Oh, the scent of freshly mowed grass! That beautiful emerald green carpet is almost a suburban requisite, or at least it has been in previous decades.
Oh, the scent of freshly mowed grass! That beautiful emerald green carpet is almost a suburban requisite, or at least it has been in previous decades. It’s hard to argue that it does not have many excellent attributes. It’s a peaceful place to rest your eyes around a home and looks beautiful showcasing a mixed border. It’s durable yet soft under your feet. But in order to achieve that idyllic lawn requires great effort and expense.
In most cases, that luscious lawn demands a tremendous amount of maintenance, water, and fertilizers to achieve that ideal look. According to some estimates, lawns occupy nearly 50,000 square miles in this country, an area nearly the size of New York State. Additionally, some experts calculate that one-third of our water usage in the U.S. goes toward landscaping. And because many yards use non-native grass species, they are in need of constant fertilizing and weeding. And, according to some EPA studies, lawn equipment emits 11 times the pollution created by cars. Thus, from both a maintenance and environmental standpoint, some homeowners are seeking substitutes to the traditional lawn.
The good news for those that still want the look of that peaceful green canvas is there are many lawn alternatives that can accommodate foot traffic, pet traffic, and regular lawn games. In fact, it is probably time to broaden our idea of lawns to include other low-growing plants that require far less maintenance than turf grass.
>Creeping Thyme — A gorgeous bed of creeping thyme may look delicate, but thyme is quite durable and can withstand low-traffic areas of the yard. Additionally, thyme leaves are fragrant and smell beautiful when people walk on them. Creeping Thyme thrives in well-drained soil in sun to part-shade.
>Clover or Microclover — White Dutch Clover has become a popular grass alternative because it thrives easily in full sun to part-shade. Moreover, it is very low-maintenance because it takes nitrogen from the air and stores it in root nodules, so there is no need to fertilize. It spreads horizontally and only needs an occasional mow if you prefer a shorter look. White Dutch Clover does attract bees due to the white flowers, but you can trim those off if that is a concern.
>Fescue Grass — The primary advantage over traditional grasses is that you barely have to mow it. As it grows longer, the blades merely fold over themselves and blow gently in the wind. If you prefer a shorter look, mowing once a month is sufficient. Shade- and drought-tolerant, it will stay green through most of the year.
>Sedges — There are many options in the Carex species that are wonderful groundcover grasses. Some thrive in the sun and others appreciate the shade. You can leave them unmowed for a softer, breezy look or maintain a more formal look with just a few cuts a year. After sedges flower, allow their seeds to scatter to fill the gaps between clumps. Sedge lawns stand up well to light foot traffic.
If you’re now feeling motivated to trade in your turf grass, “Lawn Gone!: Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives For Your Yard” by Pam Penick is a great resource.
— The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee