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The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard

Woman relaxing on deck chair in a no-grass backyard, reading a book with her cat watching as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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Over the past few years, the “no-grass backyard” outdoor living trend has really taken root. It went from being a radical landscaping experiment to a fully-fledged, here-to-stay design staple, transforming traditional lawns into personalized spaces that step out of the basic backyard-design box.

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Many factors have played into this seismic shift in how we see and style our outdoor spaces sans grass. The universal rise of droughts and water restrictions makes maintaining a consistently green lawn nearly impossible… and ethically questionable. (Who among us didn’t feel just a tad uncomfortable during the LA wildfires, witnessing the ultra-green yards of the rich and famous surrounded by bone-dry scrublands?)

Add in the weekly hours we spend feeding, reseeding and trimming those fickle blades, and the plethora of modern, no-grass backyard options begin to appeal even more. Also — thanks in part to all those long months spent at home in pandemic lockdown — designing a personal, outdoor space that truly reflects our individual priorities has become paramount. We discovered we can’t always rely on the external world to fill our cup; creating an at-home oasis has the power to up our daily quality of life.

These new, no-grass backyard configurations are only limited by our own imaginations — and the confines of climate and budget, of course! So, to help get those creative juices flowing, here are some of our favourite no-grass backyard ideas that effortlessly merge beauty with function. Happy dreaming!

Related: 15 Outdoor Living Rooms You’ll Never Want to Leave

Insect hotel and bird font in a native plant garden as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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1. Home on Native Land

Opting for a native-plant garden over a traditional green lawn means less watering and lower post-planting maintenance. These hearty plants adapted to thrive in your local climate and soil conditions and, if chosen carefully, can fill your no-grass garden with colour and interest throughout the seasons.

Plant a mix of native trees, shrubs and flowers that are known to attract pollinators or produce other food sources for local wildlife, such as berries and seeds. Add nesting boxes and basin baths, and birds will flock, butterflies will flutter and bees will buzz, happy to be in a space that supports their health and encourages biodiversity.

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Tip: Connect with your local nature conservancy to see if they’re facilitating any animal-habitat programs or migrating-bird counts to participate in.

Related: 17 Beautiful Native Canadian Plants to Grow by Province

Fire place on a wooden veranda next to chairs and pallets in the garden at sunset in a modern no-grass backyard patio with fireplace, back yard design concept as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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2. All Decked Out

Another way to that no-mow lifestyle is by installing decking over much (or all!) of the backyard. Ground-level decking provides a beautiful, flat canvas on which to build your ultimate, outdoor-life setup. In an uneven yard, installing a large, new deck instantly brings uniformity to the space. Additionally, it opens up so many different ways to use the yard that just weren’t there before. Having a family dining area, installing your favourite backyard games or making a singalong fire pit are now all possible.

Related: These Mistakes Are Making Your Backyard Feel Smaller Than It Is

Raised beds filled with lush vegetables in potager garden with a stone and brick path as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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3. Eat Your Veggies

Whether you’ve only managed to grow a handful of green beans in a balcony box or you’re a seasoned farmer with acres of space, the thrill of growing your own food is still the same. Raze the grass and replace it with raised beds; it’s time to park the mower and put down path pavers, and get growing! No matter the size of the outdoor area — with the help of trellises, arbors and vertical planters — anywhere can be transformed into a veggie patch, herb garden, mini orchard or berry bed.

Tip: Mixing path materials, such as the brick and crushed rock shown here, in a small garden can create the illusion of spaciousness by drawing your eye forward. 

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Related: Vegetable Garden Planners to Help You Grow All Year Round

Residential no-grass backyard, garden and sitting area with stepping stones, gravel on ground, rain chain, ground cover, and a shingle style bungalow with barbaris plant in foreground and blue flax as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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4. Xeriscape Mate

If the sight of a mower makes you mad and the thought of turning on the hose has you in hysterics, then Xeriscaping is for you. This ultra-low-maintenance landscaping trend features drought-tolerant plants (read: no watering!) and hardscape components. River stones border gravel paths, ornamental grasses sprout from bright bark mulch and succulents hang from rocky nooks.

These water-conserving designs are particularly well suited to arid climates, but can be configured to any area and microclimate. With xeriscaping, plants are used sparingly. It’s the hardscape materials that provide the bulk of the garden’s visual interest and variety.

Related: 10 Backyard Landscaping Trends for the Perfect Summer Space

A small girl outdoors on wooden playground in garden in summer, playing as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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5. Play Date

If you have a young family, forget about having a huge, expansive lawn — turn that open outdoor space into a magical wonderland. Divide and designate areas for specific activities geared toward sensory exploration and imaginative play.

Turn logs and boulders into a natural obstacle course. Stock a children’s garden with edible plants. Transform an upcycled rowboat into a sandbox. Anything that gets your kids to connect with Mother Nature and explore their own nature is a win. Even if it’s only in your own small backyard, it all counts.

Related: Clover Lawns Are the Backyard Trend That Will Stand the Test of Time

Photo of a family unwinding and enjoying the garden tub, having a great time together following a sauna session as featured in HGTV.ca's The Best Ways to Pull Off a No-Grass Backyard
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6. Some Like It Hot

The popularity of Nordic-spa hydrotherapy (i.e. hot sauna, cold water) and the robust wellness market has allowed us to transform our ho-hum backyards into sauna sanctuaries. Barrel-sauna kit companies have sprouted up across the country, as well as a bevy of cold-plunge tubs of every shape and size. Add in the rise of remote work (and inability to “leave work at work”), and we’re searching for something to provide serenity and separation, just steps from our backdoor.

So, will you take the plunge and leave the lawn behind to build a no-grass backyard oasis instead?

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Related: 10 Backyard Wellness Trends Perfect for Canadian Homes



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