Putting the lawn to bed

By JimRental

My emotional attachment to lawns has never been particularly strong. Although our childhood home had a big lawn, the best times were spent in nearby fields and woods. Plus, as a kid, mowing our neighbor's huge lawn on hot summer days seemed like a tough way to make two bucks (including tip!) So, not a lot of lawn nostalgia for me.

It’s different for Jen, my wife, who always has liked lawns and what they offer.

But water costs are going up, and with summers getting hotter and drier, the actual volume of water to keep our large suburban lawn green has increased, too. Factor in larger water conservation concerns, and it was getting a little tougher to rationalize that the lawn was worth that much water.

So last summer I decided to put the lawn to bed. Well, not the whole thing – Jen wasn’t ready to give it all up, so the goal was a back yard lawn roughly the size of a badminton court.

The front yard, on the other hand, was headed for a deep, deep sleep, from which I hoped it wouldn’t awake. I used the sod cutter to remove the thickest areas of grass in the front yard, and then spread a four-inch blanket of wood chips over the entire area.

Actually, the wood chips were a great bit of conservation on their own – instead of buying bark or ground cover, we used chips from tree-trimming and removal projects my neighbor Peter and I had done. A nice side benefit to renting a wood chipper!

For the back yard, I used a sod cutter to remove about half of the lawn – again covering the area with a wood chip blanket. Plus I made a couple of cutouts for raised vegetable gardens I built.

The result? One year later, there’s enough grass for kids and dogs to cavort. We have some nice vegetable beds, and opportunities for future plantings or perhaps some rock features. The front yard needs another blanket of chips, which I can take care of easily enough.

Last but not least, we cut down the amount of water we used on the lawn -- and the effort of maintaining it -- by about two thirds.

I’m thinking about putting more of the lawn to bed. But after somnambulating a few trees and most of the lawn, I’d better check with the Boss first . . .