Creating a grass-free lawn

Our garden had been in a poor state for several years, but we had not been able to settle on a plan. We then heard of the Mayor of Dorchester's idea to create a 'grass-free lawn' in the local park. A grass-free lawn attracts insects and retains moisture, while also creating a green and attractive area. Another side benefit is that it only needs to be trimmed four to six times a year. We decided it would be just right for our meeting.

A pile of trays with seeds in them
Preparing the seed trays. Image: Dorchester Meeting

Getting started

We wanted the plan to take everyone with it. We decided to create a paved path around the new 'lawn' and benches on paved areas just beside it. The children would create mosaics for stepping stones within the lawn. Working as a community, we would each grow seed trays of recommended cultivars, bringing them together as a patchwork on the lawn.

We decided to apply for a QPSW (Quaker Peace & Social Witness) grant to support the project because we wanted to draw attention to the project among Quakers nationally.

Cultivating the seeds

The seeds of 22 cultivars were purchased from a company found by Dorset Wildlife Trust. We measured them into tiny amounts, one little bag containing about one gram of seeds for each tray (care had to be taken not to sneeze!).

Dozens of seed trays were bought and suitable compost ladled into bags, one for each tray. Friends were invited – then encouraged, then coaxed! – to take several trays home, plant them up and watch them grow.

Some cultivars, such as yarrow, were brilliant at simply getting on with the growing and others, especially camomile and betony, were totally resistant to this idea. In retrospect, perhaps the season was too early (it was only February) and perhaps the compost was too nutritious for wild-flowers. The variable success rate was initially disappointing, but we simply persevered, learning all the while from the Mayor's similar struggles with the grass-free lawn in the town's park.

Planting the lawn

As each lot of seed trays had some seedlings visible, we planted them out. The very dry spring meant lots of watering and a hose was soon rigged up. The soil of our former scrubby lawn was terrible - but the seedlings loved it!

Meanwhile, the meeting's children had been busy designing and making mosaic plates to be grouted onto flat stepping stones. The task was very fiddly and took much longer than anticipated, but their designs were lovely and they persevered patiently – and with such brilliant results.

By September almost the whole lawn area contained an attractive covering of foliage and flowers. Bees and other insects soon discovered the new nectar, and our very own frog made an appearance in time for the great garden party. We had lots of visitors, including the Mayor, some of our hirers, and of course F/friends and their friends. Photographs were taken, the sun shone, there was ample food and our lovely garden was really appreciated. Thank you QPSW!

Share your story