Several years ago, a cousin who lives near Cannes surprised me by serving an al fresco breakfast on her patio. That became one of my favorite memories of France and inspired me to steal some space from my lawn to expand the dining area in my yard to give family and friends a similar treat. Many of my houseguests have since told me that our al fresco meal was one of the things they most remember from their stay.
Unused lawn can be a great opportunity to create some memory-making spaces in your yard. Lawns can look serene, and are great for sports, but they are high maintenance and the amount of water they require is a concern. If you seldom use your lawn, you can replace it with something more engaging, something your family will use.
With our wonderful climate, an outdoor dining area is something you might use frequently. There are dozens of other possibilities. A personal favorite memory is of eating meals prepared with food right from another cousin’s garden. Following that experience, more of my own lawn disappeared to make room for vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.
Following are creative ways to liven up your lawn.
• Add edibles to your landscape. Traditional wooden vegetable beds can be quite attractive, or you can use unconventional shapes or materials. For example, a stacked-stone wall can make a beautiful raised bed. Or mix a few vegetables among your other plants – planting the right flowers and vegetables together attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects.
• Incorporate fruit trees and blueberry bushes throughout the landscape, even in a small space. Some trees have several types of fruit grafted onto one tree. Espalier is another classic space-saving approach. Or, making use of summer pruning and dwarfing rootstock to control the tree sizes, plant multiple fruit trees close together. Any of these methods produce a variety of fruit, in manageable amounts, and extend the harvest season.
• Enliven your yard by making it more attractive to birds. Different species prefer different habitat, so replacing some lawn with a more varied environment will encourage more species to visit. Add a small fountain for a great bird-viewing area. Include birdhouses suitable for local birds and you may have an entire season of entertainment.
• For small children, add features to encourage exploration and imagination. Small play structures can be made to look like cottages or forts. A set of low walls could enclose a play space. Theatrical children might appreciate a stage. Set aside some gardening space for each child and help them select easy and fun vegetables and flowers.
• Add a space to take your yoga or exercise routine outside.
• If you like to nap, make space for a hammock or lounger.
• For game-lovers, add a court for bocce ball or pingpong.
• If you are lucky enough to have a view, incorporate a place to sit and enjoy it; if not, create your own view using outdoor artwork.
Reclaim some of your lawn to create spaces you will use, and begin making memories.