When we say «lazy lawns» we don’t mean replacing your perfectly mowed grass with artificial emerald-green turf. Rather, we mean it in the British sense, coming on the heels of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) declaring «lazy lawns» might just be the next big thing in gardening.
In its predictions for 2021, the RHS opined that gardeners «will turn a blind eye to a bit of browning in summer» and perhaps even swap out grass in favor of embracing «lazy» fuss-free groundcovers. These «interesting and environmentally benign alternatives,» not only stay green without fertilizer, but resist drought and can encourage more wildlife.
Unfortunately, while we’ve all learned to love grass, keeping those immaculate green lawns isn’t great for the environment. That’s because according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, «lawns consume nearly three trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides.»
Caring For A Lazy Lawn
How do you care for a lazy lawn? Primarily by doing a whole lot less. Mow every two weeks instead of every week, allowing clover and dandelion flowers to poke through and feed pollinators. Those clovers help fix nitrogen for your lawn, so you should stop using weed suppressants, weed killers, and chemical fertilizers. Instead of bagging clippings, allow them to remain on the lawn and fertilize the grass. And consider planting alternatives in areas where grass struggles to grow.
What To Plant In A Lazy Lawn
So what could you use to replace grass? The RHS suggests «small leaved clovers mixed with grasses.» Of course, there are plenty of other options, too, especially for areas where your grass isn’t thriving. This may include steep slopes, wet areas, shady areas, and high-traffic areas. Or you may just want to shrink your lawn area to cut back on mowing and maintenance. Read on for some of the best alternatives to grass.
- Shade-loving grass lookalikes: A carpet of moss is one of the best grass alternatives in shady areas. Transplant patches onto loose soil in spring, then keep moist for about a month, watering regularly until established. Other low-maintenance options include sedges and dwarf mondo grass, which is actually a lilyturf with a neat and trim, grassy look.
- Shade-loving groundcovers: If you don’t mind veering away from the look of a lawn, there are many groundcovers that can be planted in masses in the shade. Examples include sweet woodruff, green and gold, woodland stonecrop, creeping jenny (moneywort), or elegant ferns.
- Flowering lawn alternatives: Herbs like Corsican mint, oregano, creeping thyme, and chamomile can be used as ground covers in a sunny lawn. In summer, they’ll burst with small flowers that attract bees. You can intersperse your flowering lawn with ground-hugging perennials like dianthus (Cheddar pinks) and creeping phlox. Drought-tolerant sedums also do well in sunny spots.
Gardeners may choose to swap out a portion of the lawn (or even all of it) for island flower beds or vegetable gardens. If you’re not quite ready to say farewell to grass, try beds filled with ornamental grasses that are both attractive and distinctive.
What To Do With High-Traffic Areas
Replacing a grass lawn doesn’t have to require planting anything. High-traffic areas where the grass wears thin aren’t usually conducive to planting. Laying walkways out of gravel or bark mulch, building patios, creating a gathering place around a fire pit, or adding a gazebo also means less lawn and less lawn care. So this year consider a «lazy lawn» that will be easier for you, better for the planet, and just might make the neighbors jealous.