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Designing a beautiful no-mow yard: 5 considerations

by Timber Press on January 31, 2014

in Design

Which would you rather have: a front lawn, or flowers and food? Photo: Saxon Holt

Which would you rather have: a front lawn, or flowers and food? Photo: Saxon Holt

When designing your no-mow yard, Evelyen Hadden, author of Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives, writes that each choice “should be based not only on your aesthetics or comfort but also on the natural processes and character of your site.” The following are five things to consider when contemplating replacing your lawn with a now-mow yard.

1. Envision
Imagine where you want to move through your landscape and where you need open areas for outdoor activities. Consider these the “rooms” of your garden and the space around them “can be alive with plants and animals.”

Vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown together make a food garden more colorful and more productive. Photo: Saxon Holt

Vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown together make a food garden more colorful and more productive. Photo: Saxon Holt

2. Define
Gradual transitions are easier on wildlife, such as turtles and frogs, than abrupt edges. Try using “ground-level transitions, like groundcovers or different kinds of paving.”

In a small urban front yard, a slope of succulents including yellow-flowering bush sedum, blue finger, and velvet rose offers a bold and beautiful view from the sidewalk. Photo: Saxon Holt

In a small urban front yard, a slope of succulents including yellow-flowering bush sedum, blue finger, and velvet rose offers a bold and beautiful view from the sidewalk. Photo: Saxon Holt

3. Populate
Plants native to your region are adapted to regional precipitation patterns and know when to go dormant and then emerge after winter. Non-native plants can also play a role, however, such as “extending the flowering season to support pollinators.”

This urban backyard has become a watery habitat enjoyed by hummingbirds, frogs, butterflies, quail, and carefree retirees. Photo: Saxon Holt

This urban backyard has become a watery habitat enjoyed by hummingbirds, frogs, butterflies, quail, and carefree retirees. Photo: Saxon Holt

4. Connect
In an eco-friendly garden, plants and animals need to form healthy relationships. Consider ground-layer companion plants for your trees. Trees want to grow in a “layer of leaf litter and decaying wood that is supporting fungi.”

A tranquil garden offers a drought-tolerant lawn of blue grama and a sunny bench. Photo: Saxon Holt

A tranquil garden offers a drought-tolerant lawn of blue grama and a sunny bench. Photo: Saxon Holt

5. Enliven
“Animals add life to a landscape.” A garden that is hospitable to animals must provide elements such as cover, water, food, and nest-making materials. Shrubs, for instance, are excellent cover for the nesting sites of birds and a “simple pile of branches or a boulder” can offer protection for ground-based animals.

A custom seed blend of regionally native grasses and flowers, gives this front yard tallgrass prairie eye-popping color, while creating a healthy blend of root structures for thick coverage and weed resistance. Photo: Saxon Holt

A custom seed blend of regionally native grasses and flowers, gives this front yard tallgrass prairie eye-popping color, while creating a healthy blend of root structures for thick coverage and weed resistance. Photo: Saxon Holt

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hadden_e-sEvelyn J. Hadden is a national speaker and award-winning author of four gardening books, including Beautiful No-Mow Yards, Evelyn Hadden encourages property owners to convert unused, unloved lawns to more rewarding landscapes. She founded the informational website LessLawn.com in 2001 and is a founding member of the Lawn Reform Coalition.

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Author Evelyn Hadden takes us on a tour of Beautiful No-Mow Yards:

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Click on image for a look inside this book:

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Deeply inspirational to anyone looking to make their yards more interesting, more beautiful, and more wildlife-friendly. Beautiful, superbly written. —Susan Harris, Garden Rant

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rebecca April 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

sounds like a great book!

2 Liz April 23, 2012 at 9:20 am

We’re letting our goats mow this week! But it would be cool to have a yard that didn’t need mowing.

3 Sue D April 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

Great concept. Mowing takes up too much of our time.

4 Jackie DiGiovanni April 24, 2012 at 4:13 am

I make progress every year with a new or larger garden bed. I need to work on paths but the imagination is stuck and the budget is very low. I would like a yard that works for me instead of the other way around.

5 Debbe C April 24, 2012 at 9:25 am

What a wonderful idea! Grass is so boring – a garden is pretty and consumable!

6 Laura April 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm

No-mow is definitely a long term goal for my Nebraska prairie gardens.

7 Mary April 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I’ve had a no-mow yard for 15 years. The birds, bees and other critters love the flowers and shrubs. I love my lower water bills! The book looks great and I’d love to win one.

8 Lisa Winters April 25, 2012 at 7:50 am

Much nicer than the neigborhoods of grass covered lawns in my area!

9 Leslie April 25, 2012 at 7:54 am

This is exactly the book I need. My latest project is ripping out half the front lawn. Now I need some ideas on what plants to put in its place.

10 Dianne April 25, 2012 at 8:17 am

Every year I have just a little less lawn, I dream of a no mow yard every spring.

11 Iris April 25, 2012 at 8:22 am

so many exciting books… count me in…!!

12 J 'n E April 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

I did this at a house I used to live at. It was gorgeous and really low maintenance compared to having to mow every weekend. Most of it was edible as well.

13 Claire April 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

Oh to not mow would be a dream come true for my hubby!

14 Yvonne Boltz April 25, 2012 at 9:41 am

Good ecology starts with good planning—when beauty meets functionality the effect is delicious—a feast for the eyes as well as a feast for the table.Edibles grown in a no-fuss garden containing an explosion of colors, smells and tastes is a gardener’s delight and a gastronomic joy.

15 Josh April 25, 2012 at 10:24 am

I am slowly taking back my front/back yards from grass although this book should help push me toward the full blown assault I need to complete the task. I can’t wait to read it!

16 Ann Thompson April 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the chance to win these books! I think that in this day and age, that having a yard that produces more than allergies from mowing it every week is really smart! One full of flowers and edibles makes so much sense, because it utilizes the area to it’s greatest potential. And it’s gorgeous! What more could you ask for?

17 Sarah April 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

This is a great alternative for green spaces. Having a lawn can not only be harmful to the surrounding ecosystems, but hurts the pocket book with all the needed maintenance for that perfect lawn. No-mow landscaping is a great and sustainable alternative. Would love to read this book.

18 Barbara H. April 25, 2012 at 11:39 am

I had converted my small Portland yard almost completely, leaving only a small oval patch of lawn. Then 4+ years ago I moved to 3 acres in NE Alabama and thought I’d be mowing for the rest of my life. But, about 1 acre is woods and I’m slowly adding big flower garden areas with a few vegetables so I’m on my way to at least a partial no mow lawn. This book sounds like it would be very helpful in aiding the process!

19 Kristina April 25, 2012 at 11:41 am

Very nice information. We’ve got plenty of animals, but not much green. I need a shade version of a no mow yard. :)

20 Evelyn April 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm

One of the benefits of not having lawn, or making your lawn area much smaller is that you will also significantly reduce or eliminate your Japanese Beetle problem too! I’ve always found lawn to be a high maintenance weed and support minimizing lawn whenever possible. Besides a garden looks so much nicer.

21 Earen April 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I love no mow lawns. In the midwest, people are nearly wedded to them. It is difficult to get many to see how beautiful no grass can be.

22 Cyndi April 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm

A lovely idea! Would love to have flowers & food instead of lawn to be mowed

23 LisaCarol April 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Our yard has been abandoned for fifty years. We sheet mulched about a third of it this spring. You better believe we’re not putting grass in! It would be great to win the package. I love Timber Press books.

24 meemsnyc April 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I hate mowing the yard so this is a great idea!

25 Laura April 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

We’ve slowly been turning our half acre front yard into a no mow garden. It helps to start with a woodland area and continue expanding out!

26 R April 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

What a valuable resource.

27 Liz Dysert April 27, 2012 at 11:34 am

I hate mowing my lawn!! no mow sounds like the way to go.

28 http://www.tapuz.co.il August 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Good write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!

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