I just moved into a new house on 1/6 acre in the 'burbs of central New Jersey. It seems that the yard hasn't been cared for in a very long time. I'm very much looking forward to spending the next several years turning the property into my own little lawn-free paradise.
My focus for the first two to three years will be on the swamp that constitutes the back yard. I'm definitely going to have some fun with that. My time, money, and effort is going into the back for now.
In the meantime, however, I can't completely ignore the front yard. I have no interest in re-establishing a nice even turf-grass lawn. What I do want is a low-maintenance low-effort green rectangle that won't offend the neighbors too much and doesn't make me feel depressed when I look at it.
Right now, it is a lumpy bumpy rocky mess covered with clumps of chives, dandelions, some actual lawn grass, a little bit of clover, miscellaneous weeds and a few bare-ish patches. I mowed it for the first time a couple of days ago, and it looks better than it did, but it's still pretty bad. Luckily, I don't have an HOA to contend with, and so far it doesn't seem like the neighbors are fanatical about landscape perfection, so my options are pretty open.
So far my tentative plan includes:
- Overseeding with white clover to fill in some bare patches and help fix nitrogen into the soil. Hopefully the clover will start to overtake the grass, etc.
- Piling a load of wood chips along the front and side borders in anticipation of eventually planting hedgerows.
- Giving the area an occasional dose of aeratedcompost tea once I get going with that.
I could also just overseed it with grass seed. I do have a great local store with a variety of grass seeds that are ideal for the local area.
Do any of you have any better cheap and easy suggestions for me?
One of the best, low maintenance "lawns" that does a great job of covering and improving soil and appeases those pesky neighbors that want to see nice green lawns for front yards is Dichondra.
"Dichondra (Dichondra repens) is a perennial ground cover plant (in USDA zones 7-11) that has a somewhat upright, creeping habit with circular leaves. It is not usually over 2 inches in height and retains its bright green color in temperatures as low as 25 F. (-3 C.)."
In California it is well known for not having to be mowed.
It is in the morning glory family and as such spreads so edging is about the only maintenance required.
It is also fairly easy to kill off when you decide to change to garden areas.
Ooh, I didn't know about dichondra! Unfortunately, it seems to be hardy only to zone 7, and I'm right on the border of 6 and 7. I might take a gamble and try it in a small area anyway. Thanks for the suggestion.
My overseeding-with-white-clover plan has worked very well. I would say I achieved my goal of "a low-maintenance low-effort green rectangle that won't offend the neighbors too much and doesn't make me feel depressed when I look at it" I'll be putting down more clover seed in the fall as well in an effort to squeeze out the remaining turfgrass and maybe some of the random weeds.
I also put down brick edging and mulched the borders, so I have a lot less to mow - but I actually enjoy mowing now because it looks so nice and tidy when I'm done. I've been letting the clover go to flower before I mow. I like it both ways.
I have decided, however, not to go entirely lawn-free. I'll be maintaining a grassy area of appx 4-500 SF in the back. I've found that a grassy area is really useful for seating around the fire pit, doing projects, and so forth. Right now, the area is a mixture of various plants, but I think I'll overseed the area with clover just like I did in front.
Willie Smits: Village Based Permaculture Approaches in Indonesia (video)