Photo: How to get your yard off grass

Bumblebees, native bees and butterflies love lavender. And it's deer resistant! (Credit: David Zeni)

Lawn history is rooted in wealth and status.

In 17th century England, only rich landowners had lawns (a monoculture of short, manicured grass). Work once done by sheep increasingly shifted to human labour, especially closer to the house. Before lawnmowers, only a few could afford to hire people to scythe and weed their grass.

Lawn's purpose? Purely decorative.

Given today's reality...

  • Water shortages
  • The health benefits of digging in dirt
  • Our passion for clean, local food
  • A desire to waste less
  • How busy we say we are
  • No need to show how much money you make

...I think society is ready to question, even ditch, the lawn habit. (Carole Rubin even wrote the book on it, How to Get Your Lawn Off Grass.)

Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

What to do instead of seeding, mowing and aerating your lawn?

Plant a pollinator garden

If you don't plant for pollinators, who will? Anyone can provide essential habitat for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Join our #GotMilkweed campaign to help bring monarch butterflies back from the brink!

Design a rain garden

A rain garden helps minimize the problem of storm water runoff — hundreds of litres of rainwater streaming off hard surfaces like roofs, roads and driveways. For example, shallow beds 15- to 30-centimetres (six- to 12-inches) deep filled with native plants will filter up to 90 per cent of pollutants. Rain gardens also allow water to drain deep enough into the soil to help recharge groundwater supplies. Find more tips to design your very own rain garden.

Plant a tree

A team of researchers (including the David Suzuki Foundation's own Faisal Moola) found that 10 more trees on a city block has self-reported health benefits comparable to a $10,000 salary raise (so you can feel richer without showing off your lawn), moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.

The study, conducted in Toronto, also found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.


It's a fancy word for water-wise gardening. Use up to 50 per cent less water by xeriscaping or landscaping with native plants better adapted to your area. Our yards can become a lot more like the nature once was.

A variety of front yard landscaping options await you! How have you transformed your yard?

Sincerely, Lindsay Coulter
A fellow Queen of Green

July 21, 2015

Read more

Post a comment


Oct 09, 2016
4:34 PM

I’m hoping to create a mini-meadow in my yard. Part xeriscape — all native — part wildflowers.

These are all great ideas — thanks for the post!

Aug 11, 2015
6:38 PM

How about producing a LOT of your own food by planting a PERMACULTURE FOOD FOREST? I did on my 3/4 acre in North Saanich on Vancouver Island and I can recommend it highly!! I’ve never understood grass…it takes up so much energy and time to maintain and you can’t eat it :)

Aug 08, 2015
9:35 AM

Great idea. Could you please give tips for how to most easily get rid of existing grass? I’ve dug up areas for perennial flower gardens (they just survive on rain water), but it was a ton of work, so before attacking the front lawn, I’d love to know if you have ideas for the most easy way to remove grass. Thanks!

Jul 28, 2015
1:48 PM

Dear Queen of Green, I live in Vancouver and recently read your post which focused on air quality testing for moles and toxins in our living spaces — can you please e-mail me the name of the company (or companies) that performed this analysis for you. I really need to do the same (and am especially concerned about mild)…..and do not know where to begin. I would very much like to use the company that you used, as it amounts to a reference which is always so very helpful. Thanks !

Jul 27, 2015
8:33 AM

She obviously does not have kids and doesn’t seem to know any that do. Lawns are not for aesthetics or for status, they are to keep kids healthy with running, playing tag, having outside water fun. Lawns are soft and not prickly and those with kids don’t want bees because they sting and can kill some children. We converted 1/2 our lawn into pee gravel with a playground to promote more outside health and fun for all the neighbourhood kids.

Jul 27, 2015
5:45 AM

Thanks for posting these lawn alternative ideas. I have working to get people off grass for 14 years no with my work at Helping Nature Heal Evological Landscaping. It has been a challenge at times to educate folks about the environmental impacts of the traditional lawn, yet more an more each year it is becoming such a pleasure to do interesting ecosystems where a lawn used to be. Our no mow landscapes are catching hold and becoming popular. There is such room for creativity and responsibility when we open up to new ideas!

Jul 26, 2015
7:08 PM

Add, Plant vegetables and herbs. I hope to do so in my front yard in Courtenay, BC

Jul 26, 2015
5:17 PM

I’m renting and there’s a lot of grass but I just went to a nursery that specializes in native plants and got a bunch of things, including milkweed, to plant in place of the grass. :-)

Jul 24, 2015
7:53 AM

Is there an easy way to get other plants to take over a lawn, or do you always have to dig up the grass? I have been shrinking our lawn by creating garden beds, but that’s a lot of work. Two big lawn patches remain that I would love to transform. Any way to get clover or some other ground cover to squeeze out the grass?

Jul 23, 2015
12:10 PM

There are lot many ways and practices to preserve rain water and use it. Specially in Vancouver where rain is not so uncommon and this year the water shortage the city is experiencing, we all should consider implementing better practices which in turn is going to help us.

Jul 22, 2015
9:16 AM

I would add — get a rain barrel. They are great! We haven’t used the hose yet this summer to water our garden :)

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »