Design & Decor - Design Ideas

Turn grass into garden

Lorraine Flanigan

Big ideas for creating small-space gardens where lawn once grew

Do you have visions of flower-filled borders, a veggie patch or outdoor dining room, but then look out your window and see only grass? Maybe it’s time to turf the lawn and transform your space into a beautiful, functional garden more suited to your needs.

That’s what Joel Loblaw, one of the Earth Inc. partners featured on HGTV’s Dirty Business, did in his own tiny six-by-7.5-metre Toronto yard. Although he enjoyed tending the little patch of lawn that once covered his property, the grass couldn’t provide the outdoor environment he and his wife, two young children and dog required. Now, the lawn-free garden features a pergola-framed sunken patio—where the couple enjoys entertaining—surrounded by raised beds; a sandbox for the kids; and a gravel-lined dog run. 

And in Edmonton, gardening guru and Canadian Garden­­ing contributor Donna Balzer watched as her daughter Kalen and son-in-law Ed transformed their inner-city backyard in an entirely different way. Disliking the “pointlessness of lawn maintenance,” as Kalen puts it, the couple turned their yard into a vegetable garden, preferring to grow plants that “give back.” In the first year, they raised a bumper crop of cucumbers and ended up with a freezer full of produce, says Balzer.

Another good reason to turn grass into garden, adds Montreal plantsman and garden designer Albert Mondor, is to help the environment. He recommends replacing stretches of lawn with borders of ornamental grasses, which don’t require pesticides, chemical fertilizers or noisy lawn mowers. Mondor suggests ‘Overdam’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’) and ‘Ruby Stiletto’ wood-rush (Luzula ‘Ruby Stiletto’)—pair with ‘Redbor’ kale and ‘Limerock Ruby’ tickseed for a dynamic combination. Perennial groundcovers planted at the base of the ornamental grasses will add season-long interest.

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