Instructables
I spent a year getting rid of my dying grass lawn and installing a low/no water landscape.

It cost me only a few hundred bucks, I didn't hire anyone to do it, and I didn't have to use a haul service to get rid of the old sod.

I know that more pictures would be better, but I didn't take a lot of shots during the process.   Sorry!

Here are the before shots:
 
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Step 1: Why would you want to get rid of your grass?

A few years after I bought my house in the San Fernando Valley, my fifty-year old sprinklers failed completely. Shortly after, the lovely new lawn the previous owners had installed started to die. I started adding up the costs to get a new lawn and sprinkler system and realized there was no way I was going to spend that kind of money to have a front yard that I had to water all the time.

What I wanted was a way to replace the yard that 1) was cheap, 2) that I could do without hiring anyone, and 3) didn't involve machinery and trucks.

Some friends recommended the "newspaper and mulch" method; I've slightly modified it and I'd like share some tips and pointers to help you out.

Love your yard. So much more beautiful than a patch of grass and more interest too. I have spent countless hours with mowers as we have acreage to cut. What a pathetic waste of time and energy. I am building raised beds where I can and the rest will look a little like yours. Even in Wisconsin I think I can pull this off but it will take time. Love the blue puffballs (fescue) - we can grow them here. Free mulch I have, but will start searching for cardboard tomorrow. Thank you for the instructions!

This is a great idea! I really like that you addressed the most popular questions in Step 2: The basic idea, and also the suggestions on how to get free cardboard and mulch. At first, I thought that you should have laid down some mulch under the cardboard so that it would compost while smothering the lawn, but I realized that the lawn itself would die and compost (plus another mulch layer nearly doubles the work). This cardboard idea is so very elegant and smart - thank you for sharing!
Crucio2 years ago
I really like this idea and would love to try it. Does anyone have a suggestion for what plants would be good for Chicago's climate? I like the look of tall grasses, so I'll definitely use some of those.
kirnex Crucio1 year ago
Liriope is a great plant that grows easily in just about any climate zone 5 and beyond (zone 4 growers may have luck if they cut back their plants to about two inches, then put a heavy layer of mulch over them to keep them protected). Anyhow, Liriope grows via rooters and, depending on the variety, you can get a look very similar to what Prof. Keil has.

I'd recommend the cultivar Liriope spicata (also known as Creeping Lilyturf). It tends to not be invasive like some other, less hardy cultivars. It stays relatively compact in the stem base, but has the lovely look of an exotic grass. Plus, it has beautiful blooms of purple that will certainly attract bees and butterflies.

I'd recommend googling for Creeping Lily Turf images, and seeing if that's in line with what you are looking for. It really is a lovely, easily maintainable plant--and more hardy than most varieties of Liriope.

Hope this helps. :)

One
kirnex1 year ago
The cost in the initial process may have been relatively low, but in truth mulch is one of those things that should be refortified at least twice a year. So, in the long run, the costs aren't so low.

Also, while I think you did an EXCELLENT job doing it yourself (and also put up a splendid, very thorough Instructable), I hate to say it, but I thought your lawn looked better before. I know, it's just a personal opinion.

I have a yard that is impossible to keep up when you have medical issues (as I have in the last few years), so I understand the desire to keep it simple. Still, I have to say that the majority of the issues I have are with weeds taking root in my mulched flower beds. This brings us to a vital issue in undertaking such a significant landscaping change: weeds. This is one reason that seasonal mulch is important (because not only does mulch blow away, it also begins to decompose--which is EXCELLENT for your soil, but not so great for weed prevention). I use landscaping fabric under my mulched areas and STILL get weeds (the buggers have mutated to be able to grow in any condition). So, my main piece of advice for this is one that you likely have already considered, but maybe some people who are reading your lovely Instructable have not: USE A topical, long-lasting WEED PREVENTER AT LEAST EVERY TWO OR THREE MONTHS, being more often if you have lots of rain, less if living in a place such as your own, which is dry and arid. I highly recommend a product called "Preen" .It is in granular form, and is EXCELLENT for preventing weed seeds to germinate. It won't take care of weeds that grow via rooters, but it will greatly decrease the time you spend trying to weed seeded invaders.

A last, albeit anecdotal, word on this. Being that you live in Southern Cali (I used to live in La Jolla, so I do know the climate is not amenable), one concern I have for you is that dry, weathered mulch is, in fact, like tinder. This is a great reason to keep remulching seasonally, although I know it can be expensive. But...I hate to think of your house actually being MORE prone to lighting up, were the unthinkable to occur.

Anyhow, love the grasses, and you have a lovely home. Thanks for taking the time to write this up and share it. :)



Nonetheless,
purdylazar3 years ago
I did away with the lawn in the back yard several years ago. Managed to get allot of pavement slabs for free when the council were re doing the foot paths in my area. Sprayed the lawn and just lay down each slab. Heavy work, but successful.

I also ripped up the lawn from the front yard, but hadn't been successful at keeping it grass and weed free. Was so happy to see your garden on here. Got free cardboard from the bike shop and put it down, covered with mulch, during the winter. Thank you for letting us know of some of the plants you used in your front garden.

What are the clumps of low growing grass which you have used? I really like the colour and the way they grow.
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AMEN!
kayak4water3 years ago
Thanks for the encouraging notes. Am in rainy western Washington. Grass and moss in yard. would rather not mow, but moss too weak to muscle out grass in most of the lawn.

Cardboard lives. Lasagna gardening. Raised bed gardens. Food.
I did something similar. The cardboard and wait is a good idea, but if you can't wait rent a kick sod cutter from the hardware store and relocate your old lawn to the back forty or the compost pile. Now you can go to work immediately on that new native landscape.
prof.keil (author)  Hammerholder3 years ago
I wish I had a back forty. I have a back 0.05 acre or so. Most of which is occupied by my stuff!
jbs6363 years ago
Wow...looks great...we are planning on doing the same in our back yard (were the dogs and kids have run the grass out) and were planning on getting rolls of newsprint from local printers, hadn't thought about cardboard, but I like it. I do have one questions, what are 'bender boards'? Thanks again, great pic of SoCal, is that fire in the background?
prof.keil (author)  jbs6363 years ago
Bender boards are plastic strips used to edge gardens. You find them at any OSH, or home despot or Lowes. They are about 6" wide and come in rolls.

And that picture was a stock image of SoCal, I thought it was wonderful.
jakyo3 years ago
I am going to do the same thing.I live in a very dry part of Australia,so trying to have a green lawn is a challenge and can be costly.I have got rid of a lot of lawn in the back yard and now it's time to do the rest. I have a small area directly outside that is lawn and that will do me!! Mulch is the way to go for sure.Better for the garden ,better for my pocket. I like the natural look and feel off a 'grassless' garden. Cheers.this is a good one '-)
prof.keil (author)  jakyo3 years ago
Thanks! The climate of Southern California and Australia is pretty similar from what I've been told. I've got quite a few Australian plants in the garden as a matter of fact.
Kogitsune3 years ago
Definitely looks great, but I still prefer a good grass lawn. Then again, I live in an area where we get regular rain and don't need to put up a sprinkler, so I also see the reasoning behind replacing the grass with something that is easier to take care of without needing as much water.
l8nite3 years ago
I guess it depends on your vegatables, peppers can be very ornamental, especially the hotter ones, a tomato plant tied to a porch support or lamp post. potato plants make a very green border, onions are similar to the ornamental garlics, of course they all take water and kind of defeat your purpose.

Im with you on the getting rid of the water hogging, fertilizer eating, weekend ruining green carpet that covers 97% of suburbaria. Here in florida we have a very sandy ground that over time seems to eat everything laid on it and thats particularry true of mulch, every couple of years I have a couple of loads of wood chips/tree clippings delivered and spread it around, for a year or so I have the clean look of the "mulch" then the green starts peeking thru, its not grass really, it doesnt need watering and only requires occasional cutting, maybe once a month or so.

Great tip about getting cardboard from bike shops ! I hadn't thought of that and it could come in very handy come Halloween http://www.instructables.com/id/Our-2010-Haunted-House-with-ideas-from-Instructabl/

Thanks for a great "ible"
prof.keil (author)  l8nite3 years ago
thanks!

I might try the potatoes this year.
klixtopher3 years ago
Nice work. I've been wanting a 'no mow' yard for a while. However, with two young kids I still need space for them to run around. Any ideas for ground cover that's comfortable on bare feet?
prof.keil (author)  klixtopher3 years ago
Surprisingly, the kids play more in the yard now than when it was a lawn. Having a pathway with shrubs that they can hide behind is actually a fun place to play. I do have a patch of lawn in the backyard to play on.
Our Neo-Nazi homeowners association would not go for that.
prof.keil (author)  Computothought3 years ago
Work to change it?
bruc33ef3 years ago
Looks great! I hope more people decide to get rid of their lawns which are a giant waste of resources as well as effort. This Instructable will be a big help.

My only reservation about your particular project is that you didn't give yourself enough of a reward for your efforts -- there's hardly anything to eat! Why not plant some perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits? Out of the size of that yard you could make a sizable dent in your food bill, improve your health in the bargain, and you wouldn't have to replant the perennials every year if it's the yard work you want to avoid.
prof.keil (author)  bruc33ef3 years ago
thanks!
I suppose I didn't like the way veggies look really. There are a lot of herbs scattered around that I use for cooking. The veggie garden is in the back.
rimar20003 years ago
CONGRATULATIONS!
laceration3 years ago
I never understood the attraction of lawns. It might be hard to articulate why, but seeing what you did makes the case.