Guidelines for growing a carefree lawn

Thirsty and fertilizer-hungry lawns are a high-maintenance way to cover soil, and it's easy to end up with much more lawn than you need. Follow these guidelines for front and backyard lawns that work best for you.

Guidelines for growing a carefree lawn

Fulfill your front yard needs

There is no reason to keep up a huge front lawn devoted solely to grass. Consider growing just enough grass, or a combination of lawn and groundcover, to fulfill the following three needs:

  • Opening the entry. Lawn areas that adjoin narrow front walkways make the area seem wide and spacious. Sections of grass planted near entryways also impart a neat, manicured appearance that frames the house
  • Enlarging small spaces. If your front yard is small, a flowing swath of grass will make it seem larger. Even a very small area devoted to lawn can pull off this trick, which also has the happy effect of making a small house appear larger
  • Framing foundation shrubs. The ornamental plants growing around the foundation of your house will appear more interesting when the foreground is paved with the fine, even texture of lawn grass. For maximum visual impact, you can add an edging or a mowing strip to create a tailored dividing line between lawn areas and mulched beds of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants

Cover your backyard basics

The backyard is naturally a more private, personal area of the landscape than the outward-facing front lawn. So understandably, your backyard lawn should make it easier to pursue the things you enjoy doing outdoors, but just like the front yard, it is an important visual element that enhances your home.

  • Expanding activity space. Lawns that adjoin patios and decks enlarge the area available for outdoor dining, entertaining, and relaxing. If you have active children, a long, narrow lawn provides better running space than a small square
  • Softening the hardscape. If your backyard is heavy on hard surfaces, such as a deck, patio, walkway, or paved drive, use a patch of grass to create a soft, inviting green counterpoint
  • Opening the vista. Lawns make even cramped yards feel more spacious by visually separating flower or shrub borders, vegetable gardens, or wooded areas from the house
  • Linking diverse areas. For backyards that are busy with a variety of features, such as a terrace, freestanding planting beds, a sitting area, and foundation plantings, a lawn can link the different spaces and create visual unity
  • Flattering focal points. Special landscape features, such as a fountain or pool, pergola, or beautiful specimen tree, can be framed with grass to make them more prominent. A focal point should be easily seen, and there's no better way to clear the view than with a low, flat carpet of grass

Set aside trees

  • When redesigning your lawn, separate trees from lawn by blanketing the area beneath the trees with an organic mulch or a shade-tolerant groundcover
  • Besides looking good, a defined buffer zone of attractive mulch or ground-hugging plants prevents accidental injuries to tree trunks caused by lawn mowers or string trimmers

Compared to other landscape plants, such as shrubs or groundcovers, lawns will require more effort and upkeep. Determining how much lawn you actually need will help you to design a lower-maintenance front or backyard that best fits your needs.

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