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To me "a lawn" conjures up an image of something well-kept, mowed green grass and flowers. So I've been thinking if a person doesn't care for the space in front of his house and lets it run wild, with weeds all over the place and some random grass patches here and there, will that still be a lawn? Or is there any special word to call it?

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If you don't mind using a golfing metaphor, you could humorously call this person's yard the deep rough. – J.R. Jan 25 at 14:34

10 Answers 10

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Unkempt lawn is the right term.

One of the definitions of unkempt is:

  1. uncared-for or neglected; disheveled; messy: unkempt clothes; an unkempt lawn.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unkempt

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overgrownGoogle

covered with plants that have been allowed to grow wild. "The garden was overgrown and deserted."

Reddit: Overgrown Railroad Tracks

enter image description here

Unmaintained Property in Chicago

The council passed, without dissent, an ordinance stiffening penalties for owners of any property where city workers have to cut overgrown lawns or remove junk. Officials have said it will be used mostly to target vacant lots and foreclosed buildings that are proliferating around the city. –chicago.everyblock.com

IIRC, Chicago's "legal" definition of overgrown lawn is when the grass is taller than 18 inches.

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If I were discussing land owned by one particular person that is adjacent to his residence, I would describe it as Neglected.

The home owners association kept on pestering my about my neglected lawn.

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I think the other answers address the case where an owner should have a nicely mowed lawn or tried to and has failed to maintain it. However, in rural areas (or areas on the boundary) here in the midwest some owners will choose to leave the natural grasses in place. We make the distinction between a turf lawn which is the more maintained, closely cut, green grass type lawn...

the upper stratum of soil bound by grass and plant roots into a thick mat -http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turf

...and the natural lawns which we tend to call prairie grass.

any of several grasses found on the prairies of the U.S. -http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prairie%20grass

A prairie grass lawn (also sometimes a native lawn) is typically mowed, although often less frequently (once a month or so) and for larger yards, only part of the yard around the house is mowed.

Example usage:

Our HOA limits the square footage of turf that we're allowed so we decided to just stick with prairie grass throughout.

For reference, a prairie grass lawn would look like:

Sample home with a prairie grass lawn

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Does the HOA limit the amount of turf because of water usage? – ab2 Jan 25 at 18:39
    
In my case, yes. – Pace Jan 25 at 20:12

If it is large enough (say, minimum 1/4 acre, but this is a guess), it can be a meadow. Merriam Webster

a usually flat area of land that is covered with tall grass

We have several meadows on my quasi-rural road. In our area (northern VA) meadows need to be regularly mown or they will revert to woodland. Several of the larger meadows are cropped by horses and mown three or four times a year. They also need full sun, or they will become weedy.

Our library planted a wildflower mix in its tiny meadow. It is spectacular six weeks of the year and charmingly rural the rest of the time.

But you are talking about something much smaller, weedy and with no wildflowers, and probably too shady to ever achieve meadowhood.

The word you are looking for is eyesore

eyesore Dictionary.com

something unpleasant to look at

A building, vacant, rubble strewn lot, or a messy front yard is an eyesore.

There is no technical landscaping term that I know of for a neglected lawn. You might want to go to Gardening and Landscaping SE, but if so, you should reword your Q so as not to post an identical question on two sites.

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Mazura's overgrown garden or yard is pretty much spot on. But if the OP wants to add a touch of hyperbole, I have often heard of gardens whose lawns were never cut, and where the weeds simply took over as being like jungles.

Equally common descriptors are

  • unruly or wild gardens

enter image description here

Jungle Garden

  1. How to turn an unruly jungle into a garden paradise
    The Seattle Times: Lifestyle
  2. The jungle in my garden needs to go
    Gardeners' World
  3. Taming the Overgrown Weed Jungle That is My Yard
    Pinterest
  4. The garden is 100ft long and a COMPLETE jungle!
    BabyCentre.UK
  5. Houseplants gone wild. A roadside bank of variegated philodendron lines the Hana Highway. So many of the wild jungle plants near here are introduced species
    (Blog on cooking, herbs and gardens)
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The closest term I can think of is "fallow." Either as an adjective, as in, "the ground in front of his house is fallow" or as a verb, as in, "he didn't pay attention to his lawn and let it fallow." It is also a noun, as in, "the fallow in front of his house used to be a lawn."

However, this term is generally used to describe farmland rather than residential landscaping. I think most people will just use words like "unkempt" or "unmaintained" in everyday usage.

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in general fallow means that one is delibertly not planting there to allow the soil to improve with the intent to farm it later. – EvilTeach Jan 23 at 23:08

You could call it untamed lawn.

untamed: allowed to remain in a wild state; not changed, controlled or influenced by anyone; not tamed Oxford Learner's Dictionary

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I prefer to call my lawn a natural area, thank you very much. :) – Tim Ward Jan 23 at 21:24

You may say that the lawn is in limbo.

Definition: A condition of prolonged uncertainty or neglect; state of oblivion for things cast aside, forgotten, or out of date.

enter image description here

Source: Gettysburg daily

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Doesn't quite answer the question as asked, but the photo is nice. – thb Jan 23 at 21:12

Assuming that you do not specifically wish to call attention to the lack of care and attention the lawn has been receiving of late, this would, in US English, be called a front yard, or just yard.

M-w defined a front yard merely as:

an area in front of a house

It also defines a yard as (among other definitions):

the grounds immediately surrounding a house that are usually covered with grass

Possibly, though I've not heard it used, it might also be called a front forty, akin to a back forty. I think that implies a certain size, though, while yard can be even a small scrap of land, with or without grass, overgrown, trampled to mud, or neatly mown.

M-w does not recognize the term "front forty", and its definition for "back forty" is contemptuously subscriber-only.

In UK English, the term "yard" usually describes a paved area, fenced or walled, so we would instead use front garden -- even if there are no flowerbeds or cultivated crops. Frankly, if there's anything growing at all, it's called a garden in England.

This is not really represented in the OED's definition, though, which just says of garden that it is:

[chiefly British] A piece of ground adjoining a house, used for growing flowers, fruit, or vegetables

And of course, in both places, lawn can also be used just fine. My wife often asks me "have you mown the lawn yet?" and I reply "sure I did, just last year!"

M-w says a lawn is:

ground (as around a house or in a garden or park) that is covered with grass and is kept mowed

It says nothing about how OFTEN it should be mown.

While lawns are technically cultivated grass, they are often unkempt, so the term lawn, by itself, doesn't imply much about the quality of the grass there. In fact, when there's a drought and all the neighborhood's grass dies, we still call them lawns. "No point watering the lawn, it's deader'n roadkill."

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If you're gonna downvote, at least say why so I can fix, ya scallawags. – Dewi Morgan Jan 25 at 5:16
    
It's not my downvote, but somehow I don't think the O.P. was after words like lawn and yard. Still, I can see what you were addressing: The O.P. said, To me "a lawn" conjures up an image of something well-kept, mowed green grass. You're pointing out that the word lawn can be used whether the grass is landscaped or not. – J.R. Jan 25 at 14:29
    
@J.R. The OP specifically asked the question "will that still be a lawn?" Others have answered the unasked question "what adjective can be used to describe the state of not being mown". That's a valid "reading between the lines" interpretation of the question, too, but my answering it would add nothing beyond the answers already given, so I instead answered the literal question as asked: an unmown lawn is typically referred to as a lawn, garden, or yard. – Dewi Morgan Jan 26 at 0:14
    
Well, it's not really an unasked question – it's asked in the title of the question. – J.R. Jan 26 at 0:35
    
@J.R. Personally I read "called" as asking for a noun, more than an adjective, but like I said: either can be valid. My question was what my question lacks that makes it downvotable: I understand you as suggesting perhaps because I failed to answer the question. If that was the reason, then I feel the downvoter didn't actually read the question. Plus, I just have a problem with people who downvote without giving reasons, because then there's no way to know what to improve. – Dewi Morgan Jan 26 at 1:22

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