Goodbye, Grass: Best Eco-Friendly Lawn Alternatives

April 9, 2013

Spring is in the air and millions of Americans are tending to their lawns — their needy, voraciously thirsty lawns. Grass lawns drink up a staggering amount of the water supply, and are always begging for your attention. To conserve water and end lawnmower pollution, Americans have a duty to consider eco-friendly lawn alternatives. After all, a yard can still be a yard without grass.

Alternative Ground Cover

Before presenting alternative lawns for you to consider, we’ve assembled these facts concerning the effects of lawns on the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

• Twenty million acres are planted in residential lawns
• Depending on the city, 30 to 60 percent of urban fresh water is used to water lawns
• Sixty-seven million pounds of synthetic pesticides are applied to U.S. lawns
• More than $5 billion are spent on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers for U.S. lawns

eco-friendly lawn alternatives

The following lawns are green in more ways than one:

Moss

A green covering of downy moss makes for a dainty lawn. Depending on the species, moss varies in texture and overall appearance. Plant moss after the final frost of spring, OrganicGardening.com suggests. When moss becomes established in moist environments, it rarely needs watering. Clay and compacted soil aren’t usually advantageous to growth, but with moss, it actually grows best under these soil conditions. Moss can endure intermittent footsteps, but it’d be best to install stepping-stones to mitigate the issue. 

Buffalograss

Yes, buffalograss is indeed grass, but bear with us. Sometimes called “the lazy man’s grass,” this native prairie plant requires minimal water, little mowing and little maintenance, according to OrganicGardening.com. Planting buffalograss mixed with blue grama will increase your lawn’s resilience and density. Mowing down a dense lawn isn’t always easy so you’ll need a machine that’s up for the challenge; Popular Mechanics suggests a Husqvarna riding lawn mower, specifically the Rider 14 pro for its successful design.

Clover

Under full sun or part shade, White Dutch clover thrives as a perennial lawn alternative, according to OrganicGardening.com. Now is the perfect time to plant clover seeds as long as temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Clover lawns need only infrequent mowing. Tiny, white flowers bloom forth from clover and though visually appealing, the flowers will attract bees. If bees are a problem, plant the shorter and smaller-leaved microclover instead.

Lawn-Free

Another option to go green is by losing the green in your yard. In between stone walkways and paths, gravel can look quite attractive in the right sizes and colors. Low stone walls flanking flagstone pathways can add a stunning architectural addition to your home. Surround those additions with drought-tolerant plants and shrubs resting in a bed of mulch, and you’ll have a lawn that’s more beautiful than before, requires little if any work and is economically friendly. Extending your patio or deck can take up more grass space.

Benny is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago and loves musicals.

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