Mow No More: 11 Lovely, Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives

How do you feel about your lawn? Do you love caring for it, working endlessly and happily to make every last blade of grass the same height and color? If so, check out our lawn care tips and go on your merry way. But if you harbor a little disdain for the oh-so-perfect lawn and wish for an alternative, read on.

creeping thyme groundcover as lawn alternative

A gorgeous groundcover, red creeping thyme can be used as a substitute for turf grass — and it tastes great on potatoes!

First, a quick history lesson on lawns: In medieval Europe, lawns were created for a town’s communal grazing spaces. They were fenced-in areas, usually in the center of town, where cows or sheep could be contained. So they started out as purely functional, but the pretty expanse of green grass soon became fashionable, too — in Europe and here across the pond — and by the time of suburban expansion in the 1950′s, having a lush lawn signified “We’ve made it!” for American homeowners.

Just check out this gorgeous lawn, one of many you might recognize in our 21 Famous Lawns slideshow.

White House lawn

Okay, I get it, lawns are pretty. But …

Today, homeowners who are weary of fertilizers and insecticides (like me) — or who have hard-core grass allergies (me) … or are tired of spending their weekends mowing (me! well, my husband …) — are looking for alternatives to a monoculture of grass. It might not be feasible (or good for drainage or my wallet) to completely remove all the grass at our house, but I could replace a few areas with alternative plants to reduce the overall effects.

Groundcovers are typically the best options for lawn alternatives, because they keep a low profile (like turf grass) but don’t require mowing. There are even some edible and medicinal options, like creeping thyme and chamomile.

Replacing an entire lawn with groundcover and landscaping will totally change the look of the space, so it’s definitely worth making a no-lawn landscape design plan. And let’s be honest, the wild-ish look is not for everyone, but I really love it. Here’s a before and after example.

before and after lawn alternatives

Before, a perfect lawn for a bocce court; after, lots of variety and color and texture — it’s your choice

You can see more before and afters and real-life alternative lawns in this gallery.

Not that grasses are all bad. It’s fun to roll down a grassy hill, for instance, or do cartwheels in the front yard. Oh, and there’s croquet. There are also lots of lovely grass varieties that aren’t meant for lawns, ornamental grasses that grow tall and flowy and add color and texture to a landscape. I currently have a bit of an obsession with Japanese forest grass, one of several you can peruse here.

So what do you think? Are you open to lawn alternatives or are you sticking by tradition (i.e. keeping it medieval)?

19 Responses

  1. ralphwycoff says:

    how such a nice lawn

  2. Chuck Bedy says:

    I am a HUGE fan of HGTV, but I would love to see/read about weed eradication & stopping invasive weeds from ruining South Florida lawns. I have spent a small fortune on anti-weed chemicals, grass & soil fertilizer and several pallets of sod. the weeds keep coming. what is your recommended solution? PLEASE.

  3. barb brandt says:

    For moss like mine (not sure what kind but really lovely, I have a high water table and acid soil. Pine trees of several varieties contribute to the acidic conditions. Shade makes the moss happy. The sunny can be clover or wildflowers or vegetable garden (lime helps) and herbs. Decorative grasses like the sunny part of the yard, along with roses. Made the mistake of bamboo. It likes everything.

  4. Sofarsogood says:

    Can you tell me if the irish moss can be grown in Zone 10? I love that look…

  5. Terry Daley says:

    At Daleys Turf we believe that after care service is just as important as the lawn installation itself. To help you create and keep the best lawn in your street, we have put together this comprehensive lawn installation & maintenance section, to help you install and then maintain your lawn, to keep it looking great all year round

  6. Jan says:

    CONTINUED…..from Jan The metal hooks come very small, very strong, faster, easier , CAN be done without tearing the material and require NO tools. This method requires that the dowel be sealed in with sewing glue or wide stitch-witchery. They also sell a perfect, inexpensive bracket to hold the the header at a better angle. These only slightly increase the cost of YOUR ALREADY GREAT IDEAS that saved me money! But they really look good and are worth it. You made me a fan….Jan

  7. Jan says:

    Hi Emma, I saw that your sheets seem to come in a bag…..that usually means it is stretchy material and one reason for your roman shade bagging in the middle. Another…reason is those big curtain rings you sewed on. Excellent idea but I love the hardware store. They have a million size metal rings with self screw ends

  8. Stimulating post.This time, we got the following some lawn mowers crossword puzzle clue.Some mowers additionally embody alternative talents, like mulching or assembling their clippings. 2 main kinds of blades ar utilized in field mowers.Thank you.

  9. Emma says:

    I wish to add a beautiful fishpond in my backyard in fact it’s my wife’s wish and I’m trying to complete her wish J but I don’t want to build any conventional type of fishpond I’m trying to do something new and innovative. You share fantastic ideas here thanks for sharing these ideas.

    For more help please see this

  10. karen says:

    I was glad to see some grasses that were hardy to zone 3! We do have some grasses that are invasive and a lot of thyme are hardy. A larger difficulty may arise from my neighbours (!) until they realize that the reason I sold my lawn mower was because I'm no longer out mowing…

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About Kelly Smith Trimble 

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I grow vegetables wherever I can find enough sunlight and forage roadsides and hiking trails for plants that can be used to make natural dyes. You can find both vintage ...

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