This Burnaby resident was fed up with his water-guzzling lawn. So he got rid of it

Chris Campbell

Many residents of Burnaby have been plagued in recent years by the chafer beetle - leading to many ruined lawns and angry fists waved at the sky.

Burnaby resident Joe Kelly was one of those people. He worked hard every year to battle the bug and maintain his green grass.

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But last year was different. Kelly had reached a breaking point with all the lawn repairs and the revelation of how unfriendly to the environment laws really are. They require mowing - which can increase greenhouse gases if you use a gas mower - frequent watering, fertilizers and weed killers.

“I got tired of repairing my lawn and I went in a different direction,” Kelly says.

How different? Well, he got rid of the damn thing.

Instead, Kelly applied what he says is a do-it-yourself technique called "sheet mulching."

“I easily replaced my front lawn with a garden,” Kelly says. “The theme for my garden was water-wise, low maintenance and beautiful plants, including some edibles.”

Now he’s spreading the word because he wants others to try it because of the many environmental benefits.

Joe Kelly's lawn before he replaced it. CONTRIBUTED

“My hope is that by doing a story about this, it will encourage more Burnaby residents to take my approach and convert their lawns to water-wise gardens,” Kelly says.

Here are just a few on the benefits of converting a lawn to a water-wise garden:

  • You never have to mow a lawn again, which reduces greenhouse gases and noise. 
  • Attracts pollinators to the neighbourhood, including various species of bees, humming birds and butterflies.
  • Reduces water consumption. You rarely have to water a water-wise garden, even during periods of drought.
  • Abundant seed from echinacea and rudbeckia feeds birds in the winter.
  • No need to use harmful weed killers like you do with a lawn.
  • Looks great.
  • Edibles provide great tasting food, cheaply, and also reduces green-house gases because you don't have to buy as many imported fruits and veggies, which must be shipped here.
  • Starts many interesting conversations with neighbours and other people walking past your house.
  • You can achieve stress relief by walking or sitting within the tranquility of your water-wise garden. In particular, the scent of lavender and sage is known to reduce stress.
  • Once a water-wise garden is fully installed, it's very low maintenance.

So there you have it. One person making a different by trading his lawn in Spanish lavender, hot lips sage, dwarf fig trees and grape tomatoes.

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