This round-up of easy-care alternatives to lawns is your answer to ditching the mower
They’re innocent and ubiquitous; a symbol of domestic space to run around and relax to be seen on every Kiwi street from Cape Reinga to Bluff. We don’t really ever question if we need them – they’re just something we have. But that wasn’t always the case.
The first lawns popped up in the English Middle Ages, when their useless labour intensiveness was a status symbol only afforded by the richest and most powerful aristocrats. The fact that they took so much time and labour and money to create (and their pristine nature meant you couldn’t even use them for livestock or crops) meant that they were the medieval equivalent of a Ferrari that doesn’t start. The very origins of lawns tell you all you need to know about how much work they are.
The good news is that there are less labour intensive alternatives that function the same, look good and have plenty of other benefits too. So whether your dog has been tearing up the lawn, you have children with grass allergies or if you’re just plain sick of carting out the lawn mower every couple of weeks, there are other options. Here they are…
1. Moss lawns
If your backyard struggles with flooding and dampness, this might be a solution for you. Moss acts as a sponge, sucking up a huge amount of excess water while remaining comfortable underfoot and creating the oxygen of a small forest. Moss lawns don’t need mowing, love being walked on, prefer low-nutrient soil so you don’t have to fertilise them and are pet-friendly.
The real bonus for summer is that you can still play rugby or cricket on a moss lawn (and they don’t have prickles). Remember, there is more than one kind of moss, and grassier versions like clover lawns, creeping ferns (above) or baby’s breath ground cover might work for you just as well.
2. Wildflower meadow
Embrace the gorgeous chaos of nature, by letting your lawns grow long and wild and scattering wildflower seeds then maybe even mowing winding paths through the scruff. Not only is encouraging that biodiversity good for bees, it’s also a more stimulating environment for children to play in, it’s low maintenance and gives a yard of any size a lush, rustic countryside feel.
3. Fake lawns
The lowest maintenance, easy-peasy lock-up-and-leave grass alternative has grown up in the last few years and is now much better looking, softer underfoot and just as easy. Have a look at how realistic and lush looking turfs are these days and you might find yourself adding them to your wish list – there are even pet friendly options.
If you’re going for more of a Tanqueray with friends than a place for kids to run about, you can’t go past tiling for a stylish alternative to lawns. The clean and level surface invites outdoor furniture, heel-friendly dinner parties and maybe some mondo grasses or pebbles inbetween each tile for some variation.
In spaces where space is a premium but style is key, you can’t go past pebbles. Whether you go for gravel, riverstones, limestone or something else, they can be part of an outdoor living area that you want to spend time in while stopping any weeds from coming through.
6. A combination
The beauty of gardens is that there are no rules and you can do what works for you. Tiles surrounded by shrubs or moss work well, as do pebble paths through overgrown meadows. Look around and see what works for you and your garden – you might be surprised.
Words by: Alex Blackwood. Photography by: bauersyndication.com.au.