A grass lawn is an essential component of any home. Or is it?
As more and more people become aware of the unsustainable nature of many grass lawns, grass free lawns are becoming a popular alternative.
What’s not to love about an outdoor space that requires little to no maintenance, instead allowing you to enjoy being outside without the use of seemingly endless chemicals and machinery? Or how about an outdoor space that fills your fridge with healthy fresh produce?
Well, I’ve got 14 grass free lawn ideas right here to get you started. The sky is truly your limit!
- The Short Version
- Why Choose a Grass Free Lawn?
- 14 Grass Free Lawn Alternatives for Your Yard
- The Low Maintenance Grass Lawn
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The Short Version
- Grass free lawns are becoming a popular choice for environmental, cost and maintenance reasons.
- There are limitless options to choose from ranging from living ground covers such as perennial herbs, wild flowers, clover and moss, to hard landscaping such as patios and wooden decking.
- All of these alternatives come with minimal maintenance but still allow for outdoor entertaining in style.
- Alternatively, the most sustainable option that is increasing in popularity is to turn your yard into a food forest and grow fruit trees, berry bushes and seasonal vegetables in raised beds with grass-free paths throughout.
Why Choose a Grass Free Lawn?
Most of the time, grass lawns are environmentally unsustainable and high maintenance. (Read all about the history of grass lawns and how ridiculous they really are here.)
Around one third of household water use is used outside for landscape irrigation, the vast majority of this being for thirsty grass lawns.
Furthermore, grass requires regular mowing, which unless you have a manual mower, uses gas or electricity. It also requires you to own a lawnmower, which in turn needs maintaining and then eventually replacing.
Furthermore, many people prefer the monoculture look of a grass lawn that isn’t mixed with dandelions or clover, and maintaining a monoculture requires chemicals. These chemicals, aside from being harmful to humans and animals, are often over-applied, applied unnecessarily, or inappropriately, leading to pollution of local waterways.
Last but not least, grass lawns are unnatural and don’t exist in nature, so they’re not supporting our precious ecosystems by providing homes for insects and other animals.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a yard that doesn’t require all that maintenance and isn’t environmentally unsustainable?
Enter the grass free lawn alternatives!
14 Grass Free Lawn Alternatives for Your Yard
Creating a wildflower lawn is low maintenance and comes with the added benefit of providing food for pollinators. You’ll never be short on selfie spots, and the flowers can even be cut to create beautiful bouquets minus the environmental impacts of the cut flower industry.
The set-up is also easy. All you need to do is purchase a packet of wildflower seeds from your local garden store and over-seed your lawn. They will need some water to begin with but definitely less than a standard lawn.
2. Creeping Thyme
On a similar theme to wildflowers, perennial ground covers that don’t need mowing and require less or no watering are an excellent alternative to grass.
Creeping thyme is one of the best no mow lawn alternatives as it can handle some light foot traffic, doesn’t grow more than two inches in height, and requires very little water to survive. Even if you live in a hot dry climate, you shouldn’t need to irrigate it.
Moss is a great living ground cover alternative to creeping thyme for shady, damp environments.
A moss lawn is a beautiful non grass lawn option if you like the zen vibes of traditional Japanese gardens. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, they don’t need mowing and they can handle light foot traffic. The only real maintenance they require is the removal of fall leaves and other debris.
I have a whole article dedicated to moss lawns if you’d like to learn more.
A clover lawn is a great grass alternative if you’re looking for low maintenance but want something that can handle a little more foot traffic than perennial herbs or moss.
Clover lawns don’t need mowing, they fix their own nitrogen so are self-fertilizing, and they require much less water than regular lawn grass.
Clover can handle the same amount of foot traffic as most lawn grass species making it a good option for young families. The one con is that the flowers do attract lots of bees so you may need to mow to remove the flowers in the summer before the kids go outside to play.
A succulent lawn is a great option if you don’t mind not being able to walk on them!
Succulents require no watering so are very low maintenance and with all the different varieties available, you can create a stunning ground cover that gives a lot of character to a space.
Simply add a stone pathway through the middle and some vertical interest with potted cacti.
6. Vegetable Gardens
An option that is becoming more and more common is to replace lawns with vegetable beds. These can be either in-ground or raised beds, and can be arranged in an efficient, symmetrical set-up, or in a more wild looking permaculture style that requires a lot less maintenance.
You can even go one step further and create a food forest with berry bushes, fruit trees and herbs. Pathways can be laid down out of wood chip or gravel making for a grass-free, edible paradise.
7. Trees and Shrubs
On a similar note, no one said you have to have a low lying lawn-style yard at all.
Why not fill your space with taller trees and shrubs with stone pathways and small clearings for a bench or bird bath. You can create cozy, private hideaways in your own little woodland and you won’t miss your lawn at all!
8. Dig a Pond
Another way to remove your yard’s dependence on grass can be to put in a pond. You can have an open, tranquil space without the mowing requirements.
The pond may also end up being a refuge for wildlife, or an opportunity for different plants like water lilies.
9. Wood or Bark Chip
If you’re not fussed about living ground cover, wood or bark chip can create a super affordable, low maintenance yard.
There will be the occasional weed to pull, but stay on top of it and this won’t be an issue. Rain will be easily soaked up so you won’t have to worry about puddles, and when it starts to decompose, simply add a new layer on top.
Wood chip is one of the best alternatives to grass in backyard settings if you have children and play equipment as the surface is naturally shock absorbing to soften falls.
A great alternative to wood chip, although perhaps not quite as affordable, is gravel.
Gravel makes an excellent, hardwearing, no mow yard and pairs well with container planters, pots and garden furniture.
Like wood chip, gravel has the benefit of allowing rain to soak into the ground so surface flooding shouldn’t be an issue, and there are also a variety of types you can choose from with different textures, sizes and colors.
11. Patio Pavers
For smaller spaces, ridding yourself of grass and replacing it with a large patio is practical and results in an almost zero maintenance yard.
Patios lend themselves well to outdoor entertainment areas. Think large terracotta pots and a fairy light lit trellis with a beautiful clematis or wisteria.
For a slightly more rustic look, reclaimed bricks can be laid instead of paving slabs, giving you all of the country cottage vibes you could want.
They can be laid in any number of formations and patterns, and moss can be encouraged to grow between them, leaving no space for weeds to pop up.
13. Wooden Decking
A great alternative to a patio is a large wooden deck that can extend out from the back of your house creating a raised platform for pots, containers and garden furniture.
Wooden decking isn’t quite as hard wearing as the options above and will need re-staining or painting periodically, but it can lend a warmer, cozier feel to a space.
14. River Rocks
Last but not least, rounded river rocks can make for a great ground cover when laid down in a similar way to bricks, with sand or moss between them.
They make for a more organic hard surface ground cover for those after a more natural look.
The Low Maintenance Grass Lawn
Obviously, this isn’t a grass free lawn option. However, I wanted to clarify that it is possible to have a fairly low maintenance, eco-friendly lawn that doesn’t have you bound to a chemically intensive lawn care calendar.
It just comes down to your expectations for how it’s going to look, and which grass varieties you choose.
If you choose grass varieties that suit your climate and rainfall levels, then you can have a lawn that doesn’t ever require irrigating. (Have a read of my guide to the different types of grass seed for more on this.)
However, and this brings us to the expectation part, you have to be ok with it going a little brown in the summer and have faith that it will recover by itself when fall arrives.
You also have to be ok with having multiple species present in your lawn. Dandelions, clover and other herbs don’t have to be viewed as weeds, it’s all about perspective. If you’re ok with this, then synthetic chemical use becomes unnecessary.
As you can see, the options for grass free lawns are endless. Rather than thinking of it as a replacement for a lawn, think of your yard as an outdoor living space that is there to serve you, rather than the other way around!
I hope you enjoyed perusing these options and are excited about the possibility of a life without grass to care for!
If you have any more ideas that you think should be included in this list then feel free to let me know so I can add them in!