Herbal Lawns
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from:
Posted on: September 3, 2000

We have just moved to Peterborough and in the process of planning to revamp the existing city yards. I would prefer to change the front yard and back yard to a mixture of herbs and shrubs......Need some help.

The front yard is the greatest challenge as I want the neighbours to accept a more natural lawn opposed to manicured grass.

o The front yard is 60 foot wide, Cape Code style house.

o I’m not one to water lawns unless absolutely necessary.

o I’d like some herbs that will do well in the lawn when cut with mower.

o Would like herbs that would suitable as border or point of interest beds.

Two herbs that come immediately to mind are wild thyme and yarrow. Both will form a dense turf, and both can tolerate cutting with a lawn mower. Neither is especially strong in shade, however; so you would have plant other herbs in any shaded areas. Thyme and yarrow can tolerate partial shade; you need only consider other herbs where shade persists more half of the day.

Wild thyme is the only creeping thyme that can be grown from seeds, which is significant if your budget is limited. There are many other low, creeping and spreading thymes, but none propagate by seeds and hence the establishment cost is very dear for large areas. You would need 2-4 plants per square foot to get a decent cover in one year. Seeding wild thyme is by far the smarter way.

There are many types of yarrows. The one I recommend is the common yarrow, Achillea millefolium. this species is available in seed form. I am especially partial to its lovely show of lacey leaves. When kept low with occasional cutting, it forms a wonderful soft mat that begs of hours of blissful laying about.

For the border areas and areas where you want to establish points of interest, there is much to choose from. Everything from lavenders to foxgloves to hollyhocks. Much depends on the dimensions of the border areas and what kind of show you want. Generally, it is wide open what you can grow.

Do you know of anyone in Peterborough that could guide me? We were spoiled in Burlington having the RBG [Royal Botanical Gardens] at our doorstep.

Sorry, we do not know anyone to recommend in your area. Peterborough is only an hour drive to Goodwood, so you really ought to come to Richters for a visit.

The backyard has a side slope and flat area. The house is two story with a walkout from the 3rd level. Full deck along the second level which allows you to view the back garden from a height. We also have to a large dog that has the run of the back yard.

Both yarrow and wild thyme can tolerate some traffic. Like grass, thoughm they will both suffer from frequent trodding, and bare areas will develop if the the traffic is too much. The areas nearest the dog house might become bare, but otherwise, both thyme and yarrow should be able to handle the traffic.

I know this is a tall request.....Hope you can help me.

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