Lawn takes up less than 50% of the available landscaping


What is this?

You can receive points toward certification if your lawn takes up less than half of your property (excluding buildings, driveways, patios, decks and similar features). Most of your landscape would thus be comprised of groundcovers, garden beds, shrubs, trees or other plants, and some of it might be covered in a permeable material such as mulch or pea gravel. 

How do I do this?

On My Own

  1. Evaluate the size of your lawn for your family's lifestyle and consider if there are little-used areas where the lawn could be replaced.
    • One excellent spot might be beneath your trees where grass competes with the trees for water and nutrients and where lawn mowers can damage tree trunks. Mulch can be healthier for the tree and offer a lovely look.
    • Another good spot might be where stormwater leaves your property – a low spot where a bed of deep-rooted native shrubs or perennials could filter the water and do a great deal of good.
  2. Use rope, a garden hose or water-based spray-paint to lay out the shape of your new landscaping bed.
  3. Remove lawn with one of the following methods:
    • Smother the grass with cardboard or a few layers of newspaper that are covered with a mulch (autumn leaves work beautifully in areas protected from the wind). Let the area rest for several weeks or over the winter. Once the grass has died and the paper/cardboard has softened, you can plant directly into it.
    • You can also smother the grass with black plastic or a tarp held down with rocks – but don't let water accumulate on top for more than a couple of days or you will invite mosquito larvae. You might want to let your neighbor know this is only is only temporary.
    • For instant results or particularly large areas, you can rent a sod cutter and mechanically remove the grass.
    • Some people herbicide the grass with an aquatic-approved glyphosate (e.g., Rodeo, Aquamaster or AquaPro). Read the label – it's there to help you be successful and safe – and be sure to apply it on a day with no wind or it may drift onto treasured plants and kill them. You might need to follow-up your initial application with a second one, or use a combination of herbicide followed by smothering.
  4. Some people reduce the size of their lawn by a small amount each year. It makes the project more affordable, fun and manageable. Some folks use this approach to phase in a major landscape design while others plan their new plantings as they go.

Hire some help

You can hire a landscaping company to help with this project. Be very clear about the size and location of the area to be converted. It might be best to use a hose, rope or water-based spray paint to outline the area being converted.

Why is this important?

If you reduce the amount of lawn on your property, you may be reducing the amount of water, chemicals and energy used while increasing wildlife habitat and – done well – your property value.

Lawn grass consumes a great deal of time, money, water and energy in America. It also leads to the application of a great deal of lawn chemicals that frequently cause health concerns for people and wildlife, and that leach into streams, ponds and lakes where they create issues with excessive algae and plant growth.

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