Not only is the lawn reform movement still going strong; I'm happy to report that it continues to gain momentum. Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by popular blogger and garden designer Pam Penick is the latest book to tackle the topic. Its soup-to-nuts approach, inspiring photos and emphasis on DIY solutions make it a must-have for anyone considering reducing or eliminating lawn.
The book is divided into three parts. “Part One: Beyond the Lawn” explores what to do with all the real estate eliminating or reducing a lawn makes available. Low-growing plant alternatives are discussed in detail, but Lawn Gone also makes a case for replacing lawn with new living spaces and garden features, such as patios, ponds and play spaces.
Mixed species lawn. Design and photograph by Rebecca Sweet
“Part Two: Out with the Grass, In with a Garden” gives step-by-step instructions on removing an existing lawn. This is an area where the book really shines, as Pam explores multiple methods, and provides the pros and cons of each. She knows her target audience of DIYers well, and also includes instructions on planning and creating a range of garden features, from how to edge pathways, to basics on bed preparation.
In “Part Three: The Politics, Health and Safety of Going Lawnless,” Pam provides tips on dealing with both man-made obstacles (think HOAs and city codes) and natural ones, such as lawn alternatives for fire prone areas.
Design and photograph by Kelly Kipatrick
What I liked
- The book is one of the most well-organized and thorough resources I have yet to read on on lawn alternatives. What isn’t addressed? From removing lawn, to dealing with skeptical neighbors, Lawn Gone covers all your questions, including some you probably haven’t even thought of yet.
- I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book, which feels appropriate for both advanced and new gardeners. as even those with years of gardening under their belts don’t necessarily have experience with removing and replacing lawn.
- The inclusion of regional experts greatly broadens the Lawn Gone’s potential readership. In the final chapter, Pam taps garden experts from eleven regions of the country for suggestions on the best lawn alternatives for their specific area. Beyond that, throughout the book advice is regularly qualified as to what parts of the country the tips apply to.
- Lawn Gone paints an enticing picture of the lawn-free lifestyle without sugarcoating the realities of what’s involved to get there. While you may be thrilled to ditch the lawnmower, Pam makes it clear that a successful garden still requires an ongoing commitment.
QuibblesNo quibbles this time, but be sure to do your research before following any of the specific plant advice in the book. Many of the plants mentioned, in particular the ornamental grasses, are invasive in California and other regions of the country - I counted more than one plant I would hesitate to recommend to my clients. This can’t really be avoided in a book geared towards a national audience, but follow the advice Pam includes in Lawn Gone, and be sure to check online or with your county’s extension program before choosing plants for your garden.
Confidential to California gardeners: The alternatives provided that most closely mimic a lawn are mainly those grown from seed or plugs. Since here in California we're addicted to the look of fresh sod rolled out in a new garden, I usually specify no-mow native grass mixes in sod form for my clients. Check out Delta Bluegrass for alternatives that work in a range of USDA zone 9 cultural conditions.
A must read for anyone considering reducing or eliminating a lawn, Lawn Gone provides a thoughtful, well-researched mix of step-by-step solutions and troubleshooting tips.
I received this book as a review copy. Photos reprinted with permission from Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by Pam Penick (Ten Speed Press, 2013).