Lawn Alternatives

For many of us, it is grass cutting season again–and that fact is not bringing joy into our lives.

Lawns first originated with the aristocracy in Europe and were a sign of wealth and status. The trend was transported to the Americas and is certainly still with us today. The lawn, and its rigorous care, is without a doubt one of the status symbols of the American suburbs.

Most of us don’t sit around drinking Pimm’s Cup and playing croquet all summer long though, so why in the world are we still identured to this outdated notion?

And that’s not to mention that quite a lot of chemicals are leached into our groundwater in the name of the mighty lawn. Many of these same chemicals have also been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybee populations, which has severe implications for our future food production security. Plus, with many parts of the U.S. facing another dry summer, watering a lawn just doesn’t seem like a great priority.

If that’s not enough reason for you to stop worshiping the outdated concept of the lawn, here are a few ideas for what you can do instead of a traditional turf lawn:

1. Plant creeping ground covers. Creeping thyme or clover don’t need mowing, fertilizing and are somewhat drought resistant. They are also hardy enough to handle foot traffic and feel great to walk on in bare feet too! They might not be able to handle a touch football game, but it’s probably the next best thing to a turf lawn.

Creeping Thyme

2. Create a wildlife habitat in your yard. Depending on your state and local regulations, you can create a water feature, create a butterfly garden targeting endangered butterflies, plant native wildflowers at risk from invasive plants and qualify as an official wildlife habitat. That gets you off the hook for those pesky lawn restrictions still on the books and enforced in many cities and towns. Get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension office, Horticultural Society and/or Nature Conservancy for resources, help and advice.

Raised Beds

3. Plant food! There’s a renewed interest in vegetable and fruit gardening as more and more folks want to eat healthier, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint. Get on the bandwagon. And don’t be afraid to put those raised beds in the front of your house if that’s where the sun is–your neighbors might not be on board at first, but be neighborly with them and share some of your haul and they’ll get tow the line. Do make sure to check out your local regulations first though, and if they aren’t favorable, maybe get involved to try and change them.

4. Consider putting in a paved, brick or stone patio. While this might not be practical for your whole lawn, you can do this in conjunction with some of these other options to minimize the amount of tradition lawn. This helps keep maintenance to a minimum, because you want time to to enjoy your yard, right?

Images: koocbor| Gardener SusanLori L. Stalteri