Eco Lawn Advice/Experience?
June 30, 2017 4:53 PM   Subscribe

I am in the process of putting in some lawn into the backyard, and am debating what type of grass. I live in the PNW, and conventional grass does pretty well here without watering, it gets brown in summer and then bounces back when the rains comes in fall, but I would love to get something that is not so conventional, but still have the look and feel of a traditional lawn (soft underfoot, fairly uniform in appearance). I am okay with mowing.

(There is this lawn mix of ryegrass, fescue and microclover that is sold in a local lawn place that looks intriguing, it is supposedly hardy and will work in both shade and sun, and I have both. I would love to see what the lawn looks like when growing, but the local place only has photographs).

Any advice or experience with this or something similar in an alternative lawn? Do you like it, would you do it again?
posted by nanook to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
With the caveat that I am no gardener, it might be interesting to look into sedum (here and here). I was recently researching options for a roof garden "grass" to plant, and sedum came up as a low-maintenance plant that requires very little care and has beautiful changing colors throughout the seasons. Do you own research about whether it's appropriate for your purposes, but maybe something to look into...
posted by ClaireBear at 5:33 PM on June 30, 2017

If you consider sedum, be sure to research its growth height across the whole season-- we put in some nice sedum acre for precisely this purpose that is very pretty 85% of the time, but sprouts high, straggly unsightly flowering stems for a good month and a half every spring.
posted by Bardolph at 6:50 PM on June 30, 2017

What about moss? I have been to a couple of houses with moss instead of grass and it was quite lovely and unique.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:53 PM on June 30, 2017

I've had good luck with Mazus Reptans, a creeping, fast-growing ground cover with pretty purple flowers. I also have creeping thyme and wooly thyme, but they aren't that vigorous. The Mazus, however, spreads quite nicely.
posted by Ostara at 8:28 PM on June 30, 2017

Yarrow! (Google 'yarrow lawn alternative' to skip the weeding pages)
posted by lokta at 1:03 AM on July 1, 2017

I recommend white clover! It looks very lush and green even when grass turns brown, and is extremely low-maintenance. You shouldn't need to water once established, nor fertilize. In fact, it fixes nitrogen into the soil. You can let it flower (good for bees) or mow it frequently enough to keep the flowers down and have it just look green. Only drawback is that you can't use broadleaf weed killers for other weeds, as they'll kill the clover too.

(You probably already know this, but clover only started to be considered a "weed" after broadleaf weed killer was introduced. Before that, it was a key part of nice lawns. But when the new weed killer took out the clover as well as the dandelions -- well, clover got rebranded as a weed.)
posted by snowmentality at 5:03 AM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

And it wasn't the only one. There are various kinds of oxalis that make a vibrant low green ground cover especially in cool and shaded conditions, and their bulbs and corms make them pretty much indestructible except via chemical weedkillers. I have a bunch of it in my front lawn that takes over every year when the weather gets too cool to keep the couch grass happy, and I think it looks really nice; it also has quite soft leaves and stems that feel good under bare feet.
posted by flabdablet at 6:55 AM on July 1, 2017

How much do you want to walk on this lawn? because a mixture of grass and clover is hard to beat for that. You can add chamomile if it's a sunny lawn.

I grew up in the PNW watching the grass and clover patches in the lawn and pasture migrate about year over year, as they exchanged their turfy ecosystem values, and the pasture got richer and richer and we could have built a soddy with the turf by the time we left. But it wasn't an even mixture of the two in every hand-sized patch.
posted by clew at 7:27 PM on July 1, 2017

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