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These no mow lawn alternatives are perfect for the front yard or where grass won’t grow.
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!
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.
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.
The tough ground covers I chose were:
These were planted throughout the new dirt. I then spread a thin layer of mulch on top, and kept the area well watered for the first growing season.
After that, they were on their own. Survival of the fittest.
The flowering ground cover is much more friendly to butterflies and pollinators than a traditional lawn, too. That's an added bonus!
High Traffic Lawn Alternatives
In a higher-traffic section of the yard, I chose to use wood chips instead of grass or ground cover.
Crushed rock would have also been a good option. It’s probably more durable, but much heavier to spread. I could have also considered some of these concrete alternatives, too.
I had considered buying pavers or stepping stones to make a path through the area, but chose not to. Not only did this save me money, but also a lot of effort. I didn’t have to outline the path, or set the stones in place. And, now I never feel like I have to stay on a path.
For larger areas, be sure to contact a local nursery or hardware store about getting bulk loads of wood chips. It can be costly to try to buy bags of the stuff at a big box store, unless you have a very small space. Even with a delivery fee (if you can't go load the stuff yourself), you could save money.
The wood chips spread with ease. The result is a clean, uniform look that I much prefer over the patchy lawn. I also love that the wood chips allow rain water to drain through to the ground, rather than being an impervious substance.
I Love My No Mow Front Yard
I love my front yard lawn alternatives so much, I might get rid of the rest of my front lawn!
By the way, be sure to check out my budget backyard makeover, too!
If I do, I think I'll replace my yard with wood chips. I would also like to include some larger decorative flower pots as focal points to soften the look and bring in no-maintenance color.
A set of lawn chairs, or a bird bath would also be nice features in a larger area. I don't mind adding these things now, since I know I won’t have to mow around them!
Also, I hope to use a portion of the space for growing vegetables, such as pumpkins or melons. The vines will enjoy the room to grow, get lots of sunshine, and they clean up easily at the end of the growing season.
Can you imagine what would happen if every house was able to replace just part of their lawn with a small garden and start growing healthy, "lawn to table" fruits and veggies? It makes so much more sense than stressing over mowing the lawn every week and covering it with chemicals.
Want even more ideas to create outdoor living spaces you love? Get my free Outdoor Living Idea Guide!