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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Less lawn, new beds

With a surge of spring energy, I’m launching a project I’ve been mulling over for months. I’m going to eliminate some lawn and open up a new planting opportunity!

    I’ve been wondering what to do about the lawn closest to the house. For several years this grass has been looking particularly woebegone. It’s partly because I walk on it so much traveling from the utility area at the side of the house to the rest of the garden.

Nice flowering trees, but see that patchy lawn in the foreground?

     One day inspiration struck. I could tear out that whole piece of lawn, put in a generous wood chip path to walk on and trundle wheelbarrows over, and still end up with some sizeable new beds. At this point in my garden’s history, I don’t get many chances to plant new areas, so this is an exciting moment.

The grass next to the deck will be replaced with paths and a new planting bed

     It's been a long-term goal to shrink my lawn. Just about every other use of yard space has lower environmental costs than a lawn maintained with regular inputs of water and chemicals and groomed with machines powered by fossil fuels. 

Green, lush, and sterile--photo by Andrew Vicars

Even my lawn, innocent of chemical inputs, offers little to the community of organisms that share my yard.

    To test out my brainstorm, I rolled out hoses on the ground to outline different configurations for the new paths and beds. This is a technique often recommended by basic landscape design texts. I’d never used it before, and I can now testify that it works well. With lines of orange hose on the lawn, I could step back and judge whether paths were wide enough. I could easily nudge the hose around to adjust the size and shape of the beds.

Hose as design tool

     What looked best to me was a five-foot-wide mulched path along the curve of the present beds. Two other paths will be paved in bluestone, reusing the stones that currently surround the deck. A straight eight-foot-wide bluestone path will extend from the outer edge of the deck to the next garden “room,” a circle of lawn surrounding a rectangular pond. 

     The second stone path will lead from the back door of the house to the utility area. Together the three paths will define two planting areas adjacent to the edge of the deck, one large and in partial shade, the other rather small but in prized sunny territory near the garage.

     To save my design until the work starts after Memorial Day, I sprayed the grass alongside the hoses with marking paint. That’s the non-permanent stuff used to paint lines on athletic fields. 

Rough outline of the proposed small sunny bed

Meanwhile, I have the fun of choosing which plants to use and where to source them.

     I’m picturing low plants that won’t block the view from the deck, some gray foliage and ornamental grasses, and an emphasis on native plants. 

New York's High Line--a garden style to aspire to

I’ll be on the lookout for neonic-free sources. More to follow as plans develop.

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