Ah, the beginning of Spring. Time to start thinking about the yard again, after a blessed winter of plant growth suppression. Every year I have the best intention to improve my homely lawn and every year I find better things to do with my free time than garden. A new book came across my radar last month that fulfills the needs of my slothful black thumbs: Lawn Gone! : Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by Pam Penick. It’s not just advice for the lazy; it also addresses the growing concern of water conservation and improvement of wildlife habitats while still allowing for a pleasant human ecosystem.
For some people in my neck of the woods the answer to a high-maintenance lawn is to either cover it with stones or pave it over. While this book does contain a chapter on hardscaping, mostly demonstrating ways to use stones/gravel as wide paths between easily maintained beds of plants and making the most of patios and decking, the main focus is on growing a non-traditional lawn with hardy, zone-friendly plants, saying goodbye to hazardous fertilizing, time-consuming upkeep and wasteful watering.
Penick introduces the reader to grasses that look similar to a traditional lawn but are easier to maintain, ground covering plants that need no mowing or weeding, hardscaping, water features, and lawn down-sizing. The book is illustrated with full-color photos of lawns that have successfully been adapted and sample color landscaping plans. There are ideas for the adventurous and individualistic as well as practical advice for those who want or need to blend in with their neighborhood, including advice for dealing with homeowners’ associations and skeptical neighbors. She also lets readers know what options exist for removing their traditional lawns, with the brutal truth revealed (i.e there isn’t much in the world that will kill your invasive Bermuda grass other than spraying it all down with a glyphosate herbicide. However, you can first attempt one or two of the less controversial, guaranteed eco-friendly methods given, if you prefer).
This book is not meant to be a comprehensive manual, rather, it is an introductory guide meant to educate and inspire. Penick gives examples of plants and sample landscaping plans for several climates but acknowledges that there is a whole world of variation and gives a nice list of resources at the end. Now that I know I have options other than bringing in a cement truck to put all my lawn problems to rest, I have a game plan for the spring and summer that will hopefully result in a much more pleasant looking environment. I thank you, Pam Penick, and my neighbors thank you too!
–Contributed by Staff Member Shannon Nagle