Published On August 14, 2020 | Last Updated December 15, 2020
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These no mow lawn alternatives are perfect for the front yard or where grass won’t grow.

No mow lawn alternatives

Did you know that grass is the biggest irrigated crop in the U.S.? And we can’t even eat it! That seems like a waste of water and resources.

I like having a beautiful yard. However, all of the mowing, edging, watering, fertilizing takes precious time from my life.

Lawn care also causes some serious problems, such as noise pollution, air pollution, and chemical runoff pollution from fertilizers and weed sprays. Plus, large amounts of water are wasted keeping grass green in summer.

When I started realizing the ROI (return on investment) of keeping my front yard covered in grass was not making sense with my finances or how I spent my time and energy, I started looking into front lawn alternatives. And I’m so glad that I did!

Need lawn alternative

Let’s face it, I had mostly weeds and dead spots in my “lawn” anyway!

No Mow Lawn Alternatives

After doing some research for yard alternatives online and at the library, I found several popular options for replacing lawns:

  • No mow grass alternatives
  • Ground cover
  • Crushed rock
  • Wood chips
  • Fruit and vegetables

I decided to experiment in my own yard with two different alternatives.

I got rid of all the lawn on one side of the front yard. Half of the area I planted with ground cover, and the other half I replaced the grass with wood chips.

no mow ground cover yard
No mow lawn alternatives

Replacing Your Front Lawn Permanently

Depending on the state of your existing lawn, you can do several things to get rid of the grass forever:

Use a Sod Cutter

Cut it out with a sod cutter. For large yards or to do it quickly, you will want to rent a sod cutter. (I mean, you can buy one, but wow, look at this price!)

If you have a small spot of yard to replace, you can do it by hand with this sod cutter.

You will have to dispose of the sod you cut out. Though this is the quickest permanent solution.

Use Weed Killer

Kill it with a grass and weed killer spray. I’m not a big fan of this method. Since it adds an insane amount of glyphosate to the environment. Lingering residues in the soil could damage new plants that are put in the area, too.

However, it’s quick and can be very effective in the short term. Keep in mind, grass killer will kill the grass. But the brown patches will STILL be there with the roots. You still need to remove the grass.

Use Black Plastic

Cover the grass and let it die naturally. Some people do this with black plastic left in place for a few months.

Keep in mind, black landscape fabric is different than black plastic sheeting. While both will kill the living plants underneath, landscape fabric will allow air and rainwater through. Which is great if you expect a lot of rain in your area. Black plastic sheeting will not allow condensation or rain to seep through, so you might have puddles on top of the plastic.

This takes patience, and makes for an unsightly yard in the mean time.

How I Replaced My Front Yard

In my own yard, I did a combination of things to get rid of the lawn:

1. Dug out sections of lawn by hand along the driveway and garden edges. Then new dirt and mulch was added on top to a level even with the adjacent areas.

2. Covered the remaining lawn with cardboard. I got big shipping boxes from the recycling pile at work. After removing all the tape, I opened them up and spread them across the yard. The cardboard will eventually biodegrade, which is good. In the meantime, it helps kill the underlying lawn and keep the weeds down until then.

3. Spread dirt and wood chips on top of the cardboard right away, rather than waiting for the lawn to die (honestly, it was mostly dead already).

For someone with my level of patience (none), this was the perfect solution. I got to see major progress on my project right away.

Planting No Mow Ground Cover

After having a load of top soil delivered, I was ready to put in ground cover. I wanted hardy plants that would do well without any extra attention from me.

To find plants that would be suitable, I looked around at my existing plants to see what was already growing happily with no maintenance. I also looked at what was growing well in other yards in my neighborhood.

Some plants I dug up from my yard, and separated to transplant to the area. A couple packets of seeds were purchased for others.

11 Comments on Never Mow Again: Front Yard Lawn Alternatives

  1. I have a low lying section in my backyard that won’t grow grass that my dog just runs through constantly. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Maybe I will try wood chips. Thanks for the ideas!

  2. I love this! We are trying cardboard solarization a bit at time. Did you plant your ground cover and plants directly on top of your cardboard/soil/mulch as soon as you put it down or did you wait a season for the cardboard to break down?

    • Thanks, Mary. I didn’t put cardboard down under the soil in the area where I planted the ground cover, so I didn’t wait any time at all before planting. Good luck with your project!

  3. Any suggestion on how the cardboard or similar tactic would work on a sloped front yard? Thinking of completing removing the dead grass.

    Thank you!

  4. Love these ideas! We were able to get free wood chips / mulch delivered through the company our local electric company uses to maintain the power lines in our area, there’s also web sites such as chip drop that may work for some homeowners. Love the look & simplicity of less grass to mow. If interested u can look up free mulch in your area. We were very happy with this for our needs

  5. I put down about 6 inches of wood chips with and that killed my grass with minimal effort. I planted strawberries as a ground cover.

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