Sunday, September 16, 2012


The newest section of lawn to bite the dust will be the unmowed portion next to the front meadow.
We've been reducing the lawn since my husband and I moved into this house in 2004. In the top photo, the lawn sodded with St. Augustine grass extended almost to the fence. The previous owners had left some mature trees around the edges of this part of the lawn, which we now call the front meadow. We stopped mowing it because the ground was uneven and often had a large puddle in the center after a hard rain. We maintained it as a meadow for a number of years, but now we've stopped cutting it entirely and a nice assortment of oaks, sweet gums, and pines are becoming a forest. Read my post from a few years ago Reducing the Lawn in Your Landscape for a better perspective on the process and to find out why what we have is a freedom lawn.

The sprinkler head that used to be in the turf
needs an extender to spray over the vegetation.
We'd left a tongue of lawn next to the front pond and leading out to the front meadow, but recently decided to reduce it even more. My husband stopped mowing the tip of the tongue a couple of weeks ago, as you can see in the top photo.

Also, the turf used to go right to the edge of the pond, but now ferns, rushes, goldenrods edge the pond. This has meant that some adjustments to the irrigation system, which draws its water from the lake out back, were necessary. Sprinkler heads that used to be recessed in the midst of the turf, now need extenders so the spray can reach beyond the taller vegetation. In the second photo, my husband adjusts the sprinkler head's arc--this one is located to the right of the cart in the top photo.

To define the new edge of the front meadow I planted three bunches
of Elliot's love grass (Eragrostis elliottii).

After the wood chips have been added to define the border
of the lawn and to cover the cart path. The newly-laid
chips have a darker color than the ones laid the day before.

I started the project by removing the sod along new edge of the lawn creating a gentle curve so that it is easy to mow with one sweep of the mower. I planted three bunches of Elliot's love grass (Eragrostis elliottii) evenly spaced about thee feet apart to give it plenty of room to expand. What was surprising to me is how clayey the soil is here. Other parts of our landscape are quite sandy. I also left room on the pond side for a cart path that leads out to the woodchip pile. (Read my post Follow the Yellow Mulch Road.)

Another 12 feet of lawn removed, but I'm not done with this particular project. I'll remove most of the grass and weeds between the love grass and the meadow's old edge and plant some native meadow wildflowers.
A variable dancer damselfly on the native blue curls in the morning.

We have not used any general pesticides on our lawn and other areas of our property since 2004, so the populations of insects and their predators have been increasing. There seems to be a jump in populations each time we remove more lawn and plant more native plants.  We have especially noticed many more butterflies, bees, wasps and other pollinators. And we've also seen more bug predators including bluebirds, mockingbirds, wrens, and the dragonflies & damselflies.

This is a good thing!

A new USDA hardiness chart has been issued.

Finally, a new hardiness chart.

USDA has finally updated the hardiness zone map. The line between zones 8b and 9a used to run through the center of Clay County, where we live, but now that line, if you follow it northward, is at the Georgia state line.

I wonder how long it will take the seed companies to start using this map instead of the old 1990 version.

Here's a link to the USDA site:

I hope you have plenty of pollinators in your yard, too.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt


  1. Thank you for sharing your insight. We recently moved into suburbia and are dealing with the solid green grass despite being in a drought. We want to tear out the sod and replace it with natives, and other drought resistant plants. My biggest worry right now is that the previous owners installed an irrigation system that I'd like to keep in place. They couldn't tell us exactly where all the lines are. Do you have any advice or recommendations?

    ...linked from Lawn Alternatives Facebook page.

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      My advice on the lawn removal is to do it in manageable chunks so that you can learn as you go and see what plants work well for your property. I've concentrated on removing the lawn where it's doing poorly, especially under mature trees where the tree roots out-compete the turf for water and nutrients. A mature oak can transpire 400+ gallons of water in a single summer day, that's a lot of water removed from your soil.

      As for your irrigation system: see if there is a sticker on the controller with the installer's contact info and call them to perform a check-up & tune-up of the system. You'll probably have to pay for this, but use as a one-on-one tutorial. Follow them around, sketch the pipe locations, and learn how to adjust the arc or the spray angles so that you can do this in the future. In the 8+ years we've been in this house (It was 2 years old when we bought it.), my husband has replaced more than half of the sprinkler heads and as I discussed in this post, a number of them are now on raised poles to reach out over the non-turf vegetation. We also had to replace the pump down by the lake. Take the time to learn about the pump as well, so you can prolong its life. One more thing: Make sure there is a moisture gauge in the system so that it does not turn on after a heavy rain, or that it halts the irrigation, if it starts to rain heavily.

      If you're planting a tree or large shrub that may be near a pipe, dig down to the level where most of the pipes are buried to make sure that your tree is not close to the pipe. You wouldn't want to have to replace or reroute pipes around a mature tree in a few years. There is no problem in planting perennials or annuals right over the pipes. You can also build raised beds for an edible garden right over the pipes with no problem.

      Green Gardening Matters,