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Thread: Alternatives to grass lawns?

  1. #1
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    Question Alternatives to grass lawns?

    So, I hate grass lawns. Grass and I are on the level, but the trimmed grass lawn is an abomination of gardening as far as I'm concerned and I want nothing to do with it. (Depending on your palate for social injustice, you may or may not be interested in researching the origin of the American grass lawn.) Besides, I'm allergic to grass, it doesn't grow right here because a lot of my property is partial shade, and because it doesn't grow vigorously it invites weeds, to which I'm also allergic.
    What kinds of ground covers can I plant that will beat out grass? I would prefer something short and dense, as I'll be walking around on it while tending the rest of the garden (sparingly, but regularly.) Most of my lawn gets at least three hours of direct sun in the early half of the day, but there are really tall trees on the western edge that limit all-day exposure. I'm in the Pacific Northwest and live in an odd spot that usually acts like a coastal zone 9/10 type of environment but with hard freezes that roll in from the zone 7/8 brush prairies to the east in the cold season.
    I'm in the process of ripping up the grass wherever I feel I could get some vegetables or useful flowers (wildflowers, sunflowers, marigolds, etc.) going. But, I'll need to fill in spaces between my larger, taller plants (tomatoes, sunflowers, peppers) with something to help keep the weeds and critters out. Pest-repellent plants (such as marigolds) would be especially preferred, as would natives to this region. Tips? I've done a lot of flower gardening and landscape gardening before, and have grown some decent tomatoes in my day, but I've never had a real yard with full sun spots to work for myself before - just containers on patios, etc. I know the basics - north/south rows, mulching, etc. - but don't have much experience choosing plants.
    Thanks!
    ~Joe

    PS - OMG that similar threads feature is the coolest thing we've added EVER! Nice choice, Andrew.
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
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    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
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    agentrdy's Avatar
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    I would suggest red or white clovers. They aren't native, but they will fill in a partial shade area nicely provided your lawn area isn't bone dry.

    They have several great properties:
    - Clover's deep roots (3-4 feet at times) help bring up nutrients from soil depths most plants can't touch. When you till them in, those nutrients get added to the soil. Also, the fibrous nature of clover roots helps break up hard soils, and leaves soils airy when the roots die and leave hollow passages.
    - Clovers are leguminous. They fix nitrogen and help enrich your soil, particularly good if you're gardening.
    - Clovers are edible. Leaves are as well as flowers, which are very sweet and can be used for things like drinks. They also attract pollinators for your veggies.
    - Clovers harbor beneficial insects. These are particularly predatory ones that kill pests. I'm not sure which types but more research would turn some things up.

    Vinca is a good shady groundcover, too.

    Or, if you have trees, just leave the leaves and bark out as a mulch and that suppresses weeds just fine. I think it's nice to look at too. It harbors predatory insects, decomposes and enriches the soil, has good bacteria and fungi that help plant roots absorb nutrients... and requires absolutely no maintenance at all. Or you could intersperse the mulch with native woodland understory plants. I'm not sure what's native to your area so that might require some googling.

    I absolutely hate the "perfect" grass lawns too and congratulate you on trying something different. They consume huge amounts of water and gasoline, allow fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides to run off... just an overly nonsensical practice. Nature isn't meant to be sterile.

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    D_muscipula's Avatar
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    cement a thick slab of cement with ponds and bogs built into it.
    view my growlist
    http://grwlist.notlong.com

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    JMurphy97's Avatar
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    Get turf like they have for football teams.

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    sea bear returns! theyellowdart's Avatar
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    Lay down cement and paint it green.
    growlist

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

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    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    You know, I keep trying cement starts in my yard but the weeds always outgrow them... I must not be fertilizing enough.
    As for clover, I'm reluctant to try it because it can really be a pest sometimes. But it is a good thought - I'll do some research and see if I can't find a native legume with a similar profile.
    ~Joe
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

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    Your one and only pest! Ant's Avatar
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    How about moving to the city?

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    OMG h8 pings MrFlyTrap2's Avatar
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    I wonder if you're in the perfect area for a moss lawn. When I was in seattle I was amazed by seeing the number of roofs that had moss growing on them. While its probably a nuisance in the area, but to me it looked so natural. Almost living -with- nature instead of against it.

    Check out the photo gallery on this website http://www.mossacres.com/default.asp
    My Grow List

    "It is only by studying nature that can we ever hope to defeat it."

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