Turf lawns are a tradition that extends back to the Middle Ages in Europe where such a lawn was a status symbol. A properly kept lawn required extensive watering and the care of many hands. Today a turf lawn is still a status symbol that many homeowners aspire to, and it still requires work, water, and money.
In the days of rising energy and water prices and economic depression, many homeowners are seeking alternatives to the eternally thirsty grass lawn.
4 Alternative Lawn Options
Consider Clover Lawns
One low maintenance lawn alternative is the clover lawn. White clover, also known as Dutch clover or Dutch white clover, grows to two to eight inches in height, reducing the need for mowing. It is drought resistant with a deep root system and stays green even in the heat of summer with minimal water. Almost any soil type is suitable for growing clover and as a nitrogen fixing plant, it improves the soil as it grows rather than needing fertilization. Since clover chokes out most weeds, no herbicides are necessary. Clover won’t stand up to heavy foot traffic as well as a traditional turf lawn, but it will feel luxurious under bare feet, and if mixed with grass or another grass alternative it will resist heavier traffic. However, it does resist those unsightly brown spots common in yards with dogs.
Sedge: A Native Alternative Grass
Another alternative is sedge. With over 2,000 varieties of this grass-like plant, there is one for every occasion. The types that most accurately mimic a turf lawn come in varieties suited for every environment found in the continental United States. Sedges grow well in sun and shade and rapidly fill in their allotted space. They tolerate light to moderate foot traffic, are soft underfoot, and only need mowing two or three times a year. Expensive herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are unnecessary as sedges are hardy plants that will quickly choke out the competition.
Want to learn more about low maintenance landscaping? Check out our Guide
Irish Moss for Wet Environments
In moister climates, Irish moss provides a soft, weed resistant ground cover. This moss-like plant has long been used as an accent between pavers and in Japanese-inspired gardens, but in the right environment it makes an excellent lawn. A delight underfoot, Irish moss is a rich green that sprouts white, star-shaped flowers from time to time. At one to two inches tall it never needs mowing.
For light traffic lawns, there are a number of herbs that will create a sensory delight when walked on. Creeping thyme, Corsican mint, chamomile, and oregano, to name a few, are all low, creeping plants that will provide a good ground cover. Rather than being mowed, these lawns can be harvested for seasoning, teas, and sachets. However, herbs are less drought tolerant, requiring regular watering to maintain plant health.
Initial expense of these alternatives includes purchase of plants and the work to remove the lawn and install the new plants; however, once they have grown in they can be savored for many years with a minimum of effort and expense.