To turn my mostly-lawn community of 1,600 townhouses, some with incredibly large yards, into a place with gardens that benefit the environment and humans, too. We do have large trees and lots of geometrically shaped hedges, but that’s about it, except for the houses on the perimeter that face the woods. (Sadly, there’s a whole lotta chainlink fencing.) What’s sorely lacking are small trees, shrubs, and perennials. Also, privacy, since most of the hedges are 4 feet tall, and there are sidewalks running across the back yards of most of our homes.
Here are the ideas I have so far, and I welcome more.
Articles in the Local Paper
I’ve been promised plenty of space in our weekly (still print) newspaper, and will start with an article arguing that to achieve a variety of environmental and human goals, removing lawn and planting small trees, shrubs and perennials is the simple answer. Sure, rain barrels help, but deep-rooted plants retain stormwater while looking pretty and providing for wildlife. Future articles will promote upcoming events, report on those events, and teach basic maintenance of shrubs, trees and perennials.
The “Less Lawn” Garden Tour
Most garden tours feature the prettiest and often the most expensive gardens available to the tour-organizers, but the tour I’ve volunteered to organize will avoid the sticky wicket of choosing the prettiest and simply choose the most instructive – and inspiring, too – the ones with less lawn and more plants (okay, turfgrasses are technically plants but barely). To increase the educational impact, I’ll be posting photos and plant lists of each garden on the tour to the web.
Does anyone know of a Less Lawn Tour that’s ever taken place? I’ve asked some of the top experts in lawn reduction and they tell me they know of no such tour, ever. So it’s high time to have one, and promote it as a model for duplication elsewhere. Lawn reduction is officially a trend now, ya know.
To the surprise of exactly no one who knows me, I’ve adopted several of my neighbors’ yards already in my first year living here, and the one shown here is the perfect spot for showing how to turn a yard into a garden – by simply creating some borders and filling them up with plants, in this case give-aways that cost the homeowner nothing. I used the popular newspaper+mulch method of lawn removal and am documenting every step in the process with photos and plant lists. Here’s a “before” shots of the front yard, all turf and hedge, which now sports a new border in front of the hedge.
Talks and Demonstrations
Speakers are primed with their PowerPoints on the subject of rain gardens and alternatives to lawn (that one being my topic), and there will be at least one demonstration of pruning techniques, in someone’s actual garden. The primary shrubs in town are, for hedges, privet and euonymus, and for foundation plants, azalea, so we’ll demonstrate much-needed pruning on them.
The community blog I edit and write for will have a special section (yet to be named) for photos and plant lists of gardens on the Less Lawn Tour, plus lots of other stuff. Ideas include videos of the pruning demonstrations and profiles of plants that do really well here.
Master Gardener Help
Our county’s Master Gardeners have a booth at the local Farmers Market once a month, so I’m hoping they’ll be willing to carry the Less Lawn message, share plant lists, and more. A pow-wow with the coordinator of the Farmers Market event is coming up soon.
Partners in Garden-Teaching
Speaking of pow-wow’s with possible partners, the more the better. I’ve joined two co-op committees and am meeting with a couple more. Better to have known people and groups sponsor the activities, rather than this newcomer.
Free Mulch Deliveries
One enthusiastic partner in garden-teaching is on the staff of the co-op and has volunteered to arrange for timely, free deliveries of mulch to help turn yards into gardens.
Name that Campaign!
We’re looking for words that convey nature-friendly, yet people-friendly, too, and easy. So we won’t be using words like “sustainability” or “stormwater” but maybe “Yards to Gardens” or “Less Lawn, More Life” (thanks to Evelyn Hadden). Ideas that use the town’s name, Greenbelt, include “Greenbelt Gardens” and “Greener Greenbelt.” That last one is tricky because Greenbelt was planned as part of the “garden city” movement of the early 20th Century and being “green” is part of its self-image. Trouble is, its “greenness” comes from its walkability, lake and surrounding woods, not from plants in people’s yards.