When you work at an ornamental grass nursery, you spend a fair amount of time explaining to laypeople that you don’t sell sod. The horticulture industry distinguishes turf from ornamental grasses for a number of reasons, including big differences in production and maintenance regimens. We think turf grass can work well for certain applications, and we think there’s room for both in modern, environmentally friendly landscapes.
That said, there’s a movement afoot to reduce the size of resource-intense turf grass lawns. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends reducing mowing by replacing areas of typical lawn with plantings that require little or no maintenance. Here are some of the reasons why.
There are remarkable landscapes that replace traditional lawn with rich, diverse plantings, and a quick online search reveals loads of info. A place to see great examples is the website for the Lawn Reform Coalition, a group of writers and activists who’d like to see less lawn. Also, Sunset magazine has an article on 21 inspiring yards that have lost their lawns.
For areas that do not need to take foot traffic, the following grasses can create a low, green,ground cover to take the place of traditional turfgrass. These lawn alternatives do not need regular mowing, but can be cut back once a year in late winter before new growth appears. Some are appropriate for sun, others for shade, and some are evergreen in mild climates. You can find these and other lawn alternatives in our Find Your Plants section of this website.