can also talk about the money you saved: well-adapted plants will lower your water bills, and smart tree placement can cut heating and cooling costs.

Of course, showing is even better than telling. If your garden produces food, herbs, or cut flowers, share some. If your garden produces extra plants, offer those. 

Do you see signs that this is becoming a trend? 
Photo Credit Evelyn J. Hadden
When I started writing about less lawn over a decade ago, it was much more "on the fringe," but it is clearly moving into the mainstream. I think several trends are fueling this change. Recent droughts and water shortages keep reminding us that our drinking water supply is limited. Economic uncertainty leads us to seek less costly, more self-sustaining landscapes (which perfect turf is not).

Concerns about the quality and reliability of our food supply have prompted many of us to try growing some of our own food. And our lives are busier than ever, leaving us with less time to spend maintaining lawns we don't use.

This post is one of a group of Valentine's Day Tributes to Lawn Alternatives by different garden writers. Visit them all: