The Garden Designers Roundtable invited the Lawn Reform Coalition to be their guest blogger(s) this month, combining forces to publish 19 articles about Lawn Replacement on the same day, and linking to each other. Great idea, designers! Scroll down for the links to those 18 other blog posts, including one on my other blog, showing off the much more successful lawn replacement project in my front garden.
This is the still-in-progress lawn replacement saga in my back garden, a hillside with about 6 hours of sun. I’m here to tell you that finding the right plant or mix of plants that’ll meet these requirements is anything but easy:
- Require NO maintenance after they’ve settled in.
- Be short enough to, like a lawn does, let me see over it into the borders and woods beyond, and let me drag the garden hose over it, too.
- Cover the ground quickly and with enough thickness to keep the soil from running downhill during downpours.
- If more than one species, they have to play well together – not kill any neighboring plants.
Okay, those are the goals. Here’s what’s really happened, in a nutshell. I dug up the turf, enlarged the borders, and replaced what was left of the lawn area with a Sedum that grows here as a weed and spreads quickly (S. sarmentosum, sometimes identified as S. acre) – which it did in one season. I underplanted it with early-spring bulbs, tossed self-sowing Alyssum here and there, and allowed just a few annual wildflowers to remain – like Pennsylvania smartweed and wild violet. Loved it!
Then I got the brilliant idea of seeding some Dutch white clover here and there across the space, which had some unintended consequences (reported in My Falling out with Clover). To wit: unmowed, it got so tall it shaded and then killed the Sedum.
I considered ditching the Sedum and having an all-clover lawn – it looks gorgeous, blooms all season, and the bees LOVE the stuff. But here’s the problem with that: the smell of clover attracts deer from seemingly miles away (I later learned that hunters use it to lure them). So thanks to clover, my minor deer problem became a major one.
So starting last fall, I began removing (by hand, mind you) all the clover, which seemed like a whole lotta work, ’til this season I realized I had at least twice that much clover to remove still, thanks to its generous seeding qualities. Oh, my aching back.
But no problem – I filled in the where the clover once grew with extra bits of the Sedum I found growing here and there on the property, and told myself and my doubting visitors that the whole space would fill in, I was betting, by mid-summer – coz this plant is so vigorous, you know. Except that apparently in the 95-to-100-degree heat we experienced here from early June through mid-August, the Sedum not only didn’t spread; it retreated!
So all summer I’ve been anxiously looking at mostly bare soil, which is A, ugly, and B, erosion damage just waiting to happen, which finally did happen a few days ago when a crashing downpour sent large quantities of soil sliding down the hill. And the storm season us far from over.
I haven’t given up on this particular Sedum covering the area and once again performing splendidly, as it did pre-clover. Just look at how well it’s covered ground here on either side of the sidewalk. That little strip of soil between the sidewalk and the fence was all-weeds-all-the-time until the Sedum took over. Then across the sidewalk, it’s the perfect groundcover in the hell strip.
But back to the hillside that’s washing away. Even with milder, more encouraging temperatures over the next few weeks, there’s just not enough of the Sedum left to cover all that bare soil any time soon. A friend suggested terracing – a big job – and I’m considering planting a cover crop. Another option is to cover the space temporarily with Liriope spicata, which I have access to plenty of, for free. It’s soooo boring, I know, but damn, it holds a hillside like nothing else.
Your suggestions, please?
(A more complete history of this lawn replacement conversion is here – scroll down to the back yard.)
Now check out posts about lawn replacement from these Lawn Reform Coalition members:
- Evelyn Hadden in Saint Paul, MN
- Saxon Holt in Novato, CA
- Ginny Stibolt in Green Cove Springs, FL
- Susan Morrison in East Bay, CA
- Shirley Bovshow in Los Angeles, CA
- Billy Goodnick in Santa Barbara, CA
- Susan Harris in Takoma Park, MD – yes, it’s me again on my individual blog updating the mix of groundcovers I’m trialing in my small (and level) front yard.
And these members of the Garden Designers Roundtable:
- Scott Hokunson in Granby, CT
- Rochelle Greayer in Boston, MA
- Rebecca Sweet in Los Altos, CA
- Pam Penick in Austin, TX
- Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber in Bristol, UK
- Laura Liven Good Schaub in San Jose, CA
- Jocelyn Chilvers in Denver, CO
- Ivette Soler in Los Angeles, CA
- Genevieve Schmidt in Arcata, CA
- Douglas Owens-Pike in Minneapolis, MN
- Debbie Roberts in Stamford, CT