Lawn Alternatives


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From coast to coast the lawn is one the most common garden features in the landscape. Its also one of the most labor intensive and difficult to grow as it requires regular maintenance. Though all gardens require some maintenance, lawn require more than most. Between fertilizer, weekly mowing and other tasks such as aerating, lawns are among the most labor intensive and chemically drenched types of landscape. While some lawn space may be managed with little trouble, large vast, weed-free lawns should be rethought. Rethink what your landscape could be and consider introducing native alternatives into your garden. Think about reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with a more low maintenance, environmentally friendly alternative. The result is often beautiful.

Natural gardens emphasize the natural environment and utilize native species of plants which are often quite easy to grow. Plant which are native to a specific area have adapted to certain site conditions and are generally self sustaining. They'll need little, if any, fertilizer and no more water than is provided by rain. Natural gardens consist of a rich and varied mix of plants. They introduce a diversity to a garden and use trees, shrubs and perennials not found in some gardens. Natural gardens also provide a landscape with a sense of place. Lawns are ubiquitous and it's often difficult to distinguish a garden in New York from one in Washington even though their landscapes and climates are completely different.

Gardens which mimic the existing landscape are successful because they're easy to maintain and will thrive even in the most extreme conditions. They've adapted to do so. Planting a natural garden can help restore the landscape, attract a variety of bird species and provide the garden with a wonderful mix of under utilized, interesting plants.

A woodland garden, for instance, is a landscape which emphasizes the natural conditions of the forest. Woodland gardens are low maintenance They also add to your garden a wide range of plants which provide seasonal interest. In the dappled shade beneath deciduous trees, perennials bloom profusely throughout the spring months. In the shadier conditions of the woodland garden in summer, the spring floral display gives way to perennials and shrubs with rich varied foliage. Woodland gardens also provide a shady respite from the hot afternoon sun of summer. In the fall, after the colorful leaves drop to the ground, there are woodland plants which will provide a second bloom to brighten up the garden.

Wildflower meadows are another natural landscape type. Meadows are noted for their low maintenance, wide diversity of plants, vibrant colors, interesting textures and seasonal changes. Along with these aesthetic benefits there are ecological benefits as well, including the reduced need for maintenance, the creation of a habitat for native species of animals and the fact that wildflower meadows are very effective at trapping airborne pollutants. Meadows are relatively easy to create and need minimal maintenance once established. The reward is a colorful, self sustaining, low maintenance landscape.

All gardens require some sort of care and attention, natural gardens, those requiring less of it, are no exception. As in any garden. , you'll need to deadhead, prune and occasionally weed in order to encourage blooming flowers and healthy growth.

R Birch is the publisher of For information on all kinds of garden projects visit


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