Published On March 12, 2019
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In this post: Easy steps to replace your ugly lawn with wood chips, and create a no-water yard.

Create a no-water yard

A few years ago, I tried an experiment on half my front lawn. I covered over the grass with soil, and planted hardy ground cover.

While I loved how it looked for the first year or two, over time it started to look overgrown and untidy. Also, it had beautiful bright colors and blooms in the spring, but just looked plain for the rest of the year.

I decided it was time to replace the ground cover. While I was at it, I tackled the other side of the front lawn as well, and create a no-water yard.

Create a No-Water Yard


Here’s what my front lawn looked like before I started this project. Brown, patchy, and full of weeds. (The weeds are the only green spots.)

Dead lawn needs to be replaced

There is nothing attractive about this “lawn.” I don’t want to use a lot of water and weed killer to grow grass that just has to be mowed all the time.

On the other side of the driveway was my ground cover experiment.

Creating a no-water yard

See what I mean about how it started to look overgrown? Over several (OK, many) weekends, I dug it all out by hand. It wasn’t fun work, but it was at least good exercise.


I decided to replace my lawn with wood chips. They make great ground cover, keep weeds down, create a very tidy appearance, and require no maintenance at all. The perfect no-water yard.

1. Dig out the edges

To prepare the space, I started by digging out the existing lawn around the edges. Where the lawn (weeds) met the sidewalk or driveway, I dug it out with a shovel.

Digging out an old lawn

The reason for doing this was simply to lower the ground level a few inches. When the wood chips get spread on top, I don’t want them to spill onto the concrete.

2. Cover grass with cardboard

Since I didn’t want to dig out my entire lawn, once I was done digging out the edges, I just covered the rest with large pieces of cardboard. You can use old shipping boxes, or also several layers of newspaper.

Cover lawn with cardboard

The cardboard will help keep the grass from growing up through your wood chips, and it breaks down over time.

Be sure to plan ahead for this.

I underestimated how much cardboard I would need, and my mom and I ended up asking my neighbors and people out walking their dogs if they had any old boxes we could have. Save yourself the embarrassment!

3. Get the wood chips delivered

I had a load of 4.5 cubic yards of wood chips delivered, and dumped directly onto the work area on one side of the driveway.

I highly recommend getting your materials delivered as close to your work area as possible, to save yourself the work of moving it!

Wood chips to replace grass

If you need help figuring out how much material to buy, the companies that sell it often have calculators on their websites.

For a little more help planning your project, pick up a copy of the Single Girl’s DIY Project Planning Workbook. It includes the formulas for calculating material amounts, and guidance for planning out every step of your project.

DIY project planning workbook sample

4. Spread the wood chips

The rest is just a lot of moving wood chips from one place to another. Use a shovel to fill up a wheelbarrow, and take it to where you want it in the yard. Then spread the wood chips out smoothly with a rake.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…

Wood chips replace lawn


I love the result. It’s clean and tidy looking year-round, and requires no maintenance.

No mowing, no watering, no fertilizing, no thatching, no nothin’.

Here are a few more pictures of my new no-water yard. (With a big thanks to my mom for helping me spread all those wood chips!)

DIY Project Planning Workbook

Remember, if you want a little extra help with your project, pick up a copy of the Project Planning Workbook. It lays out all the steps I use for planning my own DIY projects.

If you create a no-water yard following these steps, be sure to drop me a line and let me know how it turns out!

Create a no-water yard No maintenance lawn alternative

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8 Comments on Create a No-Water Yard

  1. What color are your wood chips?and how deep did you do your edgeing?do you think cement blocks painted would hold the chips in,where I, thinking of trying this is kind of little slope,what works better newspaper or the cardbroad?Thank You

    • Hi, Barb! My wood chips are just natural cedar. They start a bright, light wood tone, but do tend to turn gray over time. The edging in my yard was already there, but cement blocks would certainly hold the chips in place. For a slight slope, I think newspaper might work better than cardboard. Get it wet with the hose before you put the chips down, and that might help keep them from sliding right off until they’ve settled in a bit. Good luck!

  2. It looks nice! Do you think you will have to replace some of the wood chips every year as they compost or disintegrate?

  3. LOve it. I plan to do this on a smaller scale, but instead of chips I plan to use small stones. Currently, killing the grass, will add both newspapers and cardboard,then a heavy duty plastic and finally stones.

  4. Hi Jenny,
    Another use of the front yard is a vegetable garden, but it wouldn’t save watering, if that’s the whole objective here. You can put cardboard over the lawn, build boxes (wood, stone, or any raised edging), and fill with garden soil. No tilling needed- the roots will find their way through. The chips between beds make lovely paths. Instant garden!

    • Great idea! I think in many ways, the goal of a no-water yard is to not waste water by just keeping grass alive. However, if water is being used towards food production which will give you healthier food and save money, then the water is used wisely. Great idea about the boxes, thank you.

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