If you are getting tired of constantly trying to keep a nice front lawn and like me, not a fan of fertilizers or the constant cutting, weeding and watering needed, then check out ornamental grasses as a brilliant maintenance free landscaping idea for the front yard.
I had been looking into all kinds of landscaping ideas for the front, and everything I thought of either took too long to grow or was very expensive. Our house is positioned in such a way that most of the lot is on the front.
The back and sides look nice with a even distribution of trees, shrubs, patios, decks and a small amount of grass, but the front is basically bare grass that is in direct sunlight all day. There were pretty ugly looking evergreens in front of the living room window which we have removed and replaced with a small sitting area.
So, as we sit and look out all we see is a sea of dried up lawn, and not very good lawn. It tends to be weedy as the previous owner did not do much on the front, and with everyone else on the street having very complicated and intricate gardens with lights and paths everywhere, I was feeling like ours was the black sheep on the street!
But I simply could not afford to hire professional landscapers like they did, or pay for all the fancy plants with long names that they had on their front yards, and I didn’t want to have to take anything inside or have to wrap it up. So after looking at the local Home Depot garden center books and flyers I came across some pictures of yards for cottages and other low maintenance yards that I thought would look really cool.
I laid out the part I wanted to convert to my maintenance free area with the hose and then went shopping at the garden center and found all kinds of these tall sun loving ornamental grasses. There is one I like called the “maidenhead” which grows fast and has beautiful feather like tops on it in late summer and into the fall.
I wanted something that would grow fast. So I purchased various varieties to add interest but made sure the tag said “sun loving” or “full sun” as my front garden simply has no shade
Wood Chips for Ground Cover Between Plants
I think found a great deal on a load of wood chips. These are a little bigger than the shredded mulch, but I had found out that if you really wanted to kill the grass between these plants that the larger wood chips would do a better job plus they were cheaper.
I collected lots of newspapers as this is another trick I learned. Although the lawn in my chosen area was not the best, it still managed to grow tall fast, and I didn’t want to have to dig up the entire area, as up to now that was part of the job I was dreading.
I saw many other homeowners taking tillers to the lawn, and I didn’t want to do that as part of this area is a slight bank and this could cause erosion so it was suggested I go the newspaper and wood chip route.
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How to Create an Ornamental Grass Garden
Once you have your area marked out with paint or the hose, then start to place your grasses at least 6 feet apart. Check the tag for the height and width as some may be taller than others, so try and place them with the shorter ones on the outside edge so they simply don’t disappear into the center somewhere.
I started by place them around the edge of my marked area first then filled in with more. I have all the same type so should all grow the same height.
Once you are satisfied with the placement of your grasses, then start digging around them slightly larger than the pot, then remove the pot and continue to dig the hole. (Make sure you are not digging where phone lines could be, if you are not sure then get a locate first this is usually a free service)
Have the hose or watering can ready and take your plant out of the pot and rub the roots slightly with your hands, this helps them to get started in their new surroundings. Put the plant in and water all around it to fill in any air gaps with water then fill with soil.
The beauty of ornamental grasses is that you don’t have to get too fancy with expensive soils they are usually pretty rugged and adapt quickly.
Tip – While digging the holes for your plants, place the dirt you dig from the hole within your chosen area as it will get covered anyways, no sense in messing up the parts that are not involved in this garden.
Then start placing thick layers of newspaper between the shrubs and up to your outline. Have a wheel barrow full of wood chips ready nearby and sprinkle a few on the paper to hold it down because it will want to blow away.
Try to refrain from reading the papers like my hubby did! Just put them out and cover all the grass and dirt in between your shrubs. You could take a spade a “V” the outline of the area so your newspapers have a little crevice to fold into at the edges, but this is optional.
Start spreading your woodchips in a thick layer between your grasses. This will not only kill off the grass in between but will also look amazing. Like a forest floor is what I think of when I see it.
You can add to this next year with a layer of nicer mulch or the coloured types such as the reds of the blacks, but I found the larger wood chips worked best for killing of the base lawn.
Add some Interest
Since they are further apart until they grow larger, you can place ornaments in between such as bird baths, or hooks for hanging flower pots, or even a big rock or a collection or rocks.
But this will be a perfect landscaping idea for the front yard on the cheap. It is instant, looks great and now you have less lawn to cut and you did it yourself.