My lawn substitution is in Fine Gardening Mag!


Long-time readers may remember when I shoveled out all my turfgrass and replaced it with a bunch of low groundcovers. Well, those humble plants are in the April issue of Fine Gardening, y'all.  I got to work with actual editors and learn a thing or two.  And as I first found out from the Twitter traffic, some of my favorite people also contributed to the issue, so there's a fun vibe going on here – like when the yearbook comes out, with everybody in it.

But let's get back to my garden, shall we?  Here's some photographic embellishment – first, the "before" and then the painful "just planted" on the right.


The Plants
At first I thought I’d cover this 1,000-square-foot space with thyme but that would have cost over $1,000 and taken too long to fill in.  (Because my backyard is on a considerable incline, I needed plants that would fill in fast to prevent erosion.)  So I decided to go with what was available, and cheap.  The fastest-growing sun-loving groundcover in the garden already was the Sedum acre growing aApril25-420long the dry streambed. I removed plugs of it, planted them across the space, then watched as they spread fast and filled in completely in about three months.   
Then I spread some clover seed because clover is a miracle plant, let's face it.  Creates it own fertilizer, feeds pollinators, and almost never needs watering.  Almost as xeric as that sedum. 

So Long to Maintenance
What does it take to care for this patch of green?  No mowing.  No watering.  No feeding.  And after the first season, no more weeding!  Though I do feel obliged to sit in my garden chair and watch all the pollination action going on.


  1. That’s a nice looking ‘lawn.’ It is really helpful to see the before and after pictures shown in a way that they can be easily compared.

    Do you have an idea of how these two plants will compete for space?

  2. ah, good questions. Yes, I walk on it freely now that it’s completely filled in. But I don’t need to walk on it much – to pick up an occasional twig, then in the fall to rake it. Handles raking with no problem.

    Curtis, how are they competing for space? After 2 seasons they seem to be good companions for each other, so neither is suffocating the other.

  3. Love it, and am sending it to my boyfriend – he’s planning the “lawn” for our new house and I’m campaigning for something much like you’ve done! 🙂

  4. I live in North San Diego county–it can get up to 105 in the summer. Do you think I can give sedum acre a spin here?

  5. I’m so glad someone other than me loves clover. I have loads of it in my lawn and I always leave wide strips blooming after I mow so the bees feel at home in the yard. Of course those strips of clover are conveniently right next to my veg beds.

  6. You forgot to add the attribute that the clover you planted only gets “so tall”. I too am a fan of low-care gardening but don’t you get some stray weeds that get taller than the sedum and clover? My “lawn” seems to harbor every mutant seed from monster weeds – mowing is a necessity just to keep things below knee high.

  7. John, the sedum is so thick it doesn’t allow weeds to reach the soil and take root. The weed seeds already in the soil were only a problem the first season.

  8. Hey Susan, how about competition from stuff outside the edge of your former lawn? Do you find anything trying to creep in? That would be my issue I think, especially from the big poison ivy factory in my neighbor’s yard…

  9. Thanks for posting this! We might have to fix our lawn this spring (it was looking pretty bad last fall when we bought the house) and I’m trying to figure out a combination of plants to replace it with (thyme, clover, and some native short grassy types I think). Luckily my neighborhood seems to be very laid back and anti-HOA so I can at least consider these ideas.

  10. I am so glad that you call clover a “miracle plant”. How true! for all the reasons that you mention. I wish that more people were aware of the benefits of clover (as well as a few other humble little lawn “weeds”, such as plantago, and veronica) and stopped trying to eradicate them.

  11. I love your lawnless lawn, and the article in Fine Gardening was great to see – I hope that it inspires many people to try your ideas. I have no front lawn either, it’s veronica, thyme, perennials, other ground covers and ornamental grasses. I am going to try the clover idea this year in an area surrounding the veggies.

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