How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden


Transforming Boring Yard Into Beautiful Landscape

Lawns fill the San Antonio landscape. They are where we play, relax, and enjoy a personal piece of nature. But there’s a price tag on the traditional carpet of grass. Lawns reduce the habitat available to wildlife. Their upkeep requires constant watering (30 to 60 percent of U.S. urban water soaks lawns) and the use of herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides (each year U.S. lawns are dosed with 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides). A gas-powered lawn mower pollutes as much in one hour as does a car in 350 miles of driving.

Rethinking the Lawn

You can get more from the land around your home than just the “industrial lawn” – the one with nary a weed, wildflower, or pest. With some forethought and creativity (or possibly by doing nothing at all), you can transform your lawn into a landscape. The first step is to think about what you want from your lawn. Then think about what you would be comfortable changing. Do you want to keep the same amount of lawn but change to management practices that are ecologically friendly? Or would you like to reduce the lawn area or replace it entirely with other vegetation and landscape materials? Either way, you can reduce the negative environmental impacts of the industrial lawn.


The simplest change you can make is to naturalize your yard – let native plants take over as you withdraw chemicals and water. You can plant hardy grass species suited to your climate or combine grass with nongrass species such as clover and low-growing, broad-leaved plants. Grass clippings left on the lawn work as effective, organic fertilizer. If you need more fertilization, choose an organic brand.

From Lawn to Landscape

When you choose to transform part or all of your lawn, you open up a wealth of creative avenues to benefiting the ecosystem, wildlife, and your own physical and psychological well-being. Take a good look at your yard. Some areas will lend themselves easily to something other than grass. Very shady areas, well-worn paths, steep slopes, corners, and unused patches are all good places to start.

They can be replaced with raised flower beds or a cutting garden, an herb area, vegetable gardens, a gravel path, a brick patio, or a wooden terrace. Plant trees, shrubs, and ground cover that are adapted to your climate; these species will thrive with the least amount of help from you. Moss is an easy and attractive alternative to grass in areas like the Pacific Northwest. You can create a meadow or prairie of native grasses and wildflowers. How about a pond for wildlife?

A New Meaning

What you do to your personal property does not occur within a void. A lawn that attracts and nurtures life may encourage your children and your neighbors’ children to take a greater interest in observing nature. When your neighbors see your property flourish without chemicals, they may loosen their grip on the pesticide bottle and fertilizer bag. And by opening your space to nature in the form of native plants and grasses, perhaps even wildlife, you can demonstrate that it might be preferable to coexist with nature rather than dominate it.


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