Alternatives to Grass in Your Yard

By Blythe Yost

August 7, 2019

Very few landscape elements can rival a classic green lawn, but lawns are not always eco-friendly requiring frequent mowing, watering, chemicals, and a lot of time. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly and less maintenance (or at least different maintenance), consider these lawn alternative options compiled by Tilly’s head designer for Real Simple (and we added a few more for our wonderful blog readers!):

Ground Cover: There are any number of low growing perennials that can be a great stand-in for lawn.  Depending on your zone, light conditions, and soil requirements some great options are:

  • Creeping Thyme: Another ground cover alternative to traditional grass, creeping thyme is a densely-growing evergreen that’s hardy in zones four through nine (find your zone here). Not only will you never have to mow creeping thyme, but it’s also deer-resistant, thanks to its minty scent. Creeping thyme thrives in moist (but not wet) soil, and it produces pretty purple flowers to add a bit of color to your yard.

  • Creeping Mazus: This can survive some trampling and is an attractive grass alternative for small areas, such as in between stepping stones or a small patio area. It grows just two inches high (so no mowing required!) and can spread up to 24 inches within the first two years. Plant this ground cover in sun or part shade and it will grow into a lush mat with white flowers that bloom in late spring.

  • White Dwarf Clover: Another great option is white dwarf clover, which grows best in part shade or full sun and moist soil, and is known for its dense green leaves and small white flowers. It should be seeded initially on well-groomed topsoil and might require yearly overseeding to keep it dense and deter weeds.

Stone or Sand: A great solution for places with little or variable natural rain, gravel or sand expanses can provide the same sense of negative space as a classic lawn with none of the chemical requirements.  There is however, some (minimal!) maintenance in that the space should be raked out periodically to keep the surfaces fresh. Use a geotextile fabric barrier when installing to reduce weed growth.

 “No-mow” Fescue or Hard Fescue:  Fescue is often part of a typical lawn mix, but this type of all fescue lawn requires mowing only once or twice a year, needs no chemicals or fertilizers as it naturally chokes out weeds, and requires little to no watering after establishment.

Artificial Turf: Synthetic lawns are becoming more and more popular as a low maintenance substitute.  They can look and even feel very similar to classic lawns without any of the everyday concerns. There is some seasonal maintenance, such as blowing it down and the occasional brushing with fresh sand, to remove debris and keep the blades in good condition.

Which option is right for you will depend on where you live and what type of upkeep fits best with your lifestyle. Mow-free Sundays sound pretty good to us, though!

Thumbnail Image: Johner Images/Getty Images

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We have found the Tilly process to be most successful on properties less than an acre.

A major part of remote design is understanding a property’s existing conditions and limitations. To do this we generally use the primary structure (usually the house) as the main point of reference. The greater distances are from from the house the less successful we are at understanding your property. No matter what the size of your property, the more information you can provide us, the better. Don’t be shy with the pictures! And please send along any and all architectural or property plan documents you can.

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