What are the alternatives to a grass lawn?

4 min read

sedum groundcover

A lovely natural grass lawn is a traditional feature in British Gardens but what if you want something different instead of grass? We look at a couple of alternative lawns grass lawn alternatives.

Alternative lawns with similar benefits to grass

When looking for an alternative to turf grass lawns, the responsible householder looks at more than just aesthetics.

The joy of natural grass is that it works with nature to help us. Here are some of the benefits of a natural lawn

  • Soaks up rainwater to relieve pressure on drains
  • Absorbs CO2 and releases oxygen for us to breath
  • Cools the atmosphere on hot days
  • Totally 100% recyclable – without the use of expensive recycling facilities
  • Supports wildlife by providing food and shelter for lots of different species
  • Root systems stabilise soil and help prevent erosion
  • Filters dust and pollutants from the air where they can be safely dealt with by soil microbes
  • Soft and comfy to sit, walk and play on

Alternative lawns that are neither living nor natural will have far few benefits. So what would fit the bill?

Wildflower matting for maximum interest

One of the biggest gripes of lawn owners is the need for regular maintenance. Wildflower matting reduces maintenance by around 90% AND its appearance is really rather beautiful.

A typical wildflower lawn is cut only once or twice per year. It is allowed to grow long and offers all of the benefits of a grass lawn – except that it is visually very different.

wildflower lawn

A wildflower area brings colour and interest to a garden and makes for great alternative lawns

If you opt for a wildflower lawn, you could mow paths through it to give it a more manicured look. Or ask a garden designer to help you combine wildflowers with hard landscaping and/or planters for a contemporary look and feel.

You will definitely see a lot more wildlife when you use wildflowers as a natural alternative to a grass lawn. And if you are keen on photography or painting you’ll have plenty of subject matter.

Find out more here 

Sedum matting: A low maintenance grass alternative lawn

Now, this IS an interesting idea. Sedum plants are far more drought tolerant than lawn grasses and they’ll delight you all year round. The only disadvantage with a sedum lawn is that it is not very hardwearing. Sedums won’t tolerate frequent foot traffic and so are not suitable for children’s play areas.

Enviromat: ideal ground cover for front garden
Enviromat sedum matting in early spring. The textural qualities are amazing but there’s more to come – this stuff flowers too! (picture taken by CouCou Garden Design)

On the plus side, these low growing plants have a fascinating texture, are very kind to the environment and are a magnet to pollinating insects.  Perfect grass alternatives for a front garden or for a sloping garden.

Enviromat sedum matting was developed for use on commercial green roofs because is so self-sufficient. Maintenance consists of no more than applying a feed once a year and clearing away autumn leaves. There is no mowing and no clippings to dispose of.

Enviromat prefers to be in full sun on well-drained soil.

Learn more about sedum matting for ground use 

Using bark or woodchip as a groundcover as a grass alternative

Natural products are always good for the environment. You can’t beat living plants for the benefits they bring but if plants are not for you, a bark mulch surface is an OK no grass lawn alternative. Use weed control membrane beneath it and be prepared to pluck out an occasional opportunist plant.

woodchip groundcover

Fed up with muddy kids? Woodchip makes a great play surface – and you won’t need to negotiate your way around toys with the lawn mower!

Bark mulch drains well, nourishes soil microbes and makes a practical play surface for children and pets when used as a ground cover alternative to grass. It also appeals to a wide range of minibeasts and will attract the birds who feed upon them.

On the downside, it will probably need topping up every 3-4 years but that’s still less work than mowing the lawn once a week!

Buy weed control membrane

Find out about bark mulch prices 

Related information

Tips on designing a lower maintenance garden

Low maintenance ideas for your front garden

Garden design ideas using bark mulch

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