The beauty of a lawn comes with a price: mowing, lots of water, plus bags of fertilizer, weed and pest control. The amount of time, sweat and resources going into the yard may eventually overwhelm your pride in it. You could hire someone to maintain the lawn, but one way or the other, it’s costing you. What are the alternatives?
Lower maintenance grass. You don’t necessarily have to dispense with the grass, but instead change the grass. Consider replacing higher maintenance grasses with breeds that are less demanding. Fescue, buffalo and sedge grasses are breeds that need little to no mowing and require less watering. Check with your local nursery for the best type of grass for your growing zone of the country. Warning: On the front end, this is a very labor intensive choice since you will need to remove the existing grass, then spread seed or sod for the new variety.
Expanded flowerbeds and trees. Consider expanding existing flowerbeds or adding new ones. With more beds you can break up large lawns with color, height and variety. Use plants that don’t demand a lot of water to thrive. Put down a layer of three to four inches of shredded wood mulch to preserve water in the soil and to insulate roots from seasonal temperature extremes.
Adding a tree provides the opportunity to gain shade. You can clear an area around the tree for a flowerbed as well. Another bedding type of alternative is a garden, whether for flowers or vegetables. These come with a new set of work and water demands, however, so weigh the differences.
Hardscapes. A truly beautiful look can be created with the right use of pavestone, crushed granite or a variety of other decorative rock ground covers. Build these sculpted hardscapes with shrubs and low ground cover plants artfully laid out within. A landscape architect can help with a design that compliments the flow of the property lines and house.
Add pavestones, whether they are the manufactured interlocking variety or natural stone native to the area. Pathways, edging or other creative uses add function and subtract grass.
Living large outside. Patios and decks not only replace maintenance intensive lawns, but also provide outdoor living space to relax. Hire a landscape architect to sketch a design. Add stylish outdoor furniture, well placed lighting, a fire pit or kitchen and you’ve traded sweaty yardwork for cool relaxing. Be sure to get proper approvals through your homeowner association and municipality. Compare initial costs to the ongoing cost of lawn maintenance, including the value of your time, for an idea about return on investment.