It’s a well known fact, although often overlooked, that lawns are hard work. If you want a low-maintenance garden that looks great all year round, a huge expanse of lawn is simply not the best option. Lots of people opt for lawn as the obvious choice – it’s relatively cheap to install and it’s soft enough to lay on, or kids to play on. However, we’ve found some fantastic, natural alternatives to grass to help you keep maintenance to a minimum.
Hardy, low growing plants e.g. Sedum, Thyme and Moss
- Minimal watering and no mowing needed,
- tough so you can walk on it,
- and hardy so should look good in all seasons.
- Usually more costly than grass to install,
- but like grass, it isn’t suitable for heavy use by children/animals.
Wood chippings or bark
It’s commonly used in flower beds as a ‘mulch’ to improve the soil, but it’s also more attractive than soil. For a larger area (e.g to replace a lawn) you can buy play grade wood chips or bark. This will be cleaned and free from pests and weeds.
Wood chip (left) and play bark (right) from cpa horticulture
- Good for the soil – retains moisture and improves texture
- Suppresses weeds
- Soft base for children to play on
- You can easily lay in yourself without needing a landscape gardener
- Over time it will rot and will need to be topped up
Gravel and cobbles
There are so many colours, shapes and sizes to choose from that gravel and cobble is such a great option for all areas and various uses in your garden. You could mix a number of different varieties to create zones and add interest. Images below from decorativeaggregates.com – click on the image to see the product on their website.
- Pea shingle would be most suitable for children’s play areas as impact would be slightly softer than larger/rough cut stones. However, it would not be as soft as turf or other finishes listed above and there is a potential choking hazard for small children.
- Rough/angular gravel is best suited to driveways and footpaths as the stones compact together under pressure.
- Larger smooth cobbles look beautiful as a decorative feature, but less practical for walking on (although you could add in flag stones as stepping stones).
Low maintenance turf
Still can’t be tempted away from a grassy lawn? There are some varieties of seed or turf that are cultivated to be lower maintenance.
Turf Express produces turf with a mixture of Ryegrass/Fescue seed that promises to be hard wearing and slow-growing at just £2.39m2.
The best option?
Too much of any floor covering will highlight its negatives and could lead to your garden looking a little bland. By mixing up some of the options above and creating zones for different uses you will end up with a garden that looks attractive, low maintenance, practical and affordable.
P.s. I’ve left out a very obvious alternative to grass – artificial grass! However, I wanted to keep all of the options in this article natural. However, there are some brilliant artificial grass products on the market these days and we’ve written an article on the best ones here: https://designfor-me.com/cost-planning/artificial-grass-cost/
Emily Design for Me