A grass lawn is certainly the norm in the midwest, but it’s not the only option you have for your yard. And grass does have its drawbacks – mowing, watering, weeding, maybe even fertilizing and whatever else people do to their lawns. Face it, a grass lawn is not the most earth-friendly ground covering in most parts of the world. Nongrass alternatives can free you from these tasks forever, while still giving you a green lawn.
Almost any groundcover could prove satisfactory as a lawn alternative, and there are hundreds to choose from. It’s largely a process of narrowing down what you want – how tall you want it, whether you will want to walk on it a lot, whether you want it to flower or just stay green, how big you want the leaves to be, how fast you want it to spread, whether you have sun or shade, etc. Many of the local greenhouses or landscaping services should be able to walk you through your options. Sticking with native plants will lessen the maintainence needed and is more ecological.
Many families choose to lessen the amount of grass in their yard through gardens and clever landscaping with bushes, trees, mulch, and ornamental grasses and perennials. Here is a short article by a family who did just that. The goal here isn’t necessarily complete elimination of a grass lawn, but rather a lessening of the amount of grass.
Our family has been considering making the switch from grass to groundcover, but we just haven’t taken the plunge yet. (Frankly, I think if we just give it another few years, the grass alternatives that are already growing in our yard – clover and creeping charlie – will just take over on their own. And this is, actually, a method many families have also chosen – just stop caring for the lawn and see what happens. Nature hates a vacuum – something will take over after the grass dies.) We have purposefully removed the lawn in a few select places – mostly steep hills where the grass wasn’t growing very well anyway – and have started the process of getting groundcover in place and growing. In our third year now, it’s going well. We started slowly (very slowly) and are gaining momentum.
Now, if you know where I live, you’re probably snorting to yourself about the weedy mess we have on our most public section of lawn. Things were going well, for the most part, until we went on vacation last year and weeds took over while the good stuff kind of shriveled up. It’s looking a bit better this year, and will do even better next year. And the city’s going to tear up part of our hill later this year, so we’ve decided to just let it look like an eyesore until then. Somehow I feel that letting that part of my yard look bad until they start work is somehow getting a bit of revenge on the city. Which is illogical, but oh well!
Some Online Resources:
PS, if you need any evidence that Americans love their lawns, this research study was an interesting read.