I want grass without the fuss
August 13, 2009 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of replacing my lawn with artificial grass or some other thing that doesn't require constant upkeep. I'd like to hear your experiences with such horticultural matters.

I hate mowing my lawn. Always have and always will.

So, I'm thinking of having Astroturf or some other artificial grass installed. I've also been researching ground covering, which appears to be the growing of ivy or some other plant that will cover the sod, but not require mowing.

Has anyone here replaced their grass lawn with either of these alternatives. Anything I need to watch out for? How often do I need to replace artificial grass or ground covering?

All opinions and suggestions are welcome. Thanks!
posted by reenum to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about grass alternatives, but if you hate weeding as much as I do, I do NOT recommend mulching your entire front yard. Our yard was like that when we bought our house. Within a year, we had it sodded.
posted by geeky at 1:51 PM on August 13, 2009

You could look into xeriscaping, but I'm not sure you have many options in Kansas.
posted by torquemaniac at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2009

When my parents last moved my father wanted to minimize the amount of lawn work he had to do. The answer was a highly landscaped lawn with bushes, plants, etc - instead of grass in between shrubbery he used rocks. To be honest with you, it looks really nice.

Personally, I would recommend staying away from Astroturf for no other reason than I think it's tacky. Then again, your lawn, your taste.

Alternatively, is there a kid in your neighborhood that would be willing to cut your grass as needed for a small fee?
posted by ASM at 2:27 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Some nice choices. You might still need to mow once in a while, but much less frequently than once a week - and you need to water very little.

I really like creeping thyme lawns, myself. Bonus: smells wonderful underfoot.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:28 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure your house isn't in a historic district!
posted by tommccabe at 2:39 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: There are a number of synthetic turf suppliers and installers out there. The days of old Astroturf are gone, though. The new turf has thick, long blades of plastic, just like real turf grass. The blades are held vertically by sand or rubber particles that are swept into place after the turf is installed on a crushed rock drainage base. It's great stuff, looks real, feels good to walk or play on, and never needs to be mowed or watered. The manufacturer's standard guarantees on these products are eight years. You can expect to get at least ten years out of the material, maybe much more. Sportexe, Sportfield, Sprinturf, Progreen, Fieldturf, Synlawn, are a few commercial examples. Evolution Grass is a newer, higher end product. Most of these are for large installations, but the same products are available for residential installations.

If you want real plants, try using a no-mow turfgrass. I don't know what's available in Kansas - here in Southern California we use red fescue. It grows to about 12" tall, and lays over in soft looking waves of green. You can't really walk on it or play football though. There are many varieties of lawn grass that can be used this way, even some that are traditionally mowed. Check at your local nursery or lawn supplier.

Groundcovers such as English Ivy are good for filling in spaces that won't be used for traffic. Again, there are many types of plants that can be used this way. Some of them look almost like turf grass, others are really just low growing shrubs. Juniper "Bar Harbor" is an example of this. Check with a nursery to see what they recommend for your area and situation.
posted by Xoebe at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2009

Check out Xeriscaping. Not nearly as awful as turf (seriously? Turf?), looks good, good for the environment.
posted by TomMelee at 2:58 PM on August 13, 2009

Consider the cost of the fake grass, and weigh that against the cost of getting a neighborhood kid to come mow your grass once a week during the growing season. Depending on how much grass you have, getting a kid to mow it for $10 a week may very well be cheaper. I don't know what your weather is like, but up in Seattle we only have to mow about 6-8 months out of the year, so the cost up here would be less than $350 a year.
posted by markblasco at 3:05 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: I planted white dutch clover. I got the seed at the farm co-op. it grows very short. this is my second year. I love it. I think it looks better mowed so i have mowed it once this year. I mowed it once last year. you don't have to mow it. it grows maybe 5 inches high? this year my neighbor has geese so they all come over and chomp on it. i'm told it doesn't need much water but we have had so much rain this year i couldn't say. google "clover lawn"
posted by cda at 3:30 PM on August 13, 2009

Unless you are playing sports on it, then your environment is going to be a lot more pleasant with something living out there.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 3:36 PM on August 13, 2009

I'm assuming a couple of goats are out of the question. This would require a fence, of course.
posted by philip-random at 3:59 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Call up your local Cooperative Extension office and see if they have any recommendations for ground cover. Check out your local Native Plant society too.
posted by mareli at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: I replaced my urban grass with mulch and perennials, including berry plants. Neighbors and passersby loved it. The initial labor was harder than a couple of lawn mowings, but the payoff was a low-maintenance and beautiful former lawn that provided yummy raspberries and some cooking herbs--and nothing to mow.

Basically, I collected a lot of newspaper on recycling day (preferably no colored inks), spread it thickly on the evil grass, watered it to keep it in place, and dumped on a thick layer of free wood chips from the city chipping operation. That stifled everything living. This involved many trips in my hatchback to the big pile of mulch at the edge of town and some fun shoveling. If I had been willing to pay for mulch, I could have had a big pile delivered.

Then in several spots I pushed aside the mulch, cut slashes in the newspaper, and set in young perennials, preferring the kind that would grow big and provide food. Raspberries had the additional advantage of stopping people from cutting across my yard.
posted by PatoPata at 5:26 PM on August 13, 2009

I am not really a plant or landscaping expert, but I used to work for some landscapers. They absolutely abhorred lawns. They specialized in creative use of native plants (this is in California), and the results were phenomenal. I believe using native plants means less watering and upkeep, plus it can look quite beautiful. I'd recommend looking at that angle, doing some research, and making an initial investment in natives that will both look good and will require much less water and maintenance than a lawn.
posted by JenMarie at 5:49 PM on August 13, 2009

If you replace your lawn with artificial turf, you can expect the temperature in that area to go up by as much as twenty degrees.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:55 PM on August 13, 2009

You should look into something like what they have at stepables.com.

I want to replace the lawn in my tiny, heavily shaded back yard with some kind of moss.
posted by reddot at 7:07 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: When I googled "Kansas xeriscaping," the first link led to a landscaper who specializes in native plants. The next two or three were PDFs from the extension services of Kansas universities.
posted by dogrose at 7:12 PM on August 13, 2009

I haven't watched it yet, but tonight's episode of Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" on Showtime is all about lawns. Should be entertaining, and they might have some alternative suggestions.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:49 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Easy.

Pour a concrete slab and paint it each Spring.

Green and no maintenance.
And your neighbors will love you for it. Trust me
posted by BrooksCooper at 10:11 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: I'm in Ontario which prob has a climate similar to yours. DH didn't want to cut grass any more, so I replaced the front lawn with some native plants (most are too tall) and a mix of perennials and shrubs with are suited to our climate - hot, alternatly dry or humid and full sun in summer; cold, windy and dry in winter with lots of snow. It's thriving. I put down a weeper hose and mulch as the first year or two you have to water to give your plants a good start. After that, nature looks after most of the work. And, I was careful not to include anything poisonous that the passing school children might eat, but did include plants that change colour/bloom with the changing seasons. If you don't want to prune or deadhead, try sedums instead. The Ministry of Natural Resources used to have a large garden in downtown Toronto that was in a windy, too hot/too cold, partly shady area. It was full of staghorn and every type of sedum you could name, and totally maintenace free.
posted by x46 at 12:18 AM on August 14, 2009

It seems like even native plants would require a lot of weeding to keep it from looking like a vacant lot. No?
posted by smackfu at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2009

No. They fill in and crush the weeds. Between an overstuffed garden and mulch, weeds don't have much of a chance.
posted by x46 at 4:21 AM on August 15, 2009

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