Natural green grass lawns are beautiful, but they are difficult to maintain, and many environmentalists believe they effectively do more harm than good for the environment. Excessive water consumption and wastage, gas guzzling lawn mowers with toxic emissions, and an obsession with chemical fertilizers and pesticides to save the lawns are the anti-environmental outcomes of maintaining natural lawns. On a personal level, it can be a time consuming and expensive proposition to maintain large natural grass lawns.
The following are some viable grass alternatives that are easier to maintain and put lesser strain on the environment:
Groundcover plants typically do not require cutting or any other special maintenance. They tend to spread over the ground and do not grow in height. They help in soil enrichment by behaving as mulch, and a few groundcovers have nitrogen fixing properties. A wide range of groundcovers, including flowering varieties are available. Low growth herbs such as strawberries make edible groundcovers. In the first year following the planting of groundcovers, some maintenance is required such as mulching and weeding. But once they are thriving, they hardly need any further care.
Clover as a Grass Alternative
Clover is a popular grass alternative because of its inherent qualities as a soil conditioner. It is a nitrogen fixing plant that chokes out the weeds, and cuts down compaction of soil because of its deep roots. It is easy to grow and spreads rapidly. It hardly needs any mowing, watering or any other maintenance. It grows without any need for synthetic fertilizers. Even in hot and dry summers it remains green. It is available easily at very cheap rates. Another advantage with clovers is that they are comfortable to walk on, even if they may not be as durable as grass.
Low-maintenance Ornamental Grasses
One of the interesting ways to replace grass on your lawn is to opt for ornamental grasses. These grasses tend to grow very well in most types of soils, and usually require very low on maintenance. Requirements for chemical fertilizers and pesticides are also negligible for ornamental grasses. They can survive in situations of drought, and are available in varieties suited for both cool and warm seasons. In an ideal situation these grasses need a sunny location, particularly if you are keen on growing more vibrantly colored varieties.
Shrub and Flower Beds
If the lawn is large in size, it may be a good idea to replace a portion of the lawn with colorful shrub and flower beds. These add variety, color and aesthetics to the lawn, and need little maintenance as well. It may be useful to opt for native perennial varieties from your local nursery. These varieties need low maintenance, low fertilizer use, and outcomes are almost always beautiful. There are several such varieties available in flower and shrub beds that do not require pruning and are divided regularly as they grow in height. Local varieties in shrubs will generally need little maintenance, and will help to minimize weeds.
English Gardens as Lawn Alternatives
English gardens typically sport an unkempt look and feel, in contrast to the well-kept, clean and formal looking American lawns. English gardens are usually marked by arbors covered with serpentine vines, plenty of wild, vibrant flowers and disheveled looking plants drooping over walkways. This is a casual style that is catching in popularity in North America because of its few requirements of maintenance and its refreshing landscapes to create a distinctive look.
Environmental Angle for Grass Alternatives
Persistent drought conditions in North America are compelling environmentalists to come up with workable grass alternatives. Even though this casts a shadow on the traditional manicured lawns that have a huge sentimental value for many Americans, eventually viable alternatives that preserve the environment are bound to prevail.