Top 5 Alternative Lawn Ideas
What’s your idea of a relaxing day? In this busy life we lead we need downtime; time to relax and unwind. I don't know about you, but for me relaxation does not include mowing the lawn! Although there are people who really do enjoy that activity, this article is not aimed toward them. This dissertation is , however, intended for those of us who would rather do almost anything other than haul out the old mowing machine, fill it with expensive fuel, and then spend the afternoon in the hot sun going in circles
General Benefits of Alternative Lawns
- Tough and Drought Tolerant
- Little to No Mowing, depending upon which alternative you choose
- Attractive Nectar Source for Birds, Beneficial Insects and Bees
- Beauty and Fragrance
- Little to No Fertilizer Necessary
- Covers Areas That Are Hard to Mow
5 Alternative Lawn Ideas
- Low growing maintenance-free drought tolerant ground covers.
- Fragrant herbs that are tolerant of foot traffic and drought.
- Wildflowers with bricks or pavers used as walkways.
- Naturalized bulbs flanking stepping stone avenues.
- Flower beds that include old-fashioned fragrant varieties like lily of the valley, roses, etc.
What is Your Favorite Kind of Lawn?
1. Ground Covers
This type of lawn is low growing, drought tolerant, and virtually maintenace free. It will spread easily and be successful even where nothing else grows. If you have hard-to-mow hillsides or other areas that are difficult to access, ground covers will work very well.
One of my favorite ground covers is vinca. In the spring it sports tons of blue, pink or white flowers which are full of nectar. I have this planted on a slope where I also put in stone steps. It looks very rustic and stays green right through frost. Vinca spreads by using tendrils both above and underground, so it can be invasive if used in flower beds.
Vinca is not fussy about soil or light conditions or moisture. Mine grows lavishly in hardpan clay under a thick tree canopy. It receives approximately 3 to 4 hours of morning sun, and then about 3 hours of hot afternoon sunshine. I have never watered or fertilized it!
More Ground Covers
Preferred Soil Conditions
tolerates dry soil
Bees and Other Beneficial Insects
tolerates dry soil
Bees and Butterflies
grows under trees
Cinquefoil (False Strawberry)
Butterflies, Bees & Beneficials
Birds, Bees, Beneficials
slightly moist but tolerates dry
Lamium (Dead Nettle)
Birds, Butterflies & Bees
grows in shade or sun, any soil
Bees & Beneficials
sun or shade, any soil
2. Herbal Lawns
A strictly herbal lawn would be expensive and not as successful as a 50/50 herb-to-grass lawn. There are new eco-friendly types of low-growing fescue grasses that grow slowly and are more drought tolerant.
These types of grasses mixed with fragrant low-growing herbs make for a luxurious and textural carpet. They are tough and tolerant of foot traffic. Mowing should be done about once a month only, to insure the grass stays between 2 1/2" to 3" tall, which shades the roots and helps retain soil moisture.
If you would like to plant a small area with fragrant herbs, there are many varieties available from which to choose. Some feature herbs like Roman chamomile, sweet alyssum, dwarf yarrow, baby blue eyes and strawberry clover.
Butterflies, honeybees and birds depend on native herbs and grasses for both nectar and seeds. Additonally, many birds use grass for nest building material.
Herbal Lawn Mixture
- Hobbs & Hopkins Ltd. | ProTime Lawn Seed | Fleur de Lawn
Fleur de Lawn: An...
Benefits of Wildflower Gardens
- Attracts beneficial insects, bees, butterflies and birds.
- Produces nectar and host plants for butterflies.
- Re-seeds itself throughout the season.
- Seed heads provide nutritious food and harbor tiny insects for overwintering birds.
- Maintenance free.
- Needs no weeding and little watering!
3. Wildflower Meadows
If you have room for even a small wildflower meadow, it will reap long-lasting benefits for the visitors who find it. Prairies and tall grass meadows were once the norm, but urban and suburban sprawl has all but eliminated this rich ecosystem.
Many host plants for butterflies are among the wildflowers in a meadow setting.
The meadow is a very important place for all kinds of wildlife, bees, butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. In fact, if you have a hillside that you would rather not have to mow, why not consider planting it with beautiful care-free tall grasses and flowers?
Source for Wildflowers
- Wildflower Farm wildflowers, wild flowers, wildflower seeds, native wildflowers, Eco-Lawn, ecolawn,
Wildflower Farm, The source for wildflowers, Wildflower seed mixes, native plants and native grasses
How to Naturalize Flower Bulbs
4. Naturalized Flower Bulb Garden
Bulb gardens are easy and care-free sources of fragrance and beauty in the spring. But did you know there are many kinds of bulbs you can plant that will last throughout the summer and fall?
To naturalize bulbs, simply toss a few onto the lawn or prepared bed and then plant them where they land! It's that easy. I like to add 1/2 tsp. to a full tsp. of bonemeal to the planting hole and mix it into the soil. This helps feed and strengthen the bulb so it can produce beautiful blooms.
Fall is the best time to plant spring bulbs, and summer bulbs can be planted in the spring when all danger of frost has passed. Just imagine a winding walkway flanked on either side with flowering bulbs of all sizes and colors.
Rule of Thumb for Planting Bulbs:
Plant bulb 3 times the width of the bulbs: ex. 2" wide bulb should be planted 6" deep.
Invest in a bulb-planting tool. If you are planting a large amount of bulbs it is invaluable, easily punching a hole at the proper depth (gradation lines on the planter). Pull out the plug of dirt and/or sod cut by the planter tool and drop in your bulb!
Tip: Plant summer flowering bulbs that are sensitive to freezing temperatures in small containers so the bulbs can be stored in a heated garage or basement over the winter.
Summer Flowering Bulbs
Cold Hardiness Zones
Cold Hardiness Zone Map from Arbor Day.Org
Benefits of Bulb Gardens
- No mowing!
- Inexpensive--bags full of bulbs are available for reasonable prices.
- Produce a beautiful show all spring, summer and fall, depending upon your zone.
- Provide lots of flowers for arrangements.
- Some varieties of lilies, hyacinths, iris, alliums, lilies of the valley, and many other bulbs are very fragrant.
- Attract bees, butterflies and beneficial insects.
5. Cut Flower Gardens
Can you imagine your whole yard filled with flower beds with pathways in between! You can use most any material for the access lanes. Gravel, bricks, pavers, ground covers, stepping stones, etc. would all make beautiful walkways.
If you love cut flower bouquets, then this is the type of alternative lawn for you! Color, fragrance, and variety add up to a gardener's dream 'lawn'. Select flowers that will bloom at different times of the season so that there will be a constant show.
Planting densely is the key here. That way few weeds have a chance to gain a foothold. Use the best organic garden soil you can, amending with aged compost, sawdust, peat moss or whatever you have access to. If your plants are healthy, they will naturally fend off insect infestations and weedy usurpers.
Birds, butterflies and bees will all appreciate a yard full of fragrance, nectar and seed-producing flowers. Old-fashioned cut garden selections would include:
Tips for Best Cut Flower Gardens
- start with good organic soil and lots of sunshine
- mulch is essential
- water regularly and enjoy armloads of cut flowers all season long
- "Do it yourself" pest control / Homemade pesticides,...
Following are a few recipes for Do-it yourself- pest control for the home organic gardener. Yes, you can make natural pesticide, insecticide, insect repellant, organic pesticide, and fungicide from recipes...
We need to do all we can to help re-establish natural food sources for all the pollinators. The most important thing you can do, or rather not do, is use toxic chemical pesticides. After all, pesticides are non-discriminate; they kill all insects, including beneficial bugs and our most important pollinators--bees.
Beneficial insects, butterflies and birds will flock to your yard while you sit and sip your iced tea. A lot less mowing and a lot more homegrown beauty, fragrance and songbirds--sounds like a win-win situation to me!