About this Project
Follow our plan for a beautiful garden AND happy neighbors
Making the switch to less lawn requires prep work. You can’t let the lawn go wild on its own, because it may not attract pollinators, and it certainly won’t make your neighbors happy!
A lawn won’t spontaneously turn into a garden or meadow — it is much more than throwing away your lawn mower. Do your research or consult with an expert who knows about transitioning from lawns. And don’t sell that lawnmower or weedwhacker! In most cases, you’ll still need it to maintain clean edges.
Talk to your neighbors
Communication is the best way to minimize disagreements and keep everyone happy. Tell your neighbors what your intentions are. Sometimes our imagination or fear gets the best of us, so if your neighbors know what you are doing upfront, they are less likely to look at it negatively and they’ll come to you first with questions or concerns.
Signs are another good technique to educate neighbors. You could have your garden certified through the National Wildlife Federation or if it is a County RainScape, put up a RainScape sign.
Start in the least visible part of your property
If possible, we suggest you start with the backyard, and not the front. Your front yard is more likely to be subject to weed complaints, and neighbors grumbling as they pass by. It will also allow you to learn from the experience before moving to the more visible parts of your property.
Neighbor grumbling is completely natural. Many folks have become accustomed to the look of lawns in their communities, and make a connection between meadows and tall grasses with disarray, mess, and pests. By following some of these tips, you’ll hopefully minimize the grumbles, and eventually, turn your neighbors opinions around.
Maintain a really good border around your new meadow or garden area.
This is one of the “cues to care” that tells your neighbors that you are actively maintaining the area. We recommend keeping a 2 foot wide mowed area, mulched bed, foundation plantings, decorative stones, or a decorative fence around all sides of your gardens. How about a bench, birdhouse, bird feeder, or sculpture? Learn more here about cues to care.
- Never let plants hang over into a sidewalk or roadway, or a neighboring property. Never let plants block signs, intersections, or cause any other unsafe situation for the public.
- Don’t just “let it go” if you decide to stop mowing a lawn–a meadow or forest will not spontaneously appear. Make an effort to convert your lawn into a garden, at the very least by removing some grass and seeding in or planting native plants, whether it be other ornamental grasses, flowers, shrubs, or even trees. People like to see plants that look familiar to them from other gardens, not just overgrown turfgrass.
- Trim down or mow your new garden space at least once a year. This is another reminder to neighbors that your new garden is intentional. Many people prefer to do their clean-up in spring, to allow overwintering insects and critters to take cover in standing debris, but year-round, you should thin out or trim plants that have a “messier” look. These might be plants that poke up a lot taller than the rest of the ones around them, plants that are broken or bent, or plants that dry out in summer when everything else is green.
- Consider a RainScape, with the added benefit of soaking up runoff from your roof or driveway.
Follow the Rules
- County Code, Chapter 58 (Weeds) says that there can’t be any generalized plant growth more than 12 inches high within 15 feet of any property boundary. Generalized plant growth does not include trees, ornamental shrubs, flowers, or garden vegetables.
- Check your HOA rules–there’s a chance your community may have specific rules on what you can or cannot do.
- Always keep out State noxious weeds (thistle, shattercane, and Johnsongrass).
- Desire for a vegetable or flower garden.
- Reforestation/meadow creation for wildlife habitat.
- Site not suitable for a lawn.
- Standing water or stormwater.
- Dislike mowing.
Rebates for rain gardens and conservation landscaping:
Free or low cost shade trees: