Grass vs. Garden

If you follow The Impatient Gardener on Facebook or Twitter, you know that Mr. Much More Patient and I are having a, um, discussion about the future of the back yard.

For years, he's been bugging me to create a real path out to the detached garage so we don't have to walk over the grass. He's right about it: we need it. I've been avoiding it because all I see is a whole lot of back-breaking stone hauling. I also don't love the idea of a stone/gravel/whatever path bordered on both sides with grass, only because I think it will look a little silly. But at this time of the year, when those who dare to walk on the grass between the two structures risk sinking six inches deep into shoe-sucking mud, in mid-winter, when ice forms on the grass from overuse, and in mid-summer when the grass is worn from use, it is obvious that a proper path is necessary.

So the path is on the agenda for this spring as well as a redesign of the beds back there thanks to the new deck we added as part of the renovation. This weekend I took a break from painting to throw on my new Target wellies (a must in the destroyed-and-seeded-in-fall back yard) and do some measuring so I could put it all on graph paper and get an idea of what the plan is. And I came up with a nice little design featuring curvy beds (I love me some curvy beds) that I think tie the new path in with the rest of the existing garden, not to mention provide the opportunity to screen the garage a little. This is a benefit because I'm pretty sure the garage is going to fall over some day and if I have a little bit of pretty screening, I won't have to look at the pile of rubble under which our cars are buried.


Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner,
Jennifer Benner photo via

vs. Garden:
Midwest Living photo
Midwest Living photo

But here's the problem: Mr. Much More Patient wants grass; I want plants. He has his reasons for sure: I already spend  hundreds of hours in the gardens we already have every summer and there are weekends when he literally has to drag me out of the garden and stick a gin and tonic in my hand while forcing me to sit down on the patio to enjoy the garden. Also, he's smart enough to know by now that more gardens = more plants = more money. But I think what it really comes down to is that he wants a big, expansive lawn to look out on. I don't pretend to get it, but I know it's a common affliction for his gender.

Lest anyone get on his bandwagon, let me tell you that new garden or not, that will not happen. We have extremely sandy soil and two enormous dogs who have free run of the back yard. We don't use any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or other chemicals on the lawn. It's sort of hilly back there and there is an enormous evergreen with a 50-foot wingspan that provides more than a little shade. The perfect lawn is not in the cards.

I don't really have a lot of arguments on my side other than what I've already mentioned regarding asethetics, other than to say that if had any clue what my long term plan for the yard was, he'd be thrilled I only wanted to reclaim a couple dozen more square feet of lawn. Plus, about a third of our property (if not more) is woods, the edges of which probably were once part of the lawn until a previous owner allowed them to "go native." There's no reason we couldn't reclaim part of that for lawn space if we felt we needed more.

So where do you fall in the garden vs. grass battle? Do you love a big, beautiful lawn fit for a good game of croquet or would you rather see more gardens?


  1. For me, its about both. I love how an expanse of lawn can really frame garden beds and provide a place of rest for ones eye. I also enjoy the fervor my husband puts into maintaining a lawn, he jokes that when he retires he wants to start a lawn mowing business because he gets a great deal of satisfaction from a well mown lawn. He is a big fan of the diagonal stripe, and I have to say it is very satisfying to look at when hes done. We also dont use any chemicals to maintain our grass, and the dog and children sure do a number on it and at the height of summer I find myself wishing for less grass, or at least a more pleasant feeling grass. But for those summer weeks when the grass is as green as can be, and the garden is bursting and the dandelions I encourage are dotting the lawn, it is so worth it to have both.

  2. I'm really not into lawns. I commend anyone that doesn't use any chemicals on their lawn to achieve that keeping up with the jones' perfection, but I just think spaces like that can be a little more useful.
    Gardens are often planned, but there is something so much, I guess. Lawns seem so contrived, fake, especially when they're perfect.
    I once had a backyard that was pretty much a cloverfield. It smelt amazing, helped a lot of pollinators, and there was no guilt in rolling around and doing whatever we wanted on it - it's hardy.


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