Awhile ago I attended a lecture by the guy that wrote Edible Estates. He gave a short lesson in landscape design history and this I found interesting: The Great American Lawn really comes from the Great English Estate. Originally, if you had a sprawling lawn, then it was a show of wealth because clearly you were so rich you didn't need your land to be productive *and* clearly you employed someone to keep it trimmed.
Now, strictly speaking I am not anti-lawn if they are maintained in a responsible way (e.g., not ODing on fertilizer, not heavily watered during drought, etc.). But, for my little barely tenth-of-an-acre lot, every square inch needs to have a purpose. That purpose could be growing food, providing a nice place to sit, growing flowers that brighten my day or fostering wildlife. When a portion of our front yard failed to do any of the above & actually refused to grow grass, something had to be done. Thus, we turned one-third of our front yard into an herb garden and shade garden.
I foolishly forgot to take photos of the before, but just imagine a mowed mess of weeds. The soil is heavy clay there and insanely compacted even before the construction we had done this spring. To say growing grass there was an uphill battle is an understatement. And, really, I didn't see the need to fight that uphill battle when the front half of the yard gets an amazing amount of sunlight...a rare commodity at my house.
Basically, I got a bunch of newspapers off Freecycle (free) and a truck load of mulch from my county ($50). Just lay down a thick layer of newsprint and cover with a generous amount (at least 3 in) of mulch and Voila! Instant lawn-be-gone. For the herb garden, I got some pavers ($1.77 each) and some compost (about $8) and garden soil (another $8 or so). To be honest, I may try to squeeze in another circle somewhere. The beauty of this whole set up is that it's completely, and easily, changable.
Right now (which isn't shown in these pictures...) I have planted my sage in the center of the largest circle. I'm probably going to plant garlic around half of it (if I get around to doing that this year...) and borage for the other half. In the medium circle there is my woody herbs: Rosemary, thyme (2 kinds), marjoram and oregano. And, finally, in the smallest circle that gets the most shade there is mint buried in containers.
I'm also going to add a lot of shade plants between the fence and the path to the side yard as well as a few between the fence and the herb circles...probably in spring or so. I'm looking forward to spending the winter scheming about this!!!