The Q&A Archives: Naturalizing Front Yard

Question: Our front lawn is a combination of moss (60%) and grass (40%), and various shade trees. We are looking for a low maintenence way to naturalize the area because grass dosen't want to grow. Please offer some suggestions, keeping aesthetics and cost in mind.

Answer: First, let me applaud you for taking this approach. It is much better for everyone involved to allow our land to "do its thing" in the way it wants to rather than to try and tame it. With this approach, you'll find that the plants are healthier, and much easier to care for. Consider some ferns, understory shrubs, and groundcovers that are native to your area. They should thrive with little help from you, and will attract all sorts of wildlife. I recently went to a lecture about restoring your yard to a natural habit and was introduced to two wonderful books: "Noah's Garden" and "Planting Noah's Garden", both by Sara Stein. They provide excellent how-to's, and plant lists. These books are very popular right now, as there is a new "movement" to convert traditional lawn to a more nature friendly environment.

I am currently naturalizing my own yard using these books as a guide. Costs have been quite low, and aesthetics are a matter of taste, so I can't advise you specifically -- you'll need to do some research to see what suits you. The naturalized property is just that, natural. If you find some of Sarah's suggestions don't suit you, it is easy to pick and choose the ideas you like and incorporate only what fits your tastes. Best of luck -- enjoy the process!

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