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The Downsizing Trend Includes Lawns
Many people today are looking for homes with less square footage that still have luxury features. The trend towards downsizing includes many people looking to reduce the size of their next home purchase to be more energy efficient and have less upkeep. The trend towards downsizing includes downsizing the lawn.
We’re seeing people move to smaller lot sizes, while still wanting outdoor living spaces that meet their needs. Many homeowners opt to reduce the size of their lawn in favor of patio space, ground cover, entertaining spaces and gardens and flower beds. Adding outdoor rooms adds living space to a home without additional construction. If done well, it also adds value to a home.
Benefits of Downsizing the Lawn
The idea of downsizing the lawn involves rethinking the traditional, expansive grassy yards that have been a hallmark of residential landscapes. It’s a conscious decision to reduce the size of your lawn and explore alternative, environmentally friendly landscaping options. Downsizing is more than just a change in aesthetics; it represents a shift towards a more sustainable and ecologically responsible approach to outdoor spaces.
A Smaller Lawn Saves Time, Money and the Environment
By downsizing their lawns, homeowners can increase biodiversity, add to the beauty of their surroundings and spend less time attempting to sustain a demanding lawn. Grass is not the easiest “crop” to sustain.
- Water Conservation: With increasing concerns about water scarcity, downsizing your lawn is a proactive step in water conservation. Smaller lawns require less irrigation, decreasing water consumption and contributing to a more sustainable water future.
- Alignment with Regenerative Gardening Principles: Downsizing your lawn can be seen as a harmonious marriage with regenerative gardening and permaculture. These approaches prioritize soil health, biodiversity, and sustainable land use. By downsizing and choosing alternative ground cover, you can support these principles by enriching your soil, promoting native plantings, and nurturing a healthier ecosystem within your property.
- Reduced Maintenance: Downsizing the lawn means less mowing, watering, and general upkeep. This reduction in maintenance not only saves you time and effort but also reduces the use of fossil fuels and harmful chemicals associated with traditional lawn care practices.
There are some sound reasons for making the change, and not just to cut down on mowing time. According to EPA estimates, the amount of pollution emitted by a lawnmower operating for one hour is equivalent to the amount of pollution emitted by a car driven for approximately 45 miles.
In addition, the EPA website lists the following U.S. lawn care facts as annual totals and percentages as specified in Redesigning the American Lawn (Yale University Press):
- Urban dwellers use 30 to 60% of urban fresh water for watering lawns, depending on the city.
- Homeowners use 67,000,000 pounds of synthetic pesticides on U.S. lawns, amounting in $700,000,000.
- 580,000,000 gallons of gasoline are used for lawnmowers.
- The lawn care industry brings in $25,000,000
- Overall, residential lawns take up 20,000,000 acres
Wasted Effort, Money and Lawn Health
Ironically, many of the efforts spent to “beautify” lawns may actually make them weaker and more susceptible to disease. For example, over 40 pounds of nitrogen are thrown away when grass clippings are bagged and tossed. (50% of waste sent to land-fills during summer months are grass clippings.) Instead, grass clippings left on the lawn can provide one-third to one-half of the nutrients needed for a healthy lawn.
The preferred height of grass blades is 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Clippings decompose quickly and do not contribute to an accumulation of thatch. Over-fertilization causes thatch. Grass clippings also conserve water by shading the soil and reducing moisture loss through evaporation.
When yard size is reduced, you often end up eliminating most of, if not all, the need for extensive use of pesticides and lawn fertilizers. This will naturally decrease the run-off of those substances. Alternatives to pesticides can be planting pest-resistant varietals and investigating herbicidal and insecticidal soaps to control insects, as well as introducing beneficial insects to the environment.
Fortunately, insecticidal soaps are considered nontoxic to most plants and to human beings. They will need to be repeated more than once throughout the summer. Avoid spraying once temperatures top 90 degrees to avoid risk of burning plant leaves.
Increasing Interest in Sustainable Landscaping Practices
In recent years, there has been a significant uptick in interest among homeowners, gardeners, and property developers in sustainable landscaping practices. This increasing awareness reflects a desire to minimize the ecological footprint of our outdoor spaces while creating landscapes that are not only beautiful but also sustainable.
With the threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, many people are eager to make their contribution to more sustainable living. This interest is reflected in the growing number of resources, community initiatives, and professionals dedicated to promoting sustainable and regenerative landscaping practices.
Downsizing the lawn is not rare and homeowners have many resources at their disposal to make the job easier.
How to Reduce the Size of Your Lawn
Before beginning any landscaping project, a thorough assessment of your existing lawn area is vital. This step allows you to make informed decisions about downsizing the lawn and reimagining your outdoor space.
Assessing What You Have
- Environmental Impact: Assessing your lawn’s current state helps you understand its ecological impact. Are you maintaining a healthy ecosystem, or is there room for improvement? This understanding can guide you toward more sustainable choices.
- Functional Analysis: Evaluate how your current lawn serves your needs. Are there areas that are underutilized, or do you have spaces that could be better optimized for recreation, gardening, or relaxation?
- Aesthetic Considerations: Consider the visual appeal of your lawn. Are there elements you’d like to maintain, and what aspects would you like to change or improve?
Measuring and Mapping Your Yard
Accurate measurements and a simple map of your yard are essential for planning your downsizing project. You will need tools for measurement, whether a large measuring tape, or a measuring wheel, or a app on your phone.
Most yards in modern communities are rectangular, but some yards on the outskirts of a neighborhood, or at the end of a street or col-de-sac can be irregular. Take note of any irregular shapes or corners.
Make a simple map or diagram of your yard, including trees, the house and existing structures, and any unique features. This will serve as a visual reference for downsizing the lawn.
Considerations for Utility Lines and Local Regulations
Utility lines like gas, water and electricity should be clearly marked to avoid accidents of disruptions while you are digging and planting.
You will also need to check with local regulations and zoning laws. Check with your homeowners’ association rules. They may dictate what changes you can make in your yard.
It is worth noting here that the Maryland Legislature passed a law in 2021 addressing the authority of HOAs as it pertains to planting native species. The object of the law was to allow homeowners more freedom to plant native species and environmentally friendly designs, as opposed to the strict rules imposed previously.
Options for Downsizing the Lawn
There are many downsizing options that homeowners can consider when transforming their lawns into more manageable and sustainable outdoor spaces. These are just a few ideas:
1. Reducing the Lawn Size While Keeping Green Space
One of the most straightforward options for downsizing the lawn is to reduce the size of your lawn while maintaining some green space. This approach strikes a balance between aesthetics and sustainability.
- Benefits: This option allows you to retain a smaller but well-maintained lawn area for recreational activities or aesthetics while reducing the overall maintenance and water requirements. It’s an ideal choice for those who still want a traditional lawn but on a smaller scale.
- Design Ideas: Consider creating a central lawn with strategically placed planting beds, trees, or shrubs to add visual interest. This not only reduces the lawn area but also enhances biodiversity and aesthetics.
2. Replacing the Lawn with Alternative Ground Cover, Particularly Native Plants
A more sustainable approach involves replacing the lawn with alternative ground cover, with a focus on native plants.
- Benefits: Native plants are well-suited to your local environment, requiring minimal maintenance and less water. They support local wildlife and help create a healthier ecosystem. This option also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- Design Ideas: Explore a variety of native plants, grasses, and wildflowers. You can support diversity and ecological function by selecting species that attract pollinators and birds. This approach aligns well with regenerative gardening principles.
3. Creating Pathways or Hardscapes with Regenerative Design Principles
Another innovative approach is to introduce pathways or hardscapes with regenerative design principles. This not only reduces lawn area but also enhances functionality and sustainability.
- Benefits: Hardscapes, such as stone paths or patios, can provide spaces for outdoor living and entertaining. Permeable hardscape materials, like permeable pavers, can reduce stormwater runoff and promote groundwater recharge.
- Design Ideas: Incorporate regenerative design principles by including rain gardens or bioswales to manage rainwater runoff. Use natural materials for hardscapes and create designs that flow harmoniously with the rest of the landscape.
4. Introducing Garden Beds
Garden beds can be an integral part of downsizing the lawn, offering opportunities for growing your own food and enhancing biodiversity.
- Benefits: Garden beds allow you to grow vegetables, herbs, or flowers, providing both aesthetic and practical benefits. They can also improve soil health and attract beneficial insects.
- Design Ideas: Design your garden beds with raised or in-ground options, and consider incorporating companion planting techniques to maximize the use of space. Use organic gardening methods to enhance soil fertility and overall garden health.
Landscaping For a Small Backyard
In a small backyard, every square foot matters, so make careful use of your space, and consider your personal preferences and needs when choosing a design. Here are some creative landscaping ideas for a small backyard that can help you make the most of your limited outdoor space:
- Vertical Gardening: Utilize vertical space by installing trellises, wall-mounted planters, or vertical gardens. This allows you to grow a variety of plants without taking up precious ground space.
- Multi-Functional Furniture: Choose multi-functional outdoor furniture like foldable tables, benches with storage, or seating that can double as planters. These pieces are great for small spaces where versatility is key.
- Tiered Planting: Create a tiered garden with raised beds or planters of different heights. This not only adds visual interest but also maximizes the use of space for growing plants.
- Patio or Deck with Built-in Seating: Install a small patio or deck with built-in seating around the edges. This eliminates the need for bulky outdoor furniture and provides a cozy and functional space for relaxation.
- Container Gardening: Use containers, pots, and window boxes to grow a variety of plants, from flowers and herbs to small shrubs. These can be placed strategically to create focal points.
- Mirror Illusion: Install a large mirror on one wall or fence. It creates the illusion of more space and reflects the greenery, making the backyard appear larger.
- Artificial Turf: Consider using high-quality artificial turf instead of natural grass. It looks great year-round and requires no mowing or watering.
- Hanging Gardens: Hang plants from the ceiling or wall-mounted shelves to save floor space while still enjoying the beauty of greenery.
- Outdoor Vertical Bar: If you enjoy entertaining, set up a small outdoor bar with a fold-down table and stools. It’s perfect for social gatherings.
- Miniature Pond or Water Feature: A small pond, birdbath, or tabletop water feature can add a soothing element to your backyard and attract wildlife.
- Garden Path: Create a winding garden path with stepping stones or pavers to add a sense of depth and guide visitors through the space.
- Pergola or Arbor: Install a pergola or arbor to provide shade and support climbing plants like vines or roses.
- Mini Vegetable Garden: If you enjoy gardening, create a small vegetable garden with raised beds or container gardening. Grow your favorite herbs and vegetables in a compact space.
Backyard living space can be a valuable asset to your home. With more people working from home and with the recent pandemic, the outdoor spaces have become an important space for family enjoyment, relaxation and entertaining. Keeping up with outdoor living trends is important, as outdoor spaces are on the top 10 wish list for today’s homebuyers.
Downsizing the Lawn with Native Plants
Also, avoid watering the lawn. Brown grass means dormant grass that will recover once it rains again. Summer dormancy is a natural rest period for grass, and also means less mowing and less air pollution. If you cannot entertain the idea of brown grass, minimize watering of the lawn by using conservation techniques like installing a sprinkler system.
In addition, you can cut water needs by 20% to 50% by switching from an all-lawn yard to one that’s 40% lawn and 60% trees, shrubs, ground cover, and hardscape. This, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Real Estate Considerations
My affiliation with real estate reminds me of the importance of maintaining home value and creating great curb appeal when you consider downsizing the lawn.
Impact on Property Value
In central Maryland, where water conservation and sustainable practices are highly valued, a downsized lawn with regenerative landscaping have the potential positively influence your property’s value. (In my opinion) Homebuyers often look for eco-friendly features that reduce long-term maintenance costs, which can make your home more attractive to a broader range of buyers.
A well-designed regenerative landscape can enhance your property’s curb appeal. The sight of a thriving, biodiverse garden or native plantings can immediately capture the interest of potential buyers, especially those who appreciate the aesthetics of sustainable living. Certainly, a robust living landscape will often be more appealing than the sparse monoculture of a sprawling yard.
Marketing Downsized Yards with a Regenerative Focus
When it is time to sell your home, marketing the sustainable features and energy efficiency of your home is a smart move. That goes for the downsized lawn as well. Taking listing photos when your yard and gardens are at their peak will be great additions to your marketing.
If you have worked with a professional landscaper, don’t forget to mention that in your property descriptions. This can reassure buyers that the landscaping was thoughtfully designed.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the helpful tips for Downsizing The Lawn, from our favorite Frederick home inspector, David Goldberg. As always, thanks David for another informative article.
David Goldberg – Home Inspector
Reliable Home Services, Inc.
PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322
Chris & Karen Highland
eXp Realty – 888-860-7369
Text Us: 301-401-5119
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