A vibrant green, well-maintained lawn is a real pleasure to the eye regardless of where you live, be it the city or the country. Unfortunately, getting that groomed grassy lawn takes time and isn’t always an efficient use of your resources.
For people who want to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, a low-maintenance yard is often a must. A grassy lawn is appealing and does have some benefit (perhaps using it to graze some small livestock) but requires frequent mowing, watering and fertilizing. If you don’t keep up on those things, you either get an out-of-control jungle lawn or an equally unsightly one with dead spots from lack of nutrients.
Here are seven alternatives that are hardy enough to put up with the country homesteader’s life, and – depending on what you choose — won’t hurt your curb appeal in the city.
Clover is amazing for so many different reasons. It is a hardy ground cover that produces white or red flowers that attract bees and butterflies, as well as other pollinators. Clover stands up to foot traffic reasonably well and can often go without mowing. An additional benefit of clover is that you can buy seeds in bulk for relatively cheap. This plant is also easy to mix in with grass if you don’t want to completely phase out your current grass lawn.
2. Mondo grass
There are two types of Mondo grass: dwarf and standard. For the purposes of being a lawn, you will probably want to use dwarf Mondo grass, as it only reaches a couple of inches in height. Mondo grass is a clumping grass but will grow into quite the traditional looking lawn quickly. This plant puts up with heavy foot traffic and doesn’t require any mowing or really any maintenance for that matter. The only downside of using dwarf Mondo grass is that it really will only thrive best in zones 6+. Occasionally you may get by in zone 5, depending on how warm the winters are.
The only downside of using dwarf Mondo grass is that it really will only thrive best in zones 6+. Occasionally you may get by in zone 5, depending on how warm the winters are.
It seems odd to use moss as an alternative to grass, but it works very well in shady areas with little foot traffic. A spread of emerald moss gives shaded areas quite a beautiful look and it is extremely easy to care for. Depending on your climate, you may never have to water after the moss starts to grow. Another benefit is that you won’t need to do any mowing. Moss would be best used in areas of your lawn that are shaded by trees and not often accessed by kids or pets.
This popular herb is extremely versatile and is actually quite a great alternative to a lawn. The ideal type of thyme you will want to use is called Creeping Thyme, as it will spread out in growth rather than clump. Creeping Thyme is incredibly easy to care for; it rarely needs watering once it takes off, and only grows around two inches in height. Creeping Thyme produces beautiful pink-purple flowers and as you walk along, you will smell that mint-like aroma. As an added bonus you can harvest this type just as you would the thyme in your garden. It’s also great for foot traffic.
Another herb that does very well as a lawn alternative is chamomile. Chamomile is super hardy and stays under four inches in height. It spreads out very well as it grows but won’t completely take over your lawn if you are mixing it with grass. Chamomile isn’t quite as hardy as thyme and should only be expected to put up with light foot traffic. It will grow in either shady or sunny locations but does best in full sun. Just like thyme, the same Chamomile you use as a lawn alternative can be cut and harvested as you would treat the herb in your garden.
It will grow in either shady or sunny locations but does best in full sun. Just like thyme, the same Chamomile you use as a lawn alternative can be cut and harvested as you would treat the herb in your garden.
Dichondra is a perennial and quite an attractive lawn alternative. The leaves of this plant are circular, and it grows in a very dense mat. In that sense it is quite similar to clover. Dichondra rarely exceeds a height of two feet, so you won’t have to worry about trimming. It is quite tolerant of drought and will grow in either sun or shade. This plant does well in a variety of climates. It is very soft and pleasant to walk on but should be considered a light to moderate foot-traffic alternative.
7. Texas Frogfruit
Texas Frogfruit is an unusual but attractive lawn cover that is actually part of the Verbena family. This ground cover is an evergreen but best suited for warm climates only. It is also a huge hit with butterflies, as it produces quite a bit of nectar. Frogfruit grows very quickly and will hardly exceed a height of four inches, which is comparable to long cool-season grass lawn. It is super hardy and will tolerate periods of flooding and drought. This plant is pretty tough and will put up with kids running around it without much of a problem.
For many urban homesteaders, finding a middle ground between self-sufficiency and what is “acceptable” in their neighborhood can be difficult. Replacing your lawn with one (or a mix) of these alternatives will keep your home looking great but reduce your water usage and save you time when it comes to maintenance.
If you are planning on replacing your lawn with one of these, consider trying out some edible landscaping  while you’re at it. You could have a beautiful lawn and also have some vegetables and edible flowers around, too.
Do you have a low-maintenance yard? What do you use? Share your tips in the section below: