Fed up with caring for a patch of green grass? Chris Morley has some clever alternatives to a lawn
It’s not surprising many of us are looking for alternatives to a lawn. Because grass needs a great deal of care and attention to look its best.
There’s regular mowing (once a week in summer), keeping the edges neat, watering and feeding, digging out weeds, raking out moss and repairing bare patches. Phew!
So if you want to save time, energy and resources – and create a beautiful and more wildlife friendly garden – try these alternatives to a lawn.
Alternatives to a lawn
1. A wildflower meadow alternative to a lawn
Break with tradition and let your lawn grow. As a result, you’ll boost biodiversity and create a relaxed, meadow feel.
Reduced mowing lets wildflowers bloom and set seed (a plus for bees and birds), while long grass will shelter small creatures.
Depending on where you live, wildflowers like clover, ox-eye daisy and lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) will emerge. And a scattering of wildflower seeds will give you a colour boost.
You can also add plugs of other wild beauties too, such as cowslips, and naturalise bulbs.
If a whole lawn feels a step too far, try mown areas alongside wilder patches. Experiment with what works for you!
2. Plant a groundcover tapestry
Try creating a patchwork of ground-cover perennials. Good ones are thyme, bugle (Ajuga reptans), chamomile, creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) and sedum. That’s because they will give you fabulous foliage all year round, and flowers and fragrance in the summer.
These toughies will all thrive in free-draining soil and sun, and will cope with light traffic (though not games of footie). In terms of maintenance, mowing 3-4 times a year will keep them looking neat and promote new growth.
3. Make room for moss
If you struggle to keep moss out of your lawn, why not give in and turn your patch into a magical carpet of moss?
The Japanese have been cultivating moss gardens for years and the idea is catching on here.
Moss is suited to shady, damp areas and looks fabulous around rocks, over bumps and in hollows, and fringed by ferns.
It can be difficult to source commercially and it’s illegal to take from the wild. But if moss is already in your garden (or a friend or neighbour can give you some), you can plant it in bare soil. Over time, it will slowly spread to form a velveteen blanket.
Why plastic is not a good alternative to a lawn
Artificial grass can be appealing – it’s low-maintenance and hard wearing. However, it is not as comfy as real grass (it gets hot and is scratchy underfoot) and has no benefits at all for wildlife.
To achieve a flat surface it needs to be professionally installed, which is pricey. Some manufacturers are using recycled plastic to make it, but it is not biodegradable. That means it will eventually end up in landfill.