Turfgrass lawns are often the quintessential image of a well-kept yard. Grassy lawns are bright, green, soft, and beautiful—but they are not, unfortunately, very good for the environment.
Homeowners know all too well that grass lawns must be constantly fertilized, mowed, and watered on a schedule. All of that maintenance requires time, money, and resources that negatively impact the local ecosystem. For example, herbicide runoff from fertilizers is harmful for surrounding plants and animals. Lawn mowers contribute to CO2 emissions. Water waste is a big problem, and inefficiently watered lawns contribute to nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year.
Not only that, but turfgrass does nothing to support pollinators. Birds, bees, and butterflies are essential parts of your local ecosystem that need flowering plants to thrive.
So, what can be done? Is a grass lawn really worth all the negatives?
As many people are finding ways to improve their homes to be more eco-friendly and feel-good environments, many are ditching grass lawns. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to replace or reduce the size of a grass lawn. So many of these options are lush, colorful, support valuable pollinators, and are even low maintenance. Along with visuals from Angi, we’ll discuss the benefits of several lawn alternatives below.
Ground covers are plants that grow low to the soil and spread to form a lush blanket over the yard. With a little bit of time to establish, they can cover all or part of a lawn. Many ground covers also flower and therefore provide nourishment for butterflies, birds, bees, and hummingbirds. However, the best part about ground covers is that they don’t require any mowing. Only requiring annual trimming if desired, these plants stay at relatively low heights and will save you the need to use the lawn mower.
Here are several compelling ground cover options and their benefits in the yard:
Even more ground cover options include:
- Coriscan Mint: an aromatic, edible green plant that tolerates mild foot traffic and grows fast
- Sweet Woodruff: another edible herb plant with star-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers
- Creeping jenny: a charming, evergreen perennial that wraps around stone paths and spills over hills and walkways
Flowers, Shrubs, and Ornamental Grasses
Everyone loves a pleasant flowerbed, making flowers and shrubs a great option to reduce the size of a grass lawn. These plants are aesthetically beautiful, adding eye-catching colors and height to the yard. They are especially eco-friendly if you choose native flower and shrub species. These will attract local pollinators and require very little water and fertilizer to maintain, since they are already well adapted to the native soil.
Here are just a few ideas and their benefits:
More flower, shrub, and ornamental grass ideas include:
- Roman chamomile: a hardy, flowering plant that enriches the soil and tolerates droughts
- Fountain grass: an ornamental grass that grows tall and lush like a fountain
- Blue oat grass: a blue/green, shrub-like ornamental grass that grows in a tuft shape in shrub beds
Other Lawn Materials
It is also a valid option to opt for non-plant lawn replacements. Again, these options can replace all or just a section of a grass lawn to cut down on water usage. These landscaping materials require the least amount of resources and effort to maintain, so if you’re looking to significantly cut back on lawn upkeep, consider one of these.
Other ideas include:
- Cobblestone: Albeit a more expensive option, a cobblestone patio or walkway through the yard has an old-world, enchanting feel
- Flagstone path or patio: a common outdoor walkway material with plenty of colors and stone styles to choose from
- River rocks: a smooth, more serene-looking alternative to gravel
If you own a lawn and you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint and be kinder to the environment, choosing a lawn alternative can make a big impact. Any of these ideas can help you reduce the resources needed to maintain your yard. By embracing one or more lawn alternatives, not only will you do the environment a favor, but you’ll also save yourself time and money, all while creating a refreshed and beautiful space outside your home.
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